Latest news out of B.C. 'shocking' to Sarah's friend

Guelph Mercury
Friday, March 12, 2004

MERCURY STAFF with Canadian Press files

GUELPH -  For Wayne Leng, dealing with the death of his friend Sarah de Vries will never be easy

But the latest news out of British Columbia, that pork from the farm of accused serial killer Robert Pickton contained human DNA, is too much to bear.

"It is shocking, "Leng said yesterday from California, where he lives.

"I can't even bring myself to think about it."

De Vries, whose mother Pat lives in Guelph, disappeared from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside in 1998, and her DNA was located at the Pickton farm in August 2002.

Pickton, 54, has been charged with 15 counts of first-degree murder, and faces another seven charges.

Sarah de Vries, who was addicted to heroin and cocaine and involved in prostitution, went missing off the streets she frequented in April 1998.

Leng, who met de Vries in Vancouver in 1994, began looking for her after she disappeared, distributing missing person flyers. He said yesterday he still routinely speaks to other victims' families and friends.

"What I try to do is keep things in perspective," he said, adding Web sites and e-mail lists that connect the victims' friends and families offer support. "We talk to each other or e-mail each other, and that's a great support."

Leng said hearing the news about the meat this week was hard, "but I've heard it before," referring to rumours that have circulated amongst people close to the case.

Sarah's sister Maggie, who lives in Vancouver, published a book last year called Missing Sarah. Maggie launched her book last September in Guelph, where Sarah's two children live with Pat and their great-aunt Jean Little, a well-known children's author.

Maggie's book chronicles her recollections of Sarah, who was adopted by Pat and Jan de Vries in 1970, as well as excerpts from Sarah's journals.

"I became proud of her because I saw what a loyal, strong, bright, creative person she was," Maggie told the Mercury prior to the book launch last year.

Pat, reached at her home yesterday, said she had no comment on the new turn in the case, adding however "it's no surprise."

In Vancouver yesterday counsellors like Carol Martin, a worker at the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre, were bracing for a grim day and the impossible job of consoling women enticed to Pickton's pig farm for meals that may have included meat contaminated with their friends' DNA.

Short-staffed, she could barely keep up with the lineup at her door.

The accused murderer would often pick up prostitutes from the area and convince them to stay at the farm. Guests have said he was generous, cooking for them, handing out drugs, hosting wild, never-ending parties.

Ruth Wright, executive director of the First United Church, which counsels people in the Downtown Eastside, said rumours have been active for some time. "Women have been quite convinced that other people have been fed from the bodies of their friends," she said.

The British Columbia Centre for Disease Control was contacted last Friday to do a health risk assessment of "some product."

An official from the centre said the biggest risk is not to physical health, but with people "coming to grips with that psychologically."

Leng said the constant news in the case makes the grieving process even worse. "I know we're going to see more stories like this," he said.

2004 Guelph Mercury. All rights reserved.



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Updated: August 21, 2016