VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Woman who vanished found alive in U.S.
Linda Grant, mother of three little girls, was last seen more than two decades ago. Her Port Moody family thought she had been murdered. Then came a stunning e-mail.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Linda Grant, one of 68 women listed as missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, ended more than 20 years of silence this week, contacting police and her family to tell them she is still alive.
CREDIT: Peter Battistoni, Vancouver Sun
Dawn Grant broke down in tears when she talked to her mother (pictured 23 years ago) on the phone.
"I didn't even know I was on that list until [Monday]," said Grant, who grew up in Port Moody and left the Lower Mainland in 1983 to begin a new life in the United States.
In a telephone interview Tuesday, Grant said she found out she was listed as missing while she was surfing the Web on Monday to learn more about Robert (Willy) Pickton, the Port Coquitlam pig farmer accused of killing 26 women.
She said an American friend originally from Surrey "was telling me about this Pickton guy. I went on to the computer and there was Pickton. And then I saw myself."
Her photograph was staring back at her from the police poster of 68 women missing from the Downtown Eastside, said Grant, who lives in the southern U.S. and gets little Canadian news.
The slightly out-of-focus picture of the smiling blond woman, taken more than 23 years ago, indicated that Linda Louise Grant was last seen in October 1984.
Although Grant said she had not spoken to anyone in her family since 1984 after fleeing a home she described as troubled, she was startled to see her name on the poster because she wasn't aware she had been reported missing.
And she insisted she doesn't fit the profile of the other women on the list -- denying she has ever worked in the sex trade or done hard drugs.
She said that over the last two days, she has spoken to police officers with the Missing Women Task Force and members of her long-lost family, but noted everyone was skeptical that she was who she claimed to be.
The RCMP has not taken Grant's name off the poster yet, saying a police investigation must be conducted to prove the woman is no longer missing.
"We are trying to confirm that she is alive and well, but we haven't done that yet to our satisfaction," media relations officer Staff Sgt. John Ward said on Tuesday.
Grant turned to an American cold cases website for help on Monday, and the administrator pointed her to a missing women website that Wayne Leng has run since his friend Sarah de Vries disappeared from Vancouver.
Grant's daughter Dawn Grant had posted notices on Leng's website in an effort to find more information about her mother. Linda Grant got her daughter's e-mail address from the website and sent her a message Monday.
"I was cynical. I thought someone was pulling a prank on me," said Dawn Grant, 28, a telemarketer from Surrey who has a young son.
But Linda Grant said she was ready to prove who she was. "Finally Dawn started e-mailing me back and asking me questions that only I would know the answers to," Linda Grant said.
On Monday night, Dawn Grant, her 27-year-old sister Briana, her two aunts, an uncle and her grandfather participated in a teleconference call to Linda Grant to try to determine if the woman was for real.
"She knew the names of everyone in our family, our birthdays, the story of playing pool and the pool ball going through the window. Silly things that only my mother would know," Dawn Grant said.
"My Auntie Sue was very skeptical. She just kept asking questions and questions, and mom had all the answers -- even about her dental work."
Linda Grant said she wanted to answer the queries so her family would believe her. "My sister Susan asked me what colour my bedroom was as a teenager," she said.
Dawn Grant is convinced she has found her mother -- a woman she last saw when she was five or six years old. She has only vague memories of brushing her hair while the two sat together on a couch.
"This is just overwhelming. I'm so happy," Dawn Grant said, weeping Linda Grant broke down in tears on the phone when asked about everything she has missed during her 23-year absence from her daughters and the rest of her family. She said she moved in 1983, when she was 25 years old, to the southern United States -- "the furthest place I could get" -- after losing custody of her two young daughters, Dawn and Brandy.
She claimed she reached out unsuccessfully to one family member in 1984, and then decided to create a new life -- although the decision was a tough one to make.
"I love my kids," she sobbed.
When she left Canada, Linda Grant was pregnant with her third daughter, Briana, whom she gave up for adoption.
(Briana later tracked down a family member -- but not her mother -- and met with her biological family.)
Linda Grant said her life has been a happy one in the U.S., where she had a new family and owned a bar that she has since sold.
"It was so hard, but I got married and I had three more girls, and I thought that was God's way of getting me through it," said Linda Grant, who now works as a bartender.
After discovering her photo on the missing women poster, Linda Grant said she told her husband on Monday night and her three youngest daughters on Tuesday that she had left a life behind in Canada before moving to the U.S.
Dawn Grant said she grew up thinking her mother had abandoned her, but when she read about the serial killer investigation at the Pickton pig farm, she feared her mother was no longer alive.
"I was worried something bad had happened to her," Dawn Grant said.
Pickton is charged with killing 26 of the women on the list of missing, but more than 40 remained unaccounted for. The list had 69 names on it until May 2005, when police announced Tammy Fairbairn had been located in central Canada.
Linda Grant -- who police said was last seen in 1984 but wasn't reported missing until February 1996 -- was officially added to the list in July 2002, but very little was known publicly about her at the time. If she is removed from the list, that will lower the police tally of missing women to 67.
Leng, who runs the missing women website, also started communicating with Linda Grant online Monday and called the Missing Women Task Force to alert police to her claims. Leng is convinced the woman is telling the truth about her identity.
"This just made me so happy because often it's another dead body being found, it's often sad news. To get something so uplifting that somebody has survived -- that is such great news," Leng said.
Dawn Grant said she hopes other families of the missing women can also be reunited with loved ones. She said she would like to see her mother as soon as she can find the money to fly to the southern U.S.
"I've been waiting 23 years for this. I just want to see her," the emotional young woman said.
Linda Grant is also determined to see her oldest children and the rest of her family again.
"We are all going to meet together. I don't know where or when, but we will."
This story can be heard online after 10:30 a.m. today at www.vancouversun.com/readaloud.
MEMO FOR HER MOTHER
One of the postings that Dawn Grant put on the www.missingpeople.net website in an effort to find her mother:
Thursday, May 25, 2006:
"My mom is Linda Louise Grant. She went missing 23 years ago and was last seen a block from the Pickton pig farm. I miss her very much and hope she is still out there some where. When I was a kid I always thought that she just abandoned me and when I heard about the pig farm I was hoping more than ever that she abandoned me.... I used to be mad at her for missing me grow up and for not being there when her first grandchild was born. But now I just hope she is still alive and safe and happy. I feel robbed as I imagine that all the families of the missing women do.... All I know is that I want my mother back and if she is still out there and you have any information about her please e-mail me ... even if you don't think it's important. I just want to know anything about her."
© The Vancouver Sun 2006
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Woman on poster contacts police, says she's alive - June 23, 2006
Police confirm ID of 'missing' woman - June 10, 2006
Updated: January 01, 2007