Sunday, July 09, 2006

Seventeen years later, Cold case still holds Rupert’s interest

Next month will mark the 17th anniversary of the murder of Alberta Williams, whose body was found outside of the city on Highway 16 back in 1989. The case came back to prominence this week, when it had mistakenly been added to the Highway of Tears list of missing and murdered women along Highway 16.

While her name is not part of that legacy of sadness, we should remember that no killer has been brought to justice yet, seventeen years later. It’s a fascinating case; one steeped in silence by some who may have vital details to add to the file and could help to finally bring justice for the Williams family.

The Daily News had a full story on the murder and the status of the case these many years later.

By James Vassallo
The Daily News
Thursday, July 6, 2006
Pages One and Three

Family members are expressing relief after learning Alberta Williams, whose body was found out of Prince Rupert on Highway 16 in 1989, has not been added to the official list of missing and murdered women along the ‘Highway of Tears.’

The release of a report from last month from a symposium on the issue was accompanied by several major media outlets wrongly reporting that Alberta and another missing woman, Monica Ignas of Terrace, were added to the list by RCMP.

“I didn’t think it was good, I think it was more or less a way to just brush her off like they have those other woman,” said Claudia Williams. Alberta’s sister.

“When I watched the news they said she was added to the list – it’s good that she’s not on the list.”

Alberta’s family does not believe she has much in common with the vast majority of the highway’s official victims, and are positive she would never hitchhike.

“I still see young girls hitchhiking all over the place, economics and social problems could be the problem,” said Wally Samuel, Alberta’s uncle. “But I don’t think Alberta fit that profile.

“None of our family hitchhikes, we all drive and she had two sisters with her there.”

Williams adds: “She had no reason to take off and hitchhike; she just got paid and was going to head back to Vancouver. Money wasn’t a problem for her and she didn’t have any family problems. She wouldn’t take off with anyone; she’d sooner phone somebody than hitchhike.”

In terms of what conditions would see someone added to the ‘Highway of Tears’ missing women list, an RCMP spokesperson, who confirmed there were not additions to the list, explained that it would depend on the evidence of each individual case and the investigators working those files.

“The conditions will depend largely on what the circumstances are,” said RCMP Staff-Sergeant John Ward, ‘E’ Division strategic communications and media relations.

“But what I’m trying to get across to people is whether you’re on the list or not, you get the same service.

“If you are a victim of an attack, or there’s a disappearance, or you’re a family of a victim you’re going to get the service you need.”

One thing highlighted in the ‘Highway of Tears’ symposium report that the family has no dispute with is the need for the RCMP to communicate better with victims’ families. Williams says she has not heard from the RCMP in two years.

“When I spoke to them along time ago they said we’re 99 per cent sure of who did it.” she said.

”If you’re 99 per cent sure, what prevents you from investigating any further?”

The William’s family has their own suspicions of the alleged culprit; a man they believe was at a part Alberta attended the night she disappeared – August 26, 1989.

“The night the police called and said they had found Alberta, I turned the phone over to this guy who I didn’t know was a suspect and said ‘Hey they found Alberta.’

“He said ‘They did? I said ‘They found her, they found her!’ Not thinking whether she was alive or dead.

“I was so happy they had found her.”

Williams said the man then asked if her brother would babysit for him and drove out of town.

“How far they found my sister (37 kilometres east of Prince Rupert on Highway 16), that was around how long it took for him to get lost and come back,” she said. “To me he went back to where my sister was to make sure she was indeed still there.

“The Police have taken his vehicle, they’ve searched it, he had boarders (in his home) that won’t talk… I really need to know if somebody saw Alberta that night.

Williams insists that there would have been local people at that party that night including a group in town from Gitanyow.

”People were afraid to say anything for some reason, but it’s not going to hurt to talk, not now,” she said. “It’s ridiculous, the majority of the people that were at that party come from the same community we do.”

All the family knows is that Alberta and some friends were headed to a party once Popeye’s Pub (now the Rupert Pub) closed down for the night. Williams is the last person that will admit to seeing Alberta walking down the street near the location of the old cab stand.

“I was arguing with my boyfriend, I turned my back for one moment and she was gone,” she said. “I went around the corner and looked for her, she was nowhere.”

The family will be requesting additional information from RCMP shortly and encouraging them to put more resources into the investigation and arrest of Alberta’s murderer. They will also continue with their own investigation in the hopes of finding someone at the part they believe Alberta was at who has the courage to talk.

“How much hold can a person have over a group of people,” said Williams. “If I happened to be with somebody that night and something happened, I would definitely come out and say something.

“I just don’ understand why people are so cold, just so cold.

And to the man she believes is responsible for her sister’s murder, Williams has a message:” You’re the devil himself.”

Alberta Williams was slight at five-foot-two and 115 pounds with dark brown, curly shoulder-length hair. She was last seen wearing a blue sweatshirt, back stretch pants and slip on shoes.

Anyone with information about that night or who knows someone who does, contact RCMP at (250) 627-0700 or to remain anonymous and be eligible for a cash reward, Crimestoppers at (250) 627-8477.

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