LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — It had been about three decades since relatives had last seen two sisters in Alberta, but recently the family received some unexpected news.
Anna and Kym Hakze are alive and living in the United States.
"After so many years, it's very unusual for a case like this to end with good news," Staff Sgt. Scott Woods of the Lethbridge Police Service said Thursday.
"Usually we find ourselves telling a family their loved one has met with some sort of tragedy or, more often than not in a case of this age, never being able to provide any answers."
Today, Anna Hakze is 67 and Kym Hakze is 53.
The last time their family saw them was in Edmonton in the mid-1980s. Old photographs provided by police show the two women sporting their blond hair in the voluminous style typical of the era.
Police say that at the time of the disappearance, Anna Hakze was estranged from her family and struggling financially, but she and her younger sister were inseparable.
Their mother reported them missing in 2003. She died some years ago.
Woods told a news conference he doesn't know whether the duo were from Lethbridge originally, but they did at one time have strong ties to the southern Alberta city.
The investigation encountered many dead ends over the years, but police kept the file open in the hope of providing some closure to the women's family.
At one point, it was thought the pair could have been victims of convicted serial killer Robert Pickton, since there was some suggestion they had moved to Vancouver. But there was no DNA match.
Police also traced an alias Anna Hakze was known to use to a woman in Vancouver, but she was not the missing sister.
However, that woman was able to provide some useful information. She saved a newspaper clipping from 1984 about a book written by an author with the same unusual name as hers. She thought it was funny, so she had held on to it over the years.
In 2012, police got a tip that two women could be the Hakze sisters. One was the author of several books, but had a different name than the one in the 1984 newspaper ad. The other went by an alias Kym Hakze was known to use.
Attempts to contact them at the time were fruitless.
But new online searches earlier this year helped police get some traction. A recent story about the author mentioned in the 2012 tip included a photo and narrowed down where she was living.
There were no records under that name. But there were records under the author's name in the 1984 Vancouver clipping. One of those records listed a sister as next of kin.
"Today's world is big, vast," said Woods. "But it also — because of travel and now the Internet — can be very small, too."
Fingerprints confirmed the two women in the U.S. are Kym and Anna Hakze.
Kym Hakze, who goes by a different name now, told police she and her sister didn't know they were reported missing all those years ago. Lethbridge police have not yet talked to Anna Hakze, but U.S. authorities have confirmed where she lives.
Police aren't disclosing any more information about the women's lives to protect their privacy. Kym Hakze has been given contact information for her siblings.
Woods said the family was surprised the sisters were found alive after all these years.
"I think their first response, without going into it too deep, was of shock," he said.
"We were shocked, to be honest."
— By Lauren Krugel in Calgary
The Canadian Press