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An end to 40 years of tears and questions for three families

Shawn MacMillen, brother of victim Colleen MacMillen, takes part in a news conference in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

Nearly four decades after the murder of her teenage daughter, Rowna Weys takes the news of a break in the case with a heavy heart.

"I don't know what kind of relief you get from this kind of thing," Ms. Weys said Tuesday, moments after police announced the prime suspect in her daughter's death. "It's always there with you."

On Oct. 19, 1973, her 19-year-old daughter, Gale, set off to hitchhike from Clearwater, B.C. to Kamloops to visit her parents. The cheerful, active young woman had been working at a gas station in Clearwater to save money for a second year in college.

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Gale Weys never arrived.

The teenager's body was discovered six months later in a ditch six kilometres south of Clearwater. Her clothing was never found, police said.

On Tuesday, after an investigation into 18 murdered and missing B.C. women dubbed E-PANA, RCMP announced that a U.S. prison inmate named Bobby Jack Fowler, now dead, was responsible for the murder of 16-year-old Colleen MacMillen.

Ms. MacMillen's body was found near 108 Mile Ranch in 1974.

They also revealed Mr. Fowler is an "incredibly strong suspect" in the murder of two more young B.C. women: Pamela Darlington and Gale Weys.

"After 40 years, I don't think it really makes a big difference," Ms. Weys said from her Kamloops home. "[But] it's good to know. We always wondered who else [the killer] might harm, and that's not going to happen now."

Ms. Weys remembered her daughter as "wonderful" and "upbeat," a swimming instructor who often took trips with the Girl Guides group she led.

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Gale's uncle, Ted Weys, expressed his gratitude to the RCMP "for getting this far." He remembered his niece as "a real go-getter."

"She was a hell of a nice girl – very outgoing and friendly," he said.

Ms. Darlington, also 19, was last seen on Nov. 6, 1973, leaving a Kamloops bar then called the David Thompson Pub. Her body was discovered the next day near the south bank of the Thompson River at Pioneer Park – less than three weeks after Gale Weys' body was found 120 kilometres away.

All three victims were young, white women, with round faces and flowing hair. Ted Weys noted they looked so similar they could pass for sisters.

– With a report from Ian Bailey

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