At some point in the long search for the missing Hakze sisters of Alberta, police even wondered if the two women weren't among the victims of the serial killer Robert Pickton.
In the end, three decades after the sisters had first drifted away from the family, the Lethbridge Police Service announced Thursday that the two had been retraced, now middle-aged and living under new identities in the United States. The elder sister is even a published author under a pseudonym.
"We're ecstatic about it," Staff Sergeant Scott Woods of Lethbridge police's Criminal Investigation Section said in an interview.
The sisters had long been estranged from their family and weren't even aware that they had been classified in Canada as missing people.
Anna Hazke was 42 and her sister Kym was 29 when they were deemed to have disappeared in July, 1993. But they had last been seen in person by their family in Edmonton in the mid-1980s. And it was only in 2003 that their mother contacted the police.
Staff Sgt. Woods said families usually report missing relatives more promptly.
"There's always different dynamics in families," the investigator said. "To each their own."
The sisters are now 67 and 53 years old.
Staff Sgt. Woods said he was happy their whereabouts were retraced before old age made it harder to find them.
At the time they drifted away from their family, Anna was not getting along with her relatives and was struggling financially. The sisters were close to each other and believed to be together in Vancouver, using several aliases.
One of those pseudonyms enabled police to find them.
In the fall of 2015, Lethbridge police made a public appeal in four missing-person cases, including the Hakze sisters.
"We understand you may have walked away from your lives and it is not our intention to disrupt them. We only want to confirm that you are OK … Confirmation of your well-being is all that is needed to close your case," the police said in a statement at the time.
Earlier this year, reviewing the file, investigators found a mention of a 1999 theft report filed with Vancouver police by a woman with the same name as one of Anna's aliases.
The Vancouver complainant was contacted. She was not Anna but she mentioned that she had kept a newspaper clipping mentioning a book author going by the same unusual name.
This corroborated a 2012 Crime Stoppers tip that Anna was now a book author.
This triggered new searches that led investigators to locate the sisters in the U.S. Their identities were confirmed through fingerprint records and in February, police in the U.S. spoke to Kym.
While their disappearance suggested an unhappy family dynamic, it was a happier narrative than the one investigators considered at one time, when they took DNA samples from their relatives to make sure the sisters weren't among the women whose remains were found in Mr. Pickton's pig farm in Port Coquitlam.
"The reality of it is that we're in the business of delivering a lot of bad news a lot of the time. So to have one success like this is very relieving for us," Staff Sgt. Woods said.