What happened to Brenda Byman? It’s a question the Valley has been asking for 58 years without getting closer to an answer.
The mystery surrounding the shy 12-year-old girl who disappeared without a trace from the Lake Enid area on May 7th, 1961 has outlived her parents, the officer who handled the initial investigation and several witnesses.
Even one person the RCMP wanted to re-interview about Brenda’s disappearance has passed on.
The mystery has stretched on so long that records that should be in the girl’s file have also succumbed to time, said Cpl. Brent Ayers, who hadn’t yet been born when Brenda went missing and who took on her case in 2012.
“I’m sure (the initial investigation) was documented,” he said, but although Brenda went missing 58 years ago, most of the statements in her file are from decades after her disappearance when there was a renewed effort to find her.
“There was no one from that initial investigation that I could even talk with,” he said.
Cpl. Ayers has a few ideas he wants to pursue, but needs some help in doing so. He is looking for an aerial map of the Lake Enid area from the 1950s or 1960 that he can compare against recent maps since the roads have changed.
He is also hoping to find a university research team that would use modern technology such as ground-penetrating radar or an archaeological dig to review an area where a fire had burned around the time of Brenda’s disappearance.
“We’ve got better technology now than we did,” he said, adding that Brenda’s DNA was added to a database a few years ago.
Now that she’s in the system and could be definitively matched to any evidence, he’s keen to search the area to see “if there was a shoe buckle or anything of interest.”
Whether or not any clues are unearthed, he said: “It would be nice to maybe check it off the list.”
Cpl. Ayers is also interested in looking into an old well site that was filled in after Brenda’s disappearance.
He said the Brenda question comes up every year when another Mother’s Day comes and goes, reminding residents of the long-lost daughter who hasn’t yet been found.
“It’s nice to know that the community hasn’t forgotten about a missing person, missing child,” he said.
Anyone with historic aerial maps or connections to a university research program that might be interested in joining the investigation can reach out to the Columbia Valley RCMP at 250-342-9292.
“If there’s any new information out there, we’ll still look at it,” he said. “I don’t know where the criminal investigation will go, but man it would be nice to have a good idea… It would be nice in a perfect world to have some closure.”