Missing women mourned

Courtesy of The Province, Tues 26 June 2001
Mark Wilson and Lora Grindlay

The Province / Friends and family of women missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside comfort each other, laying flowers and photos at memorial in waterfront Crab Park.

On Saturday there was a celebration cake, yesterday flowers.

Gladys Montgomery's cake was to mark the seven years she has been drug-free and no longer working Vancouver's streets.

The flowers were to remember the 30-odd prostitutes who have disappeared from those same streets in recent years.

Montgomery, who became a prostitute at 13 and stayed on the strolls for 20 years, is convinced the missing women have been murdered, probably by one or more serial killers.

"I knew 10 of the missing women and being street-savvy did not protect them. One of the smartest was named Sarah and she was really streetwise. She has gone."

Montgomery took part yesterday in a waterfront memorial ceremony for the missing. There were Indian drums and songs because most of the women being remembered were from First Nations.

So is Montgomery, whose father brought her to Vancouver from Winnipeg when she was seven. Her home life was troubled and she ran away, falling in with a pimp. She began drinking heavily and smoking marijuana. Then came cocaine and heroin.

"It got worse and, toward the end, I was needing $500 to $600 a day for my habit. That meant as many johns as I could could get," Montgomery said. "You work to pay for drugs and you need to do drugs in order to do the work. You have hit bottom."

With help from a support group, Montgomery was able to quit heroin. Today she counsels addicts and sex-trade workers.

She is convinced a serial killer is at large and believes she may have met him. "One time, I had to run away from a man without my clothes. I think I only got free because I was able to mace him when he started choking me."

Montgomery was robbed and raped at knifepoint and beaten by both johns and drug dealers. "You go with men to isolated places like parks and wharves and you know it's very dangerous. I am lucky, very lucky, to have survived."

- Prostitutes' advocate Jamie Lee Hamilton attended B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver yesterday to show her support for former city police detective-inspector Kim Rossmo, who is suing the Vancouver Police Board for wrongful dismissal.

Rossmo, the first police officer in Canada to earn a PhD in criminology, invented geographic profiling, a computer-assisted method of tracking serial criminals.

In earlier testimony Rossmo said an "old boys' network" in the force refused to use his skills and ignored his suggestion to warn the public about the possibility of a serial killer in the Downtown Eastside.

"The likelihood now of police finding the killer or killers is dismal," Hamilton said yesterday. "They got rid of the one individual who has the ability and the expertise to properly investigate it, and that's Kim Rossmo."

Rossmo told the court that, despite the snubs from an inner elite, "there are many members of the Vancouver Police Department who think progressively."

Rossmo is now director of research for the Police Foundation in Washington, D.C.


Sandra Gagnon laid a bunch of red roses at yesterday's memorial ceremony for missing women from Vancouver's east side.

It was four years to the day since her sister Janet Henry, 36, disappeared while working the streets.

"There is no doubt in my mind she was murdered," Gagnon said. "She had a bank account and that money has gone untouched. She had a daughter, 16, living in McBride who she loved."

Gagnon tried to persuade her sister to live with her in Maple Ridge, to get her away from drugs and prostitution in Vancouver. She failed.

"Janet was seriously addicted to heroin and cocaine and I couldn't get her to break with her lifestyle."

Born in Alert Bay, the sisters moved to Vancouver when Gagnon was 13 and her sister 11. "We talked on the phone almost daily as she was my best friend as well as my sister. In our final call we talked about going to lunch at a favourite restaurant. Her last words were about how she was missing seeing me."

Rossmo sought unit to probe women's deaths-June 26, 2001

Crab Park



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

Updated: August 21, 2016