Carmen Robinson was last seen getting off a bus in View Royal the evening of Dec. 8, 1973. Her case remains unsolved 47 years later. (Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers)

Carmen Robinson was last seen getting off a bus in View Royal the evening of Dec. 8, 1973. Her case remains unsolved 47 years later. (Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers)

Gone cold: Fate of B.C. teen remains a mystery, 47 years after her disappearance

Carmen Robinson, 17, was last seen exiting a bus near Victoria in December 1973

Forty-seven years ago, 17-year-old Carmen Robinson was seen in public for the last time.

Around 10 p.m. on Dec. 8, 1973, the View Royal teenager had finished a dish-washing shift at the Ingraham Hotel and was stepping off a bus at West Burnside and Holland Avenue. The bus stop was just two blocks from her home, but she never walked through the door.

In the years of investigation that followed, police had only a handful of leads, including a bumper sticker on a car, and claims from serial killer Clifford Olsen. But nearly five decades later, Robinson’s disappearance is – at least publicly – just as much a mystery as it was that winter night.

If she is alive today, Carmen is 64.

In 2019, Black Press Media spoke to retired RCMP investigator Wendel Milne, one of the first officers assigned to the case. He remembered police getting the call early Dec. 9 that the teenager hadn’t come home the night before.

Milne confirmed the bus driver was the last person confirmed to have seen her alive. At that time, the area around the bus stop would have been fairly rural.

“It was kind of a remote area, in my recollection, and there wasn’t really any house who would have had an eye on it,” Milne said. “And if there was somebody driving by at the time … nobody came forward publicly. So you really had nobody to give you that first clue.”

READ ALSO:Washington man guilty of 1987 murders of Victoria-area couple

READ ALSO: Case of missing Vancouver Island woman inspires new true crime podcast

Police spoke to Carmen’s family and friends and searched local databases for sexual assaults and sex offenders in the area. They did surveillance where she went missing and thoroughly searched the region, looking in ditches and fields.

“Out of all that, there was nothing that surfaced,” Milne said. “It was just like she stepped off the bus into the abyss.”

People who knew Carmen told police she was hard-working and didn’t party.

“It was completely out of character for her to have gone off somewhere on her own,” Milne said.

In 2019, retired RCMP officer Bruce Brown also spoke to Black Press Media. Brown was transferred to what was then the Colwood RCMP detachment in 1977 and was assigned Carmen’s file a few years later.

“[View Royal] was a relatively small town back in those days in the early ’70s. So there, there were a lot of people who knew Carmen because she was kind of a regular person in the community,” he said.

“There was no physical evidence, no one witnessed anything. So it was classified at the time as a missing person. But as time went on, I think everyone involved in the case realized that it was likely a murder case.”

Minimal leads

The only real lead came from a friend who had seen Carmen arguing with a man a few days before she went missing. That friend was put under hypnosis to help police create a composite sketch. She recalled the person’s face and an associated vehicle – a 1973 Dodge or Plymouth Duster.

After she was hypnotized, Carmen’s friend recalled another detail: a bumper sticker on the car. The sticker had the name ‘Ferguson’ on it and was traced to a person who ran for school trustee in Kamloops and had bumper stickers made for the campaign.

“So that, combined with a number of other missing and murdered young women from the Kamloops area, gave us some hope that perhaps this vehicle may somehow be linked to to Carmen’s disappearance,” Brown said.

Police took the description of the car and the man to an unsolved homicide conference in Kamloops in 1981, and the composite sketch was published in the local newspaper.

“It’s a general description of … a man with dark hair and a big, big bushy beard. So, not that unusual,” Brown said. “We were never able to find that person.

“No one we interviewed we could link to even being in this area at the time,” Brown said. “You basically had to rely on trying to pin people down as to where they may have been through employment records … there were no cell phone records in those days.”

Brown said some of the investigators’ wives would ride the bus route – with police following – to see if they could identify anyone of interest.

No closure for Carmen

Olson, who was in Victoria in the early to mid-’70s, was arrested in James Bay for some break-ins, and would later claim to know where Carmen’s body was buried.

Olson was flown to Victoria and took police to the Fort Rod Hill area. But Brown said he only pointed out areas where it would have been impossible to bury a body because of the hard and rocky terrain. Police even used subsurface sonar equipment to search the area.

Brown speculated that Olson, who was serving a life sentence for abducting, raping and murdering eight girls and three boys in B.C. from 1980 to 1981, may have fabricated his involvement in order to get a trip out of prison. Olson died in 2011.

For Milne, the weight of Robinson’s case hasn’t lifted with time.

“It’s about 35 year years ago,” he said. “I can still see her face as clear as a picture. It’s something that will always bother me because there’s got to be an answer, but I’m not sure it will ever be solved unless somebody on their deathbed decides … to get it off their conscience.”

For Brown, it’s important to keep the memory of Carmen alive in hopes that one day, there will be answers.

Anyone with information can call the West Shore RCMP at 250-474-2264. Callers who would like to remain anonymous can call Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

-With files from Nicole Crescenzi.

RELATED: ‘Someone knows something’: a look into Vancouver Island missing persons


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: nina.grossman@blackpress.ca. Follow us on Instagram.
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

unsolved crimes

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A Keremeos family lost their home after a fire shortly before midnight on April 13. No injuries were reported. (Contributed)
Keremeos home destroyed in late-night fire

The family inside was unharmed

An Interior Health nurse administers Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16, 2021. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News)
105 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

Just over 8,000 new vaccine doses administered in the region for a total of 158,000 to date

Campfires are allowed within the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, but open burning season comes to an end April 15 at midnight. (Black Press file photo)
Open burning season ends in Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen

Campfires are permitted, following provincial guidelines

Send your letter to the editor via email to news@summerlandreview.com. Please included your first and last name, address, and phone number.
LETTER: Name is spelled incorrectly

For 100 years, the Garnett name has been spelled incorrectly as Garnet

Send your letter to the editor via email to news@summerlandreview.com. Please included your first and last name, address, and phone number.
LETTER: Development will start disintegration of Summerland

I am in favour of affordable housing but voting for a rezoning does not address this serious issue

Arlene Howe holds up a picture of her son, Steven, at a memorial event for drug overdose victims and their families at Kelowna’s Rotary Beach Park on April 14. Steven died of an overdose at the age of 32 on Jan. 31, 2015. (Aaron Hemens - Kelowna Capital News)
Moms Stop the Harm members placed crosses Wednesday morning, April 14, on Rotary Beach in memory of children lost to drug overdoses. (Aaron Hemens - Capital News)
Kelowna mothers remember children lost to the opioid crisis

It has been five years since illicit drug deaths was announced a public health emergency

Demonstrators at the legislature on April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Rally calls for decriminalization, safe supply on 5th anniversary of overdose emergency declaration

From 2016 to the end of February, 7,072 British Columbians died due to overdose

Naloxone
Op/Ed: Interior Health CEO speaks on five years of strides and challenges in overdose crisis

In 2020, close to 4,000 people across IH had access to opioid medications

Somewhere in the pack being celebrated by his teammates is Vernon Vipers forward Zack Tonelli, who scored in overtime Wednesday afternoon, April 14, to give the Snakes a 6-5 win over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in B.C. Hockey League pod play at Kal Tire Place. (Liza Mazurek - Vernon Vipers Photography)
Vernon Vipers bite Salmon Arm Silverbacks in OT

Snakes blow 5-3 third-period lead, rally in extra time for 6-5 pod play result over rivals

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 1, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps to 1,168 Wednesday, nearly 400 in hospital

Now 120 coronavirus patients in intensive care, six more deaths

Moss covered branches are seen in the Avatar Old Growth Forest near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island, B.C. Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. blockades aimed at protecting old-growth forests reveal First Nation split

Two Pacheedaht chiefs say they’re ‘concerned about the increasing polarization over forestry activities’ in the territory

Okanagan Falls Volunteer Fire Department, photo from Okanagan Falls Volunteer Fire Department Facebook page
The Okanagan Falls Volunteer Fire Department. (Facebook)
South Okanagan fire crews battle two blazes one-after-another

The two fires were likely caused by discarded cigarettes according to the fire department

Richmond RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng said, in March, the force received a stand-out number of seven reports of incidents that appeared to have “racial undertones.” (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
‘Racially motivated’ incidents on the rise in B.C’s 4th largest city: police

Three incidents in Richmond are currently being invested as hate crimes, says RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng

Most Read