“She’s fun, she’s energetic, she’s a super mom, she just loves her kids.”
Jane Aubertin describes her daughter, Nicole Bell, in the present tense.
Nicole is missing and was last seen on Sept. 2, 2017. Until Aubertin receives confirmation that her daughter is not alive, she says Nicole will remain alive to her.
Nicole lived in Malakwa. Her 33rd birthday was on Nov. 2.
She is one of five women who have gone missing in the North Okanagan-Shuswap since the spring of 2016. The remains of one young woman were found by police on a farm in Silver Creek. No charges have been laid in connection with her death.
Nicole has three children, 12, seven and five years old. They are with their father but are no longer living in Malakwa.
Aubertin says they are doing as well as can be expected in these circumstances.
“Her kids are doing okay. I have spoken to them.”
Nicole herself is the oldest of five children.
“If you know me, you know Nicole. She is the spitting image of me,” says Aubertin.
Nicole always looked out for her siblings, she says, and has been a great friend to people.
“If you clicked with her, you had a friend for life… If you needed her, she was there.”
She describes Nicole as sentimental.
She got married on the same day as her mother’s wedding anniversary.
“If you gave her something from the heart, she held onto that.”
She loved her grandmother dearly, Aubertin says, and was heartbroken when she died.
“She was kind and pleasant and sweet and joyful, always full of laughter. She was amazing.”
Nicole was someone who loved the outdoors.
“She’d go dirt bike riding, camping in tents, cook on the open fire – she wasn’t scared to do things like that.”
As a child, she wanted all kinds of pets – even snakes.
“She’d come home – can I keep it?” “No.”
Aubertin was out of the country for about three weeks prior to Nicole’s disappearance. She had spoken to her daughter from Nashville, where she’d gone to help her brother who was suffering from cancer at that time.
She said she knew Nicole was having what she calls “issues,” but she also knows Nicole wouldn’t put herself in harm’s way.
Aubertin speaks to the RCMP about every second week and they update her on their investigations. “They do communicate to me.” She says she is not told much and isn’t able to speak about anything she’s been told.
When she thinks of Nicole, she says she also thinks of the other women missing in the region – Ashley Simpson, Caitlin Potts and Deanna Wertz as well as Traci Genereaux, whose remains were found on a farm on Salmon River Road.
“I include all of them, not just Nicole. They’re all in the same area.”
She stays in touch with the other families.
Aubertin expresses her appreciation for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Drone Search Team, which has carried out a number a searches in the area.
“They’re really wonderful, awesome… People will say something and they’ll report back to me… They’re like my eyes and ears there.”
Aubertin hopes the public will remember the missing women and be sure to report anything they’ve seen or heard.
“Even if it’s the smallest thing you can think of that may not be important, let us know. It might not seem like much, but it could be.”
As for how she and her husband Dennis are doing…
“It’s an emptiness and a frustration. We’re mad and worried. We don’t want to be here, we want to be there… It’s frustrating, it’s hard. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy,” she says.
“Like everybody, we want our kids home. We want our kids to come home.”
An RCMP tip line can be reached at 1-877-987-8477, while anonymous tips can be made to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.