The family of a woman who went missing 60 years ago knows time is running out as they once again issue a plea for any one with information — no matter how old it may be — to please come forward.
Eileen Faye Williams was 19 years old when she went missing on Aug. 6, 1962, near Montague, P.E.I.
"It's something that we've lived with for 60 years. And not knowing what happened to a loved one is quite unsettling. You'd like to know, even if it turns out to be something horrible," said Pauline Campbell, a niece of the missing woman.
The mystery of what happened has haunted the family for decades.
On a recent summer morning, Campbell and two of her cousins, sisters Trudy White and Cheryl Collings, sat around the kitchen table at Collings's house on Peters Road, leafing through photo albums of their missing aunt. The exercise was a trip down memory lane, and a search for clues.
"People who were around then are now into their late 70s and 80s," said Campbell. "We're just hoping that maybe somebody remembers something that they've never come forward with before."
Active case continues
RCMP say the case remains open. Police received their most recent tip just two years ago. That tip did not pan out, but it sparked the curiosity of the detective now on the case.
"It's certainly the oldest file I've ever worked on," said Cpl. Alexis Triantifillou of the RCMP Major Crimes Unit in Charlottetown. "I took the tip, I dug into the file … it's compelling because this person, Miss Eileen Williams, has yet to be found."
Williams grew up in a house by the shore in Beach Point, with her parents and six other siblings. By age 17, she had moved to Hamilton, Ont., where she lived with her older sister, Eva.
Soon, she had a job as a secretary in a law firm. Eva's family grew, her daughters Trudy and Cheryl were born two years apart, in the late 1950s.
Sixty years later, Trudy and Cheryl's memories of Aunt Eileen are distant but precious.
"She lived with us in Ontario so I have memories of her playing with us, tickling us," said Collings, "But then it was 'Aunt Eileen is gone' and we didn't have her anymore. So yeah, it was kind of traumatic."
Lack of evidence
Williams, a successful young woman, came home to P.E.I. regularly for summer holidays, including that fateful visit home in the summer of '62.
A photograph taken of her that summer — perhaps just days before she disappeared — shows a confident and well-dressed young woman on holiday, with a large wicker purse, and stylish sunglasses.
On the morning of Aug. 6 — a Monday — Williams had gone into Montague to mail postcards and run some errands. Her sister-in-law, Pearl, gave her a ride from Beach Point and dropped her off at the post office. Williams had told family she intended to get a clasp fixed on a broken necklace, and to catch up with some high school friends later in the day.
Williams had also told family she might stay the night with one of her girlfriends in Montague. When she didn't come home the next day, parents Elliott and Katie Jane did not see reason to be concerned — not yet at least — for their independent and now young adult daughter.
The following day, Wednesday, fear began to gnaw and they went to police.
"These things just didn't happen in P.E.I. 60 years ago," said Campbell. "It was very unusual for something like this to happen, for somebody to just disappear into thin air."
The last sighting of Eileen Williams was around 7 p.m., Aug. 6., 1962, on the Wood Islands hill. An RCMP officer in a cruiser reported that he passed her as he was headed into town, and she was walking south.
A mass search of the area, days later, found no trace of the woman, and no clues as to where she went.
Newspapers at the time reported up to 200 people took part in scouring roadsides from Montague to Beach Point, some of them poking through long grass with poles. Police records say that heavy rain fell before the search parties got out. The family wonders if crucial evidence may have washed away.
Given the lack of evidence, rumours have expanded to fill the void.
"Some people thought that someone picked her up and did wrong by her and disposed of the body. Other people think that maybe she moved away and didn't want to be found," said Campbell.
The family doubts Williams ran away. Her bank account contained well over $300 — a significant sum at the time — and she had purchased return airfare to Ontario.
"She was a happy 19 year old that was just here visiting her parents and her other siblings," said Collings. "There wasn't any reason for her to just leave and not contact anybody."
"I don't know what their theories are, but I assume [RCMP] probably have file boxes full of interviews and things," said Trudy White.
'Time is running out'
The banker's box of files on the Williams case is stored in an RCMP office in Charlottetown. As an active case, its contents remain under wraps. Approaching retirement after 27 years on the force, including six years in uniform in Montague area, Triantifillou has long ago extinguished any inclination to reveal confidential details or speculate on what ifs regarding the investigation.
The RCMP officer who last saw Williams is still alive and now lives in retirement in western Canada. Triantifillou has spoken to him and to others who gave statements to police 60 years ago.
"One of the challenges of this file is that a lot of the people involved, some have passed away," said Triantifillou. "I have been able to speak to some of the people, but some I have not."
The photo albums on the kitchen table at Collings's house contain their own kind of evidence — a lock of Williams's hair, a postcard she wrote — of the family's heartbreak over a long-missing loved one.
"Time is running out. If anybody does know something, they are getting older and they may not be around much longer," said Campbell. "It would be great to get some kind of closure on what happened to Aunt Eileen."
Anyone who may have information regarding the 1962 disappearance of Eileen Faye Williams is asked to contact the P.E.I. RCMP Major Crime Unit at 902-566-7112. Information can also be provided anonymously through Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).