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43 years later, friend of Verna Susan Bjerky says search for her still continues in Hope

Cathy Lamberton remembers Bjerky as a fun and hardworking girl
Verna Susan Bjerky went missing after attempting to hitchhike a ride to Kamloops from Hope back in May of 1981. Some believe she fell prey to serial killer Clifford Olson. Family and friends continue to search for her remains to this day. (Submitted photo)

Cathy Lamberton can still remember the day that Verna Susan Bjerky left her home.

“We went to a party, came home that night and the next morning she wanted to go back to Kamloops,” Lamberton said. “I couldn’t go because I had my baby with me. So, I asked her not to go but she decided to go anyways. She left around one. And right when she was walking out the door, I stopped her and gave her a knife.

“She laughed and said she was going to call on Tuesday. She never called back.”

On May 2, 1981, Bjerky, who was just 10 days shy of her 17th birthday, left Lamberton’s home to visit her boyfriend in Kamloops. Despite Lamberton’s pleas to do otherwise, Bjerky planned to hitchhike all the way there and promised Lamberton that she would call her on Tuesday (May 5, 1981).

Instead, on Wednesday (May 6, 1981), Lamberton, who was only 19 years old at the time, said her world was changed forever when Bjerky’s mother and two younger sisters knocked on her door asking if Bjerky had contacted her. When she said no, the family reported her missing and began an exhaustive search for her.

According to Lamberton, she first met Bjerky when they were both in school together. The two eventually became best friends and Bjerky ended up living with Lamberton for a year, after she left school to work as a waitress at the Godfather restaurant in Hope. Before becoming a waitress Bjerky was a resident of Yale, living there with her family, and the commute to work would have been difficult.

“She was a wild one,” Lamberton said. “She was an artist. And she was so fun. Her and I are a lot alike because we both drew. We were both drawers. We both wrote poems. She just had a lot of life and she loved my little girl. And she worked hard. For a 16-year-old, she was a hard worker.”

Lamberton, who has stayed in touch with Bjerky’s mother and siblings, said that Bjerky’s family is “absolutely wonderful.” In fact, despite police’s belief at the time that she was another teenage runaway, Lamberton said that Bjerky had a good relationship with her mother and siblings: Clara Chrane (mother), Irene Gail Bjerky (older sister), Gladys Chrane (younger sister) and Glynis “Glennie” Chrane (younger sister), and Dan Bjerky (brother).

As of 2024, Irene and Glennie have passed away.

Nearly half a year after her disappearance, some of Bjerky’s belongings were found near Highway 7, proving that she hadn’t run away. This included her purse and a pair of roller skates, which were both found in the river with rocks in them.

Now, 43 years later, Lamberton and Bjerky’s family are still searching for Verna and are still seeking answers about what happened. During the past four decades, two big public searches — involving canine units, dive teams and hundreds of people — and many personal searches were held to find her body.

The family also held a memorial service for Bjerky in Yale at the Church of St. John the Divine, on May 12, 2011, 30 years after her disappearance.

Lamberton, along with others, believe that Bjerky may have been a victim of Clifford Olson, a serial-killer who terrorized B.C. in the early ’80s before being captured and convicted for the murders of 11 children.

“On (April 30, 1981), Verna wanted to go see her boyfriend,” Lamberton said. “The buses were on strike. So we hitchhiked. And Clifford Olson picked us up. We didn’t know it was him at the time but he kept trying to make us drink beer and eat peanuts. Now I know they were probably laced with chlorohydrate.”

Lamberton, who sat in the backseat with a knife open the whole trip, said something felt very off about Olson. She refused to eat or drink anything he offered. And she stopped Bjerky from consuming anything either.

“He was weird. Very weird,” Lamberton said. “He was talking about how his wife wouldn’t give him sex because of the baby. Just weird things. Strange things. Anyways, he did drop us off in Kamloops.”

Lamberton said, after spending time in Kamloops, she and Verna managed to hitchhike back to Hope by May 1, 1981. She believes Olson may have followed them back as, according to her, he signed into the Coquihalla Campground late at night on May 1, 1981.

Lamberton said, out of desperation for answers, she wrote to Olson while he was in jail and received two letters from him. Irene, when she was alive, also told the Hope Standard in 2011 that she wrote to Olson trying to seek answers.

In Olson’s letters to Lamberton, he allegedly confirmed Lamberton’s suspicions that he was responsible for Verna’s disappearance.

It was in one of these letters that he, allegedly, informed Lamberton that the only reason she and Bjerky left his car safely on April 30 was because, up until that point, he hadn’t killed two people at the same time.

“When I read that I started bawling,” Lamberton said. “We could have been dead that day. And the thing that saved us, I refused to drink the beer and I refused to let Verna drink the beer.”

Police took Olson, after he was imprisoned, back to B.C. on a four-day hunt after he claimed that he killed more children.

Despite this, Olson was never conclusively linked to her disappearance. He died on September 30, 2011 and went to his grave without confirming if he murdered her.

Verna’s body remains missing to this day.

As such, Lamberton said that any new information about Bjerky is welcome.

“She was wonderful,” Lamberton said. “She was great. And she’s missed (very much) by a lot of people. But the thing is nobody’s mentioned her since then (30th memorial). And there’s a lot of new people who don’t know anything about her.

“And the search hasn’t died down. It’s not ended. I’m still looking.”

READ MORE: Remembering Verna: Loss felt through the generations


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Kemone Moodley

About the Author: Kemone Moodley

I began working with the Hope Standard on August 2022.
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