VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
LACK OF CARING REAL ENOUGH
Sunday, April 11, 1999.
Appearances being important, cautious talk of reward money now heard among politicians.
Mothers are calling me, politicians are calling each other and the cops are keeping their heads down while one or more killers remain on the loose and 20 or more Skid Row women are still missing and presumed dead.
Two-year-old Stephan Lane holds picture of missing mother Stephanie Lane. On couch are Michele Pineault, Stephanie's mother (left), Michael (Stephan's brother) and Stephanie's father George.
Yes, there are just a lot of words and emotion flying around instead of rewards announced or extra police assigned in the wake of stories here and elsewhere about the women who have gone missing from the downtown east side of Vancouver.
The story of one of them, Janet Henry, appeared on this page nine days ago, along with an argument that reward money to solve the disappearance of prostitutes is as vital an expenditure as the recently-announced $100,000 reward for information on west side garage robberies.
After that, B.C. Attorney-General Ujjal Dosanjh announced that the provincial government will provide reward money to help find the women as soon as such a request comes from the Vancouver Police.
Vancouver Mayor Philip Owen, in his capacity as chairman of the police board, responded, saying that he will put the matter before the next board meeting this month.
Friday, Vancouver-East MP Libby Davies urged Owen to support the call for a reward because "continued inaction on the part of the police makes it appear as though there is a lack of care and attention by those in authority about the importance of women's lives in the downtown eastside."
Davies is right. In fact, there still is a distinct lack of caring about the fate ofCindy Louise Beck, Linda Jean Coombes, Marcella Helen Creison, Sarah Jean deVries, Sheila Catherine Egan, Marnie Lee Frey, Catherine Louise Ganzalez, Michelle Gurney, Inga Monique Hall, Helen Mae Hallmark, Janet Gail Henry, Tanya Marlo Holyk, Angela Rebecca Jardine, Catherine Maureen Knight, Kerry Lynn Koski, Stephanie Marie Lane, Diana Melnick, Jacqueline Maria Murdock, Dorothy Anne Spence, Olivia Gale Williams and other women missing from the downtown east side whose names to date may not have been reported.
Many of us are less concerned about these women than our garages because they are/were all prostitutes or drug addicts or both, and thus not worthy of our worry. That's the too-prevalent attitude that is adding excruciatingly to the pain of their families, according to some of their mothers I talked to last week.
Michele Pineault, Stephanie Marie Lane's mother, said she was driven to phone me by a kind of prejudice which is plainly shown by the lack of caring and more subtly shown even in comments which purport to be constructive.
For example, she said, Attorney-General Dosanjh's suggestion of $1,000 mini-rewards to women on the list who come forward was "a final slap in the face."
Michele says that Stephanie, missing since January 1997, certainly would have made contact if she could have. Michele has been raising Stephanie's son, Stephan, since her disappearance when he was nine months old.
Stephanie, who would be 23 next month, was a stripper and table dancer at Number 5 Orange. Her stage name was Coco. She was addicted to heroin and cocaine.
Before she met the wrong guy in her mid-teens, she was a straight-A student and attended Britannia, Templeton and John Oliver secondary schools.
"She was pretty and very popular, and I guess I spoiled her. She was very important to me," said her mother.
"Now I've given up hope. I know she's dead."
Two readers who phoned were women from Kerrisdale, upset by my contention in the previous column that people and politicians would care a lot more if 20 women were snatched from homes in more middle-class areas. They resented the headline, "They aren't from Kerrisdale."
One of the Kerrisdale readers, a lady named Patricia, said that $100,000 rewards for perpetrators of "home and garage invasions" are more valid because they are meant to combat "acts of terrorism."
"And those women," she said in reference to the missing prostitutes and addicts, "chose their own path."
Coincidentally, I got a call from another woman named Patricia who also once lived in Kerrisdale. She is Patricia Coombes, whose daughter Linda attended Grades 1 and 2 at Crofton House, the Kerrisdale private girl's school.
Linda grew up to earn a degree in microbiology from Waterloo University before returning to B.C. and becoming ill with schizophrenia.
When the B.C. government downsized mental hospital facilities, "they dumped her on the street in skid row," said her mother, who now lives in Point Roberts.
Linda Jean Coombes lived in the downtown east side until she went missing in April, 1994.
She didn't choose her own path.
If you have any information on these cases, please contact Bob Stall by voicemail at (604) 605-2086, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by fax or letter at The Province.
Updated: January 01, 2007