Hue and Cry

Highway of Tears

The Disappearance of Delphine Nikal

Location

Smithers, British Columbia

Year

1990

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**This story is part of our series examining the cases of missing and murdered women along The Highway of Tears. The Highway of Tears is an isolated 725-kilometer stretch of Highway 16 between Prince George and Prince Rupert in British Columbia, Canada. This highway has been the location of many murders and disappearances beginning as early as the 1970s. Indigenous women make up the majority of these victims with almost all of their cases going unsolved and their families still searching for answers. For an in-depth look into this, and many other cases along this highway we recommend reading Jessica McDiarmid’s book Highway of Tears

Delphine Nikal is a member of the Wet’suwet’en tribe and was the youngest of her family and born on a farm near Smithers, British Columbia. She was born in the same hospital as Ramona Wilson and was known as an adventurous child who loved animals. When Delphine was only 11 years old, her father died and Delphine moved to the neighboring village of Telkwa to live with her mother.

Delphine Nikal (missingkids.ca)

In 1990, Delphine was fifteen years old and her mother Judy fell ill after a surgery had gone wrong and ended up spending four months in a coma in a Prince George hospital. The hospital was a four-hour drive from their village so at this time Delphine went to live with her uncle Frank Tompkins who lived across the street from them.

On Wednesday, June 13 at approximately 2:00 p.m. Delphine told her uncle that she was going into town to meet up with some friends. Delphine met up with her close friend Kristal Grenkie and two other girls. The girls wandered around town during the afternoon and as evening approached, the group headed to Mohawk gas station which was located on the corner of Main Street and Highway 16. Delphi’s friends remembered her asking them if they wanted to spend the night at her house as her mother was not home. The girls thought it was unusual because she had never asked any of them before to spend the night. The girls were unable to go though because of school and work the next day. After the group parted ways, Delphine called her uncle to tell him she was headed home.

Delphine Nikal was last seen hitchhiking in the eastbound lane of Highway 16, but never made it home. In the following days when Delphine’s family reported her missing they were met with suggestions that she had probably run off and would return soon. Delphine was known to police, as she had been charged with previous minor offenses such as theft and mischief and had been in and out of youth facilities in the province. With no help from the police, the family was left to search for Delphine on their own, knocking on doors and driving throughout Vancouver looking for her.

There was no, literally no support. The cops never really showed a whole lot of interest…They obviously didn’t really care.

Mary Nikal, sister of Delphine (Highway of Tears)

When police finally got involved they ruled out foul play, citing the fact that many young people go missing each year and eventually turn up on the streets of Vancouver. This was hard for Delphine’s family to make sense of as Delphine’s mother was very sick and she would never have left her. All her belongings were still at home and her friends knew she would have confided in them about her plan and would not have invited them over that night if she was planning on running away.

With additional help from Canpro Investigation Services and The Missing Children Society of Canada offering a $10,000 reward, information started to come in about Delphine. An employee at Mohawk gas station claimed to have seen Delphine getting into a red sports car on the night of her disappearance. Her uncle was also looked into, but there was evidence to suggest that Delphine never made it home that night and he eventually passed away. It was also thought that Delphine may have ended up at a party that night in a rural area near Smithers but all of these leads led to dead ends after further investigation.

In March of 2019, a witness came forward with information regarding Delphine which confirmed suspicions that Delphine was most likely picked up by someone who was on their way out of town.

Since Delphine’s disappearance, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Task Force called E-PANA was created to investigate the series of unsolved murders along this highway, including Delphine’s. The purpose of the task force was “to determine if a serial killer, or killers, is responsible for murdering young women traveling along major highways in BC” (E-PANA website). To date, however, this case still remains unsolved, as do all the cases along the highway included in E-PANA.

All images and videos used for this story are not the property of The Hue and Cry and are displayed for informational purposes only. They are property of their original owners/publications. Photos are from Unidentified Wiki and missingkids.ca.

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