E-Pana and cold case re-investigations

In my post “Cold Case Re-Investigations for All” I might have given you the idea that there is discrimination going on in the E-Pana a.k.a. “Highway of Tears” investigations. While plowing through other articles, I found this one by Neal Hall from the Vancouver Sun.

It describes the cold case re-investigations being done at this moment. The article also highlights what I explain under the tab “Cold Case Investigations.” It is difficult to defrost a cold case but it can be done!

RCMP Staff Sgt. Hulan with the “Highway of Tears” evidence boxes – Photograph by Bill Keay/Vancouver Sun

Neal Hall interviewed RCMP Staff-Sgt. Bruce Hulan, the officer in charge of B.C.’s Unsolved Homicide Unit and team commander of Project E-Pana, which is conducting homicide investigations of 18 girls and women who disappeared or were found murdered along major highways in northern B.C. It is the first extensive media interview by police to explain Project E-Pana, which began in the fall of 2005 when the Unsolved Homicide Unit was tasked with viewing three homicides that the behavioural sciences people, the profilers, had reviewed and found there was some commonalities between the files. There was rumour, speculation and media reports in the north suggesting that a serial killer was responsible for these and other files. The three files were Alishia Germaine, Roxanne Thiara and Ramona Wilson. That was the birth of Project E-Pana, which used an Inuit word describing the spirit goddess that looks after the souls just before they go to heaven or were reincarnated.

The review is a slow process.  Hulan describes they started by using ViCLAS [Violent Crime Linkage Analysis System] and other databases, missing person records, and analyzing the information contained in there in the spring of 2006. They soon realized they could not review all the files in a paper format. The size and number of boxes of file material were simply too much.They decided to upload the files into our evidence and reports database, which meant bringing the files to our officer in Surrey, scanning them into the database and doing all the work that went with that. They underestimated how big of a job that would be, never having done it before. They thought we could get it done in three months and it took close to a year. The file review began in earnest in late 2006, with investigators actually sitting at their computers reading the file, page by page. In February of 2009, the review was completed. That’s when they moved to the investigative stage of the project by prioritizing files based on the risk of losing evidence and the potential threats to the public.

E-Pana has a staff right now of about 60 people. As to the estimated time line of the project, it is expect the project will be here for the next three to five years. The annual budget of the project is $6 million.

The issue of race was brought up as well in the interview. RCMP Staff-Sgt. Bruce Hulan stated that race is not a factor for them. “These victims weren’t targeted because they were white or native or any other race, for that matter. They are victims because…they were engaged in high-risk activity, is essentially a big factor here.” He explained they regularly hold meetings, briefing sessions, with the victims’ family members. ” And I can tell you that race is not a factor to any of the people in that room…I don’t think there’s ever been an issue of race. I think if you go back 20 years ago or 15 years ago, then there may have been concerns about that at that time for them. But I don’t see that concern still there today.”

Read the full story here.


  1. […] least 18 girls and women, many of them native, have disappeared from or have been found murdered along B.C. highways over […]