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Missing tree planter revives fear of slayings along Highway 16

Times Colonist (Victoria)

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

PRINCE GEORGE (CP) -- Nicole Hoar, the tree planter who is believed to have disappeared from Highway 16, is the latest in a string of at least six unsolved murders and disappearances from along the 900-kilometre stretch of road.

But just as the search for Hoar is scaled back, so too have the investigations into the others.

The old cases -- dating between 1990 and 1995 -- have become victims of the all-consuming investigation underway at a Port Coquitlam pig farm into the disappearance of more than 50 women from Vancouver's tough downtown eastside.

RCMP Cpl. Frank Henley of the Historical Homicide Unit that examines cold cases said Monday his unit looked at the Highway 16 murders several years ago.

"Our unit years ago looked at a review that was done out of major crime section on missing women, like the Highway 16 murders," said Henley. "Right now our unit is not (looking at these murders).

"Our unit got gutted and sent to the pig farm."

Robert Pickton has been charged with seven counts of first-degree murder in the Vancouver case.

Henley said his homicide unit lost 14 of its 19-man contingent to the pig farm investigation.

There are now only three officers working in the historical homicide unit.

"I know about these (Highway 16) murders, some of the history, some of the suspects, but in terms of any active pursuit of them it's not happening," he said.

Hoar is the first female to disappear along Highway 16 in some time, but the corridor linking Prince George and Prince Rupert has been under intense focus in the past.

RCMP investigators, violent crime analysts and psychological profilers even met in late 1994 at a conference to go over the unsolved murders amidst fear a serial killer might be on the loose.

The women missing include Delphine Nikal, Cindy Burk, Ramona Wilson, Roxanne Thiara, Aleisha Germaine and Lana Derrick, all from communities along Highway 16.

Four bodies were recovered. Two are still missing.

"The only common denominator we have here in regards to the disappearance of Nicole is the fact she was on Highway 16 at the time she was hitchhiking," said RCMP Const. Mike Herchuk.

"We have no evidence whatsoever that she has run into foul play, or any evidence to connect here with these other disappearances."

A massive ground and air search for Hoar, 25, officially ended late Sunday night, but Herchuk said police are now concentrating more on the "investigative aspect."

"We will not stop searching for Nicole."

The major air and ground search for Hoar included more than 100 volunteers from Prince George and 11 neighbouring communities who spent four days hunting for clues in her disappearance.

The investigative aspect, said Herchuk, includes following up on the more than 100 calls and tips received to try to "turn it into evidence and maybe focus a search into a particular area."

Police have got calls from people saying they spotted Hoar in Nanaimo and Nelson, as well as far off as Barrie, Ont.

Police also went to banks, service stations and convenience stores along the highway and collected hundreds of hours of videotape that now must be examined.

 Copyright  2002 Times Colonist (Victoria)

Courtesy of Times Colonist
http://www.canada.com/victoria/timescolonist/

 

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Updated: August 21, 2016