Officer’s award draws criticism

Missing women's relatives say medal is inappropriate

Amy O'Brian
Vancouver Sun

Friday, May 02, 2003

Some relatives of the dozens of women who have disappeared from the Downtown Eastside are outraged that the Vancouver police department awarded one of its officers an award for her work on the case.

Lori Shenher

Detective Constable Lori Shenher was given a chief constable's commendation Thursday for gathering evidence that showed that dozens of missing prostitutes in the Downtown Eastside had likely been murdered, and weren't simply missing.

Until the VPD and RCMP joined forces on the case, Shenher was the lead investigator.

But some relatives of the murdered and missing women say it is inappropriate to recognize an officer for her work before a conviction has been made and while there is still so much work to be done.

"Gimme a break," said Rick Frey, whose daughter Marnie vanished from the Downtown Eastside in August 1997.

"Done a great job of what? Covering up."

The Vancouver police department has been repeatedly criticized for not doing enough to investigate the disappearance of numerous women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Questions have also been raised about the length of time it took for police to act on a 1998 tip about Port Coquitlam farmer Robert "Willy" Pickton, who is now charged with 15 counts of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths.

The Vancouver Sun revealed in 2001 that the missing women's case was assigned to inexperienced or overworked officers without the time or resources to do a proper job.

Eventually, the investigation stalled, and a joint RCMP-VPD review team took over the file in the spring of 2001.

The first charges were laid against Pickton on Feb. 22, 2002.

Ernie Crey, whose sister Dawn disappeared from the Downtown Eastside in December 2000, said the VPD is premature in handing out any awards.

"The department, in doing so, appears as though it may be patting itself on the back," Crey told a CTV reporter.

"They're being self-congratulatory at a time when everybody in British Columbia knows and understands that there is a cloud still hanging over the VPD."

Rick Frey's wife, Lynne, said she does not disagree that Shenher was instrumental in getting charges laid against Pickton, but has mixed emotions about the award.

"I find it inappropriate. Especially at this time," Lynne Frey said. "I think it would be more appropriate after the trial is finished."

But VPD media liaison Constable Anne Drennan said it was high time Shenher was recognized for her dedication to the case.

"She did everything humanly possible at that time for one person to do with respect to trying to track down any kind of information that would lead us to find these women or lead us to find out what had happened to these women," Drennan said.

"She worked under very difficult circumstances and she struggled alone for quite a long time. We felt that the award was more than appropriate for the service that she provided."

Lynne Frey said that if awards are being given, members of the RCMP missing women's task force are just as deserving of recognition.

The Freys are also upset about reports that Shenher has or had a book deal for her first-hand account of working on the case.

Rick Frey believes the award is some sort of fancy damage control for media reports that Shenher is writing a book about the case. But Drennan said the awards were approved months ago and it is pure coincidence that reports about the book deal were made just weeks before the awards.

Drennan also said that Shenher told her last week she had been contemplating writing a book about the case, but had abandoned the idea and has no current plans to publish police details of the case.

"The whole thing smells a little," Frey said. "I think [the VPD is] trying to do a little [public relations] work here. How did they pick her [Shenher] out anyway?"

Erin McGrath, whose sister Leigh Miner is among the women still missing, commended Shenher for her work on the case and said she is deserving of an award.

"I think she has integrity," McGrath said. "I have no strong feelings about [the award]. I think that she [Shenher] is a good person and good people who do good work deserve awards."

© Copyright  2003 Vancouver Sun

Courtesy of

The Desperate Quest-April 12, 1999



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Updated: August 21, 2016