Shelley-Anne Bacsu was a 16-year-old girl from the small town of Hinton, Alberta, which had a population of about 8,500 in 1983. At around 8:15 PM on May 3, 1983, Shelley-Anne was seen walking west down the north side of Alberta Highway 16 in Hinton, making her way home from her boyfriend’s brother’s house in the Sunset Trailer Park, where she had been babysitting. Shelley-Anne lived in a rural, somewhat secluded house, off Alberta Highway 40, about a 10-minute drive from the Sunset Trailer Park in the town of Hinton proper, a distance of about 6.5 km (4 mi). At around 8 PM, she had called her mother informing her she’d be home in about 15 minutes, as another friend was going to pick her up from her boyfriend’s brother’s house and drive her home.
Around 9:00 PM, her mother received a phone call from her boyfriend, asking to speak to Shelley-Anne. It was then that she realized she was missing. She called the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Hinton detachment, but they could not file a missing persons report until 24 hours after her last sighting. Shelley-Anne’s mother, her father, and her brother, drove along the route she’d have had to take home, but found no trace.
24 hours after her last sighting, at 8:15 PM on May 4, a missing persons report was officially filed. Initially, police believed her to be a runaway, despite her mother insisting that this wasn’t the case.
On May 7, 1983, police discovered a host of her belongings on the banks of the Athabasca River, just off Highway 40 and about three miles from her house. These items included her jacket, a bra, pantyhose, a student card, and a library book which had been checked out on May 3. After this discovery, the police began to believe that Shelley-Anne was not a runaway and that foul play was, indeed, involved.
The search continued, but it was hindered by the fact that Hinton and the surrounding area is very remote, with nothing but unpopulated forests for many, many kilometers in all directions. As one might imagine, the small town of Hinton had a small RCMP force, and so scouring the vast search area with little to no leads was very difficult.
It seemed unusual that Shelley-Anne was walking in the first place; as stated, the distance was four miles, a considerable trek to begin at 8 PM. The RCMP did interview Shelley-Anne’s boyfriend, but the transcription, which presumably contains information on who the friend intending to pick Shelley-Anne up was and why Shelley-Anne was not in her car when she was last seen, was never released to the public. Her mother said it would be “uncharacteristic” of Shelley-Anne to undertake such a long walk at that time of night, when it would have been fully possible for her to call for her parents to pick her up from her boyfriend’s brother’s house. Her boyfriend revealed to her mother only that she’d started walking before the “friend” had arrived, but eyewitnesses at the trailer park say they never saw her begin her walk. She was not seen walking back towards Hinton; she was walking away, towards her house. The witness who spotted her told the RCMP that she was carrying what looked to be her school books and had “no intention of hitchhiking”. Supposedly, another witness came forward to the RCMP and told them that they “recalled someone getting into a van with British Columbia license plates” near the area Shelley-Anne was last sighted, around the right time.
The majority of investigative force was shifted away from the case in 1985, but it was never officially closed. In 2010, the RCMP took another look into the case as part of the Highway of Tears investigation. The Highway of Tears is a stretch of Highway 16 in rural British Columbia where 80+ people have gone missing or have been found dead. When that look-over opened no new leads, the case was transferred to the RCMP’s Historical Homicide Unit, which continue to keep the case open to this day. At the request of the family, the unit took another close look into the case in 2019, which involved new methods such as collecting DNA left at the scene where Shelley-Anne’s clothes were found. Two DNA profiles were found, one belonging to Shelley-Anne, but the other, likely belonging to Shelley-Anne’s kidnapper or killer, has no match in the RCMP’s database.
Shelly-Anne’s family is desperate to know what happened to their daughter that evening in 1983. If you have any information regarding her disappearance please call Missingkids.ca at 1-866-KID-TIPS(543-8477) or RCMP “K” Division at 780-412-5424.