Another Aboriginal woman has gone missing on the "Highway of Tears" near Prince Rupert, again raising fears that a serial killer is on the loose in northwestern British Columbia.
Tamara Chipman, 22, was officially reported missing in late November and a massive two-week search in December along Highway 16 between Terrace and Prince Rupert has turned up nothing. If she is not found, Chipman would be the seventh young woman-the sixth Aboriginal-to have gone missing along that stretch of highway since 1990. The bodies of three of the Aboriginal women, all 15 year olds, have been found.
Chipman, who lives in Thornhill near Terrace, was last seen in late September hitchhiking on the highway in Prince Rupert near the industrial site turnoff, apparently headed home. She has not been heard from since.
Sgt. Eric Stubbs of the Terrace RCMP, said that, while the police are looking at "a number of viable options, the idea of a serial killer is something we have to consider, considering the similar circumstances."
The similar circumstances Stubbs speaks of are that the six Aboriginal women were all young, between the ages 15-22 (the only non-Aboriginal woman on the list, Nicole Hoar, was 25 when she disappeared in 2002), and five of the seven women were last seen on Highway 16 or their bodies were found on Highway 16.
In December, area residents joined Tamara's family and friends to search the roads between Rupert and Terrace.
"There was a really good community response," said Tamara's father, Tom Chipman, who lives in Remo, a small community just outside of Terrace. "We had about a dozen people out each day for about two weeks, searching the highway and down all the side roads. The search is pretty much done now."
Tom last saw Tamara Sept. 12 as she was going to meet some friends at the bar in Terrace but, "somehow she ended up in Rupert" where her mother lives, as do the friends she was going to see.
Tamara is facing assault charges and her father said, at first, they thought she was "hiding out" from the law, but it has now been three months and she has contacted no one, nor has her bank account been touched.
"It's not like her to pull a disappearing act like this," he said.
Although the recent number of missing women is seven, Amnesty International Canada says the total tally on the stretch known as the "Highway of Tears" stands at 33, with all save one being Aboriginal.
Some groups, like Amnesty, have suggested that police are not terribly concerned about the cases because they involve Aboriginal women, a charge the police strongly deny.
As far as Tamara's father is concerned, the RCMP "have been doing a very good job. They're not brushing it under the table at all."
Sgt. Stubbs said there have been a number of tips from the public, some more reliable than others, but nothing substantial has turned up as of yet.
He urged the public to keep on the lookout for Tamara, who is 5'10" tall and 130 pounds. She has brown eyes and very short brown hair, (buzz cut); however, she was known to wear wigs. If anyone has any information that may help, they can call their nearest RCMP detachment or Crimestoppers.