Support for missing women reward

'Missing women' reward supported

The Vancouver Sun
Chad Skelton Vancouver Sun

Vancouver's mayor will recommend the city's police board approve a $100,000 reward to help solve the mysterious disappearance of 21 women on the Downtown Eastside since 1995.

Responding to what he called an outpouring of "great concern" from the public, Philip Owen, who chairs the seven-member board, said he will propose the reward at its meeting this Wednesday.

As with two existing $100,000 rewards for both a series of home invasions and string of garage robberies, Owen will propose the board contribute $30,000 and ask the province to contribute $70,000.

In an interview with The Vancouver Sun earlier this month, Attorney-General Ujjal Dosanjh said the province "would absolutely favourably respond" to a request from the police board for a reward in the missing women cases.

On Sunday he repeated that vow. "If a reward helps, we'd be prepared to support it -- and pay it," he said.

The mayor cautioned that the reward offer needs to be carefully worded, because the nature of the crime in these cases -- and, indeed, whether a crime has even occurred -- isn't clear.

One concern is that someone could claim the full reward for simply discovering one of the missing women living in another city.

On the other hand, limiting the offer only to information that leads to a murder conviction doesn't address the possibility that some of the women may be held captive, but still are alive. "We can't just go on the assumption that they're all dead," Owen said.

The mayor said he may propose a "two-tiered" reward that would pay out the entire $100,000 for information leading to a criminal conviction, but could also provide smaller amounts -- perhaps $5,000 -- for locating the whereabouts of a missing woman who is alive and well, but has lost touch with her family.

Earlier this month, Owen said he was reluctant to authorize a reward in the missing women cases, because police had not requested one. Both the home invasion and garage-robbery rewards came after the police department made a specific request for help.

Vancouver police have steadfastly maintained that there is no evidence any of the missing women have been murdered -- or that the cases are linked in any way. However, Detective Lori Shenher -- one of two officers assigned full-time to the case -- has been quoted several times saying she believes at least some of the 21 women are victims of foul play.

Families of the missing women were ecstatic at the news of the reward. Since 1995, 22 "street-involved" women, most prostitutes and drug addicts, have gone missing from the east side. No bodies have been discovered and only one has been found alive -- leaving 21 still missing.

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22 Missing Women

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Missing Women Tip Line: 1-877-687-3377

Updated: August 21, 2016