VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
BLOODSTAINS: Canada’s Multiple Murders
By: Diane Anderson
Aristotle said that tragedy should move the reader to sorrow and pity. Murder is always tragic; it contaminates the lives of the living, leaving families and friends grieving the loss of a loved one. Murder destroys the innocence of cities, towns, and communities, and it causes outrage, anger, and disbelief. Those related to the murderer are subject to enmity and hostility from others. In one way or another, murder turns all people into victims.
Bloodstains: Canada’s Multiple Murders is as much a collection of tragedies as an account of Canada’s murders. The book includes chapters about Earle Nelson, Michael Vescio, Robert Cook, Victor Hoffman, Dale Nelson, Clifford Olson, David Shearing, Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka, as well as a chapter on Vancouver’s Missing Eastside Women.
Using captivating narrative, Bloodstains: Canada’s Multiple Murders will move the reader to sorrow and pity as it chronicles the worst murders in Canadian history.
A born and bred Calgarian, Diane Anderson studied history before the subject of murder captured her attention. This is her first book.
VANCOUVER EASTSIDE’S MISSING WOMEN
“There were times I wish she’d hurry up and overdose many times before she went missing. I loved her so much, but the pain was unbearable. I’d secretly pray, ‘Just give yourself enough to finish it,’ not only for herself but for us too. It was just too painful to see this beautiful young lady turned into a drug-ridden form of a human being.”
“It is not unusual,” says Simon Fraser University Professor John Lowman, “for women who sell sex in the street and are addicted to drugs to disappear. They check in for rehab. They leave the streets. They move to another city. They overdose. They commit suicide. They are committed to hospitals.”
But beginning in 1997, an alarming number of prostitutes, “victims of opportunity,” began disappearing from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, a ten block area radiating out from the corner of Main and Hastings, better known in Eastside vernacular as Pain and Wastings.
Eastside’s statistics are as staggering as those of a third world nation. According to a PACE [Prostitution Alternatives Counselling and Education] report issued in 2001, Eastside claims the highest infection rate of HIV and hepatitis C in the western world. It is the only place in the developed world where the percent of HIV infected women is greater than that of HIV infected men. And an estimated 80 percent of those women are engaged in the sex trade, trapped in what PACE’s Char Lafontaine calls “survival sex,” further exacerbating Eastside’s almost unfathomable infection rate.
Notorious as Canada’s “poorest postal code,” discarded needles and condoms litter the urine stenched streets and alleys that bypass Eastside’s multitude of crack houses, pawn shops, and drug markets. Squalid flop houses and hotels lodge the chronically ill, the indigent, the alcoholics, the drug addicts, and the women who support their drug habit through prostitution.
Eastside records Canada’s highest rates of mental health problems, drug addiction, and deaths from drug overdoses. In 1997, after a lethal batch of heroin took three hundred lives, the local health authority declared the community a public health emergency. If these figures are not disturbing enough, Eastside also lays claim to Canada’s highest rates of homelessness and crime.
And now, to add to its already grim statistics, if alleged murderer Robert Pickton is found guilty of the twenty-six first-degree murder charges he has been indicted for, he will surpass Albert Guay’s record of twenty-three which has stood since1949 [Guay and his accomplices blew up a Douglas DC-3 airplane in a successful bid to rid Guay of his wife], and Eastside will register Canada’s highest number of serial killer victims.
It is, as Christine Cellier, a friend of one of the missing women says, “an evil, evil place.”
* * *
Life has not always been kind to the Henry family. In 1961, Patrick Henry, an Alert Bay fisherman and father of ten -- George, Janet, Sandra, Lavina, Stan, Debbie, Dorothy, Judy, Lance, Donna -- was swept overboard and drowned. After her husband’s death, Mrs. Henry found herself unable to cope with her large family and the family began to disintegrate. Some of the children were sent to foster homes, others were sent to Canada’s infamous industrial schools.
From there the tragedies multiplied. In 1962, sixteen-year-old Sandra was raped. In 1967, sixteen-year-old Lavina was raped and murdered in Nanaimo. No longer able to live with the memories of the abuse she suffered while under foster care, in 1981, twenty-one-year-old Debbie committed suicide. In 1990, while walking home in the rain, thirty-four-year-old Stan, Sandra’s twin brother, was accidently struck and killed by a police car. And in 1997, Janet, the baby of the family, vanished into thin air while living in downtown Eastside.
Janet Henry had married Art Chartier in 1982; their daughter Debra arrived two years after that. Another two years into the marriage and Janet began doing drugs and drinking heavily. Janet’s addictions did nothing to help the marriage and in 1988 the couple divorced. Art retained custody of their then, four-year-old daughter.
After the dissolution of her marriage, Janet hooked up with another addict and slipped further into a life of alcohol and drugs. As with all of the missing Eastside women, Janet began prostituting to support her habit [what Char Lafontaine calls survival sex]. When her partner died of an overdose, Janet packed up her things and moved to Eastside. She had been living there for about six years when she was viciously beaten and raped. If she hadn’t already, after the rape, Janet simply gave up,
The last time Sandra Gagnon [nee Henry] spoke to her sister Janet was on June 25, 1997. That day the women made plans for Janet to travel to Sandra’s Maple Ridge home for a brief weekend visit. They arranged to meet for Chinese at Kings Kitchen, but Janet never appeared. Puzzled by Janet’s no-show, Sandra returned home to wait for her sister to call. But Janet failed to call that day, or the next day, or the next day after that. Because the two sisters spoke on the phone almost daily, Sandra became increasingly worried. She contacted authorities to see if Janet had been in some kind of accident, if she had taken ill, if she had died of an overdose, but none of the logical explanations accounted for Janet’s continued absence.
Vancouver police examined Janet’s room at the Holborn Hotel in Eastside and found “a suitcase packed, as if she was going somewhere, and a little brown bag with toothpaste, toothbrush and two cassettes.” Other than Janet, nothing was missing.
Sandra instinctively knew something was wrong. Janet may have been a drug addict and prostitute, but she also had a family with whom she maintained regular contact. She would never go away without telling someone. What’s more, if Janet had planned to leave, why were none of her things missing? Why had she already paid her next month’s rent? And why had she left $115.00 in her bank account?
Determined to find answers, Sandra contacted Lindsay Kines at the Vancouver Sun, praying the media attention would shed some light on the mystery surrounding her sister’s disappearance. Lindsay responded by publishing, “Taken From her Family – Janet Henry – Missing since June 28,” in the July 24, 1997 edition of the paper, but other than a fleeting moment of interest, the article failed to generate any new information. Unwilling to let the matter die there, Sandra distributed her sister’s picture at truck stops, bus stations, and ferry docks, all the time worried that Janet was cold or hungry or sick. Sandra also combed Eastside, questioning people who lived or worked in the community. Though no one she spoke to had seen Janet since the day after Sandra and Janet’s telephone conversation, two women told her they had heard that Janet had been going to “Uncle Willy’s to party.” Another told her that the word on the street was that “there were some women who hadn’t been heard from in a while.”
The word on the street was right. Between January 1 and June 28, the day Sandra reported Janet missing, seven other women had also disappeared from Eastside: Maria Laliberte, Stephanie Lane, Cara Ellis, Sharon Ward, Andrea Borhaven, Sherry Irving, and “Kellie” Richard Little.
Maria Laliberte, a beautiful, forty-eight-year-old Native with rich, closely cropped dark hair and big brown eyes, who sometimes went by the name Kim Keller, had disappeared from Eastside on January 1.
Ten days later, in the early morning hours of January 11, following her release from hospital after experiencing a drug psychosis, twenty-year-old Stephanie Lane disappeared from the front of the Patricia Hotel on Hastings.
Before being introduced to heroin and cocaine and the hooker stroll, twenty-year-old Stephanie had been a “pretty and very popular” straight-A student, indulged, perhaps overindulged, by her doting parents, Michele Pineault and George Lane. Stephanie began her plunge into the Eastside abyss while working at a club called Number 5 Orange.
As far as anyone has been able to determine, twenty-five-year-old Cara Ellis, all four-feet-eleven, one hundred and six pounds of her, also went missing that January. Though the precise date of her disappearance is uncertain, that summer, Cara’s husband’s sister, Lori-Ann Ellis, travelled from Calgary to Vancouver in an unsuccessful attempt to find her missing sister-in-law.
Prior to migrating to Vancouver in the mid 90s, Cara had worked the streets of Calgary. By the time she drifted to Eastside, she was a twelve year veteran of what John Turvey of the Downtown Eastside Youth Activities Society [DEYAS] calls “The Game.” In his 2001 book, Bad Date: The Lost Girls of Vancouver’s Low Track, Trevor Green writes that Turvey’s game is a simple one – “find a reason, an excuse, any excuse to take drugs. My mother is sick, so I can take drugs; my mother is well so I can take drugs. I’ve got a job; I’ve lost a job. That’s the game.” Cara had been playing some version of it since she was thirteen.
On February 14, while lovers showered one another with flowers and chocolates, and children giggled over Valentine’s cards sent by anonymous admirers, twenty-nine-year-old Sharon Ward vanished. A pretty little thing with feathered brown hair and sparkling brown eyes, because she was reported missing in New Westminster, Sharon’s name wasn’t added to the Vancouver Police Department’s [VPD] Missing Eastside Women list until 2005.
Guesswork places the disappearance of twenty-five-year-old Andrea Borhaven sometime in March, the same month Stephanie Lane and Sharon Ward were reported missing. Establishing a more accurate date is impossible says Eastside’s much-trusted and much-loved Constable Dave Dickson, a twenty-five year veteran of the VPD, including twenty spent in Eastside, because Andrea, a pretty young woman with lovely hazel eyes and a dainty, heart-shaped face “was all over the place.” She just “bounced off the walls,” pinballing between Eastside, Vernon, Vancouver Island, and the communities staggered throughout British Columbia’s Lower Mainland. Because she was reported missing in Vernon, Andrea’s name didn’t get added to the Missing Eastside Women list until the spring of 1999.
Both twenty-four-year-old Sherry Irving and twenty-eight-year-old “Kellie” Richard Little evaporated into thin air in April. A “fun, outgoing, beautiful girl with a smile that would melt many,” Sherry’s father remembered his daughter as “good at just about everything, school and sports,” especially track and field which she excelled at. “Generous and warm,” Sherry was reported missing to the Stl’ Atl’lmx tribal police who passed her name on to the VPD in 1999.
Unlike Sherry, Kellie Little was anything but fun, outgoing, or beautiful. She was a five foot three, one hundred and twenty pound, twenty-eight-year-old transsexual, with a cleft palate, a disposition for fighting, and, not without good reason, according to the VPD, “serious issues.”
It was two months after Sherry and Kellie’s disappearances that Janet Henry vanished, and one month after Janet vanished that twenty-two-year-old Olivia Williams, who had not been seen since December 1996, was reported missing. As disturbing as the situation already was, between the time Olivia officially became a missing person and the end of 1997, another five women vanished. Almost as though they were making up for the voids in May and July, three of those women – Jacqueline Murdock, Helen Hallmark, Marnie Frey – disappeared in August,
Unlike twenty-six-year-old Jacqueline Murdock, the mother of two small children who disappeared from the corner of Main and Hastings on August 14, all that can be said with certainty regarding the disappearance of thirty-three-year-old Helen Hallmark is that she was last seen in the Mount Pleasant area sometime in August.
Of the dozens of missing Eastside women pictures, Helen’s is one of the most disheartening. Before drugs, prostitution, and Eastside transformed her into a distorted version of her previous self, Helen had been a beautiful young woman with strawberry-blonde, Farah Fawcett hair, a captivating smile, and sparkling hazel eyes. Looking haggard and wan in her missing persons picture, Helen’s eyes, her sister Shelly wrote in a poem, “showed the sadness … of many years of pain.”
Like Helen Hallmark, it is impossible to reconcile pictures of a younger Marnie Frey with pictures of the twenty-four-year-old Marnie peering out from her missing persons picture.
Before she “got hooked on drugs through a gang in Campbell River,” Marnie had been a “cheerful, happy-go-lucky child” with soft, reddish-blonde haloing her smiling face. Somewhere along the way Marnie lost touch with that happy-go-lucky child and at seventeen began running away. Abandoning her love of animals, poetry, drawing, and sports for drugs and prostitution, Marnie arrived in Eastside in the spring of 1997. Sometime in August, only half a year later, she went missing.
By the time thirty-two-year-old Cindy Beck vanished on September 30, her five-feet-eight inch frame and weighed a mere one hundred and ten pounds. Coarsened by drugs and her life on the streets, Cindy’s missing persons picture is a mere caricature of the pretty young woman who had drifted to Eastside from Ontario.
Cindy’s disappearance was followed two months later by the disappearance of a second Cindy, Cindy Feliks. Barely recognizable in her missing pesons picture as the once beautiful mother of Theresa, Cindy went missing on November 26, two weeks before her forty-fourth birthday. Cindy’s step-mother, Marilyn Kraft, remembers her daughter as “a fighter,” self-confident, stubborn, at times even defiant. A woman who “never let anyone get the best of her,” it is tragic that Cindy allowed her addiction for drugs to.
A total of thirteen women disappeared from Eastside in 1997, but Vancouver police knew only of four. Because their absences had either not been reported as yet [in many cases this was not for a lack of trying], or were reported missing elsewhere, at the end of the year, the VPD was unaware that Marie Laliberte, Sharon Ward, Cara Ellis, Sherry Irving, Helen Hallmark, Marnie Frey, Jacqueline Murdock, Cindy Beck, Cindy Feliks, and Andrea Borhaven were missing. And even though three missing women were three more than Vancouver police would have liked, the number was hardly alarming enough to hoist a red flag.
“You would have liked my sister,” Val Hughes boasts proudly of her sister, Kerry Koski. “Kerry could dance and she had a smile that could light up a room.” Unlike so many of Eastside’s missing women, until 1996, Kerry Koski had been a hard-working, middle-class mother of three beautiful daughters aged, twelve, fourteen, and sixteen. Overcome by despair when her partner committed suicide in 1996, Kerry attempted to deaden her own pain with liquor and drugs. In the fall of 1997, she drifted to Eastside. Three months later, she went missing.
Five-foot-four and a meager ninety pounds, sick and undernourished, Kerry spent Christmas 1997 with Val and Val’s husband, Terry. During that holiday visit, Val assured Kerry that, “her family would do anything to help Kerry deal with her addiction and get her life back on track.” The sisters made tentative plans to spend a day in the near future touring Vancouver’s one thousand acre Stanley Park. Unable to confirm their arrangements by phone, Val went to Kerry’s Hastings Street hotel only to learn that Kerry hadn’t been seen since January 7.
Just as family members of so many of the other missing women had done, Val checked all the likely places Kerry could possibly be. She called hospitals to see if Kerry was injured or ill. She contacted police to see if Kerry had been arrested. But Kerry had simply, and inexplicably, vanished.
Though the precise date of twenty-nine-year-old Tania Peterson’s disappearance is unknown, police believe it was sometime in February, the same month that Inga Hall disappeared. Blonde, blue-eyed and pretty, Tania looked completely unlike forty-six-year-old Inga whose world-weary, cheerless green eyes spoke volumes about her cheerless existence.
By the time Inga was reported missing in March, it was obvious that 1998 was well on its way to becoming a bumper crop year for missing Eastside women.
Then, in the cold wet early morning hours of April 14, twenty-eight-year-old Sarah deVries and her friend, Sylvia Skakum, went to work on the corner of Princess and Hastings. Sarah, whose dazzling white smile camouflaged years of inner anguish and a soul, self-described as “burning with hatred,” took up her customary post on the northwest corner, Sylvia the southeast. A few minutes later, a car pulled up to Sylvia’s corner. While Sylvia and the driver circled the block, haggling over terms, Sarah disappeared.
Accustomed to hearing from her every two or three days, when Sarah failed to get in touch with her friend Wayne Leng for almost a week, Wayne became worried. He went to the house where Sarah had been living and discovered that no one there had seen her either. Fearing something had happened, Wayne went to fill out a missing persons report, only to be told that because he wasn’t family, he couldn’t. Wayne promptly got in touch with Sarah’s sister, Maggie deVries, who immediately filed the report.
Knowing that Sarah, a resident of Eastside for a decade, “wouldn’t go away of her own volition and not contact anyone,” Maggie and Wayne began a desperate hunt for answers. They papered Eastside with posters. They circulated through Eastside asking area residents, shop owners, and other women working the streets if anyone had any information regarding Sarah’s whereabouts, but no one could recall seeing her since April 14. They visited hospitals and gaols, and attempted to get the media involved, but “no one it seemed was interested in covering a story on a missing Eastside hooker.” As pleased as Maggie and Wayne were when, on May 24, Frank Luba at The Province, finally ran a piece on Sarah’s disappearance - “Mother Fears Addicted Daughter Already Dead” – the article didn’t bring them any closer to finding Sarah.
Operating against a backdrop of disinterest, Maggie and Wayne posted a reward and set up a 1-800 number and continued to probe for answers. Eventually their search for Sarah collided with searches being conducted by families of other missing women. Struck by the similarities of the disappearances, and united in their common grief and sense of helplessness, several of them formed an allegiance and began compiling a list of Eastside missing women.
Maintaining that list would prove no easy task. On April 30, nine days after Maggie filled out Sarah’s missing persons report, thirty-two-year-old Cindy Beck, officially became a missing person.
In Missing Sarah: A Vancouver Woman Remembers her Vanished Sister, Maggie deVries writes that it was shortly after Cindy was reported missing that the VPD told the Vancouver Sun it was concerned by the growing number of missing Eastside Women. Because he was already familiar with the disappearance of Janet Henry, and had been recently contacted by Wayne and Maggie, on July 3, Lindsay Kines wrote a Sun feature captioned “Police Target Big Increase in Missing Women Cases.” Frank Luba followed suit by writing a second piece about the disappearances for the July 29 edition of the Province – “Messages on pager say prostitute dead” -- so titled because of an anonymous call to Maggie and Wayne’s 1-800 number.
It had taken weeks, in some cases months, of dogged perseverance, but finally the press was beginning to show an interest in the growing number of missing Eastside women. While friends and families of the missing women welcomed the attention, the publicity did nothing to prevent more women from going missing.
Between the time the Sun and Province ran their articles and early autumn, when the VPD began a serious examination of the situation, nineteen-year-old Shiela Egan disappeared.
Before she went missing, photographer Lincoln Clarke managed to capture Sheila’s ethereal beauty – her long blonde hair, soft blue eyes, and delicate, almost angelic face – in his “Heroines” series, a “photographic documentary of the marginalized women of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.”
The story of Sheila’s slide into drug addiction and prostitution mirrors the stories of so many of the other missing women. In her mid-teens Sheila became involved with the wrong crowd and began experimenting with drugs and defiance. She began running away to downtown Vancouver’s Granville Street where the street kids hung out. Because Granville intersects with Hastings just before the waterfront, Sheila’s trip from Granville to Hastings was but a short five minute walk. Sheila disappeared from Hastings on July 14, two weeks before her twentieth birthday.
Responding to mounting pressure from within and without the department, in September 1998, the same month Marnie Frey and Helen Hallmark were reported missing, the VPD began an official search for Eastside’s missing women. They assembled the Missing Women’s Review Team, a “working group” of investigators from the missing persons, sexual offense, and homicide units, to look into a list of forty missing women dating back to 1971 and prepare what they termed a “real list.”
Noting what geographic profiler Kim Rossmo [see Clifford Olson Chapter] called “an unusual concentration of women missing from Eastside,” the Review Team compiled an initial list of sixteen names -- seven from 1998, five from 1997, one from 1996, three from 1995 – that met their profile criteria.
The Review Team’s list was not destined to remain static for long. In October, the same month they added Jacqueline Murdock’s name to their list, Julie Young went missing.
As he had done with Sheila Egan, before she disappeared, Lincoln Clarke managed to capture thirty-one-year-old Julie on film. Posed symbolically beneath a store window advertising ham, roast beef, pepperoni, turkey, and meat loaf, Julie is dressed more like she’s on her way to a Hawaiian luau than waiting to sell some John a blow-job. At five feet four inches and a mere one hundred pounds, she appears dangerously thin. Her face is gaunt, her cheeks hallow, and her striking blue eyes look haunted.
The month after Julie disappeared, Deborah and Ivan Jardine’s worst nightmare came true. On November 20, their twenty-seven-year-old daughter, Angela, vanished. Ostracized her entire life because of her boisterous, aggressive and erratic behavior, caused in part by her mental faculty of a ten-year-old, Angela had found a modicum of acceptance in Eastside she had been unable to find elsewhere. Unfortunately it was also there that the overly-trusting Angela found people only too eager to introduce her to drugs and prostitution. Described by her mother as “a young child in a woman’s body,” Angela was last been seen at “Out of Harm’s Way,” a day long symposium on drugs and street violence, wearing a bright pink party dress that was as loud and vibrant as she was.
Twenty-nine-year-old Michelle Gurney had lived in Eastside since she was seventeen. Though her missing persons picture shows a woman hardened by a dozen years on the streets, according to a friend who lived at the Portland Hotel on Hastings Street at the same Michelle lived there, Michelle’s tough exterior “hid a strong and loyal friend.” It also hid her risk and vulnerability. Michelle disappeared on December 11, five days after Angela Jardine was reported missing.
Like Andrea Borhaven, Cara Ellis, and far too many others, nobody can say for certain when thirty-three-year-old Ruby Hardy disappeared. Between 1993 and 1998, she regularly called her mother, Violet, and her step-father, Jack Garreau. Then, in 1998, the calls abruptly stopped.
“I do hope she’s still alive,” Jack said in 2005 interview, “but I have my doubts.” Violet clings to hope tighter. “There’s no evidence she’s one of the people [who were killed].”
Nineteen-ninety-eight ended exactly as it had started. On December 27, at one o’clock in the morning, while her mother and her boyfriend waited at her mother’s apartment to present her with Christmas gifts and a belated Christmas dinner, Marcella Creison disappeared from the front of the Drake Hotel.
Marcella was sixteen when she moved to British Columbia in 1994. In time, both she and her sister Melanie ended up on Eastside’s seedy streets. Though Melanie managed to straighten her life out, Marcella was less lucky. Dark haired and pretty, and “not very wise street-wise,” Marcella was only twenty when she disappeared.
With Marcella’s disappearance, the number of women who vanished from Eastside during 1998 rose to ten. Though police were only aware of the disappearances of four of those women – Tania Peterson, Julie Young, Ruby Hardy, Marcella Creison - by the end of the year, they had reports on the disappearances of Helen Hallmark, Marnie Frey, Jacqueline Murdock, and Cindy Beck, pushing the number of women who had gone missing in 1997 to seven. Unless one was completely obtuse, it was obvious Eastside had a serious problem.
As 1998 gave way to 1999, the Review Team held its breath and waited for its list of missing Eastside women to grow. It didn’t hold its breath for long. Marcella Creison was reported missing on January 11, and, on February 22, a little more than a month after she disappeared, twenty-three-year-old Jacquilene McDonell, was reported missing as well.
According to Elaine Allen, executive director of the Women’s Information Safe House (WISH), Jacquilene seemed “so out of place on the street. Articulate, fresh and bright,” she was “well-read and adventurous,” and “fabulous.” Still, for all of her many fine qualities, Jacquilene’s drug addiction cost her custody of her four-year-old daughter and hastened her downward spiral. Jacquilene went missing on January 16, a mere three months after she moved into Eastside.
Jacquilene’s disappearance came two weeks before Brenda Wolfe, who vanished on February 1, and a month and a half before Georgina Papin.
Georgina was one of the dozens of Eastside women who never stood a chance. Her father, George, was an alcoholic, her mother, Alice, a drug addict. From the time they were little, Georgina and her eight siblings were parceled out so many times, that by the time she was eighteen, Georgina had lived in thirty-two different foster homes and institutions.
Georgina began experimenting with drugs and prostitution as early as the age of eleven and by the time she was thirty, she had four children: Kristine, born in 1984, Stuart born in 1987, Leslie, born in 1988, and Dillon Sky Rain, born in 1993. After the birth of Dillon Sky Rain, Georgina made a valiant effort to get her life back on track. In 1997, she was off drugs, had a new daughter, Autumn Wind, and was living with her boyfriend D’arcy Pelletier. The reprieve was short lived. Following the birth of her twins, Winter Star and Little Storm, in 1998, Georgina and D’arcy’s relationship started to crumble. When their fighting became incessant, D’arcy left.
On April 30, 1999, after celebrating her sister Bonnie’s birthday, Georgina announced she was going to Vancouver for a few days and never came back. Georgina was last seen on March 2, a little more than a week before her thirty-fifth birthday.
It was about the time of Georgina’s disappearance that the investigation into the missing women took a promising turn. While Lindsay Kines’s March 3 Sun article titled “Missing on the Mean Streets,” renewed interest in the case, friends and families of the missing women, frustrated by what they perceived as a lack of genuine concern on the part of the authorities, became more pro-active. Michele Pineault started a petition while other concerned individuals wrote letters to government officials. Encouraged by Detective Constable Lori Shenher of the VPD’s Missing Persons section, Maggie deVries lobbied the police and the government to: 1) publicly acknowledge that the disappearances of the missing women may be related and may involve abduction and murder; 2) offer a reward that matches the other two rewards currently before the public; 3) set up a task force to deal with whatever information comes in and to bring more points of view to the cases; 4) offer police protection to anyone who may be afraid to come forward with information.
At the beginning of April, Vancouver Mayor, Philip Owen, who also served as Chairman of the police board, and who had already approved the two $100,000 rewards mentioned in Maggie’s letter, one for information leading to the arrest of the persons responsible for a series of Lower Mainland home invasions, and the persons responsible for a rash of armed robberies in West Vancouver garages, further antagonized the Missing Women lobbyists by turning down their request for a reward and by announcing he was unprepared to finance a “location service for hookers.” April 9
Owen’s message was as clear as it was cruel and impolitic. Armed robberies and home invasions were of greater concern to the city’s senior political and law enforcement official than the mysterious disappearance and probable deaths of what had now grown to twenty Eastside women.
Urged by Vancouver East MP Libby Davis to rethink his position because “continued inaction on the part of the police makes it appear as though there is a lack of care and attention by those in authority about the importance of women’s lives in downtown Eastside,” less than two weeks later, in a bid for re-election, Owen began backpedaling clumsily. Not, apparently, because of any personal conviction, but rather because “the press are wanting that [reward] and the public are wanting it and certainly the families are wanting a little more attention and a little more seriousness,” Owen announced that it “was worth having a very close look at it.” Before another two weeks had passed, he had done a complete about face and was arguing that $100,000 was not reward enough, that the figure should be raised to two million dollars, $100,000 for each of the missing women.
Though Vancouver police seemed as taken aback by Owen’s grandstanding as the discerning public, its response to the lobbyists’ demands did little to ameliorate the mounting animosity between the VPD and friends and families of the missing women. Reluctant to acknowledge that any crimes had been committed, let alone admit that the disappearances were in anyway related, Review Team investigator Sergeant Geramy Field, announced they had, “found nothing that links them [the women] except they were involved in drugs or the sex trade and frequented Eastside.” And though her “gut feeling [was] that some of [the women] have met with foul play,” Detective Constable Shenher said the VPD’s official position was that “it was strange.”
Though willing to concede that Vancouver, flanked as it is “by the sea and mountains [was] ideal for hiding bodies,” the VPD insisted that “until a body is found, the disappearances had to be treated as missing persons cases.”
The VPD’s persistent no-evidence-of-a-crime position infuriated those closest to the missing women. “For the police to say no crime has been committed is ludicrous,” said Maggie deVries. Deb Mearns, a safety program co-ordinator for prostitutes, was as equally disdainful. “You’re talking about women on welfare who didn’t pick up their last welfare cheque, who left their belongings in a dingy hotel room. It’s not as though they could just jump on a plane and fly to Toronto.”
Despite strong, albeit circumstantial, evidence to the contrary, police maintained that just because the women were missing was not sufficient reason to assume they had been murdered. “There is no evidence,” insisted the VPD’s media liason, Constable Anne Drennan, “that the women were killed.”
Outspoken community activist, Jamie Lee Hamilton, and Joanna Russell, manager of a drop-in centre for prostitutes, scoffed at such comments. “All of these missing women have been murdered,” said Jamie Lee. “They are dead,” said Joanne. “Somebody has murdered them. I have no doubt.” Stephanie Lane’s mother Michele Pineault, concurred with those sentiments. “Twenty women can’t just disappear off the face of the earth.”
But it was Barb Daniel, a director of Grandma’s House, a safe house for prostitutes, and Wayne Leng who asked the two, million dollar questions. “These women have completely disappeared from the face of the earth,” said Barb. “If they haven’t been murdered, where are they?” And Wayne, perhaps with an eerie prescience, wondered whether the murderer was, “someone who has property here to dispose of them?”
For Jamie Lee and Joanne and Barb and Michele and Wayne, as well as other advocates of the missing women, the problem was not whether or not the women had been murdered, the problem was where and by whom?
A large and vocal contingent believed the answer to that lay at the feet of a serial killer. Though “there was no conclusive evidence suggesting that one single predator was targeting the women,” said Kim Rossmo, “police have to consider that as a definite possibility. Similarities in victimology and the short time period and the specific neighbourhood involved – all suggest the single serial murderer hypothesis is the most likely explanation for the majority of these disappearances.”
Doctor Deborah Laufersweller-Dwyer, a one-time police officer teaching a course on serial criminals at the University of Arkansas, was less circumspect. “If I had 21 prostitutes missing, I would definitely say it was a serial killer. The police either have blinders on or they don’t want to alarm the citizens.”
Even Elliott Leyton, renown author of Hunting Humans: The Rise of the Modern Multiple Murderer, who has expressed sympathy for the inherent difficulties faced by police in tracking serial killers, seemed as equally bewildered by the VPD’s no-serial killer position. “When someone is picking up women from such a relatively confined area, from such a small social niche – street women – I mean, God in heaven, by serial killer investigation standards it’s relatively easy.”
Apparently it wasn’t so easy for everyone. “We keep reviewing this because we hear the concern from the community,” said Chief Constable Bruce Chambers, “but we’ve found nothing that would indicate there’s a serial killer involved with these people.” “To me,” said Professor Steve Hart of Simon Fraser University, “having one serial killer would be too easy, because it means you could blame one person for all the bad stuff, and that’s unlikely.” And WISH’s Elaine Allen said, “There’s so many women missing, it’s almost ridiculous to think it’s one person doing it.”
While many members of the press anchored themselves to the serial killer theory, it wasn’t a universal attachment. On April 14, Allen Garr of the Vancouver Courier vigorously opposed what he called the “noisy demand” for reward money because, “[the reward] will simply play into the so-far-unproved notion that there is one lunatic on a killing spree. Where,” demanded Garr, “is the proof? There’s no evidence that a crime has been committed.”
Doctor Laufersweller-Dwyer criticized that rationale as earnestly as she criticized the notion that the women of Eastside were not being preyed upon by a serial killer. “In many, many instances,” Doctor Laufersweller-Dwyer pointed out, “serial killers aren’t discovered until someone finds a cache of bodies.”
On a more philosophical note, Reverend Ruth Wright of the First United Church in Eastside, the church that houses WISH, told reporters, “I really hope it is a serial killer because the alternative would mean there are thirty-one separate killers out there and that much evil would be too much.”
A second explanation for the womens’ disappearances was the possibility that more than one serial killer was stalking Eastside. Proponents of this theory believed that at least some of the disappearances could be attributed to the Green River Killer [Gary Leon Ridgway], the Spokane Serial Killer [Robert Yates], and the string of unsolved prostitute homicides that had been plaguing Edmonton since the late 1980s.
Closely tied to the multiple serial killers hypothesis was the multiple murderers theory. “I don’t buy into the single killer theory,” said John Turvey. “I just think that a lot of men that have that propensity to be predators have just figured out that these women are ideal victims with very little ramifications if they go missing.”
Turvey had grounds, albeit shaky, to hold that view. In his March 3, Vancouver Sun article, “Twenty Women Missing, Action Demanded,” Lindsay Kines wrote that “at least 25 different men [had been] charged with killing prostitutes in B.C. over the past 17 years.”
There were, however, two serious flaws with both the multiple serial killers and multiple murderers theories. First, twenty-five men murdering prostitutes over a seventeen year period throughout all of British Columbia was a statistical far cry from what, by mid-1999, had risen to twenty-one missing, and conceivably murdered, women from one small, ten block area, during the relatively brief span of four years. And second, as Kim Rossmo pointed out, “If there were more than one killer, chances are at least one body would have been found, and that wasn’t happening here.”
Still others had other ideas. There was talk of the women being used in snuff films, that Chinese pimps were secreting them away to the orient, that they were being murdered and hauled away by a long-distance trucker. At least one person believed that, “it’s two guys working together, like the Hillside Stranglers,” while another individual believed that at least some of the disappearances were the result of cult activity.
Of the many possible scenarios, one of the most widely supported, bolstered in part by reporter Peter Smith’s August, 1999 Calgary Sun articles, and later by Trevor Greene’s 2001 book, Bad Date: The Lost Girls of Vancouver’s Low Track, was that the disappearances were tied to “a sex-slave slaughter involving the ships in the harbour.” This theory held that the women had been enticed on board international freighters with promises of liquor and drugs. Once on board the women were imprisoned, sexually used, and then tossed overboard once the ships were well out into the Pacific. It was a popular theory, partly because it was based on documented cases, partly because most of the drugs coming into Canada come in through Vancouver’s docks, and partly because it went far to explain the absence of bodies.
Meanwhile, as advocates of the missing women, the public, the media, and the police continued to hotly debate solutions to the womens’ disappearances, three significant developments were taking place. First, on May 12, three-hundred and fifty friends and families of the missing women, bearing placards reading “Find These Women Now,” held a memorial service for the missing women, received significant attention. Second, with the increased media attention, the public’s awareness of the disappearances continued to grow. Third, the popular television show, America’s Most Wanted, was becoming involved in the case.
Back in 1997, three months after Janet Henry disappeared, Sandra Gagnon had written to the show’s producers, hoping to have Janet’s disappearance featured on one of the program’s missing persons segments. At the time, the producers wrote back, telling Sandra that because America’s Most Wanted received so many similar requests, they couldn’t help her.
When Wayne Leng learned of Sandra’s unsuccessful bid at getting Janet’s disappearance international exposure, he wondered if the producers might be more interested if they knew that several other women had also disappeared, and that there was a strong probability that a serial killer was involved. Wayne contacted producer Tom Morris Jr., who told Wayne they could not help him just then, but to keep him abreast of developments in Eastside. Over the next four months, Wayne did precisely that. Eventually his persistence paid off. America’s Most Wanted agreed to feature the Case of the Missing Eastside Women on an upcoming telecast. The program would air July 31.
In the meantime, Wayne was interviewed by Peter Warren of CKNW radio for his program, “Where have all these women gone?” During the show, Wayne publicly announced that America’s Most Wanted was coming to Vancouver.
With suspicious alacrity, the VPD and British Columbia’s government also erupted into a frenzy of activity. Police added two homicide detectives to the missing persons department and, though still denying the possibility of a serial killer stalking Eastside, contacted authorities investigating serial murders in Washington [Seattle authorities were investigating the Green River murders] and New York [Poughkeepsie authorities were investigating the eight prostitute murders committed by serial killer Kendall Francois] seeking information on how they were handling their serial killer cases.
The VPD and the Attorney General’s office approved a $100,000 reward and unveiled a corresponding reward poster displaying the faces of an unbelievable thirty-one missing women. [In this and all subsequent lists, Robert Pickton has been charged with murdering those women whose names appear in bold print. Those marked with an asterisk either do not fit the profile or have been accounted for. Some dates are given as best guesses.]
NAME[S] BIRTHDATE LAST SEEN REPORTED MISSING
1. Elaine Allenbach [Lisa Morrison, Nancy Boyd], 26 April 1965, 15 March 1986, 11 April 1986
?????2. Cindy Louise Beck, 17 April 1965, 30 September 1997, 30 April 1998
3. Andrea Fay Borhaven, 10 January 1972, March 1997, 18 May 1999
4. *Linda Jean Coombes, 1959, November 1993, 4 April 1999
5. Marcella Helen Francis Creison, 2 June 1978, 27 December 1998, 11 January 1999
6. Sarah Jean deVries, 12 May 1969, 14 April 1998, 21 April 1998
7. Sheila Catherine Egan, 4 August 1978, 14 July 1998, 5 August 1998
8. Marnie Lee Frey, 30 August 1973, August 1997, 4 September 1998
9. Catherine Gonzalez, 27 September 1968, March 1995, 7 February 1996
10. Michelle Gurney, 11 February 1969, 11 December 1998, 22 December 1998
11. Inga Monique Hall, 25 January 1952, 26 February 1998, 3 March 1998
12. Helen Mae Hallmark [Brea], 24 June 1966, August 1997, 23 September 1998
13. Janet Gail Henry, 10 April 1961, 26 June 1997, 28 June 1997
14. Tanya Marlo Holyk, 8 December 1975, 29 October 1996, 3 November 1997
15. *Rose Anne Jansen, 1948, 23 October 1991, 24 October 1991
16. Angela Rebecca Jardine, 23 June 1971, 20 November 1998, 6 December 1998
17. Catherine Maureen Knight, 5 May 1969, April 1995, 11 November 1995
18. Kerry Lynn Koski, 14 August 1959, 7 January 1998, 29 January 1998
19. Stephanie Marie Lane, 28 March 1976, 11 January 1997, 11 March 1997
20. Jacquilene Michele McDonell, 6 January 1976, 16 January 1999, 22 February 1999
21. Diane Melnick, 26 August 1975, 27 December 1995, 29 December 1995
22. Jacqueline Maria Murdock, 28 January 1971, 14 August 1997, 30 October 1998
23. *Patricia Gay Perkins, 1956, 1984, 1996
24. Sherry Lynn Rail, 8 September 1956, 30 January 1984, 3 January 1987
25. *Karen Anne Smith, 1957, June 1992, 27 April 1999
26. *Ingrid Soet, 13 July 1959, 28 August 1989, December 1990
27. Dorothy Anne Spence, 6 August 1962, 30 August 1995, 30 October 1995
28. Kathleen Dale Wattley, 20 October 1959, 6 June 1992, 29 June 1992
29. Olivia Gale Williams, 19 January 1975, 6 December 1996, 4 July 1997
30. *Teressa Anne Williams, 14 February 1973, 1 July 1988, 17 March 1999
31. Julie Louise Young, 17 July 1967, October 1998, 6 July 1999
Though the television show failed to produce any promising leads, it focused the public’s attention on events unfolding in Eastside like nothing ever before. Newspapers all across Canada picked up the cause. Radio and television talk shows interviewed friends and families of the missing women. Elm Street Magazine printed Daniel Wood’s “Vancouver’s Missing Prostitutes,” and Da Vinci’s Inquest, Canada’s popular crime drama, premiered the fall season with a two-part fictionalized version of the case -- “A Cinderella Story.”
Against the wishes of the VPD, the America’s Most Wanted program also threw its weight behind the serial killer theory when host John Walsh proclaimed, “When there are 30 women missing and no bodies have been found and they’re all of the same type of background, that always smacks of a serial killer. Anybody can put two and two together.”
After two years of downplaying its likelihood, the VPD began to grudgingly allow the possibility of a serial killer. “We’re not afraid to acknowledge there could be a serial killer or multiple killers,” Constable Anne Drennan confessed early in August.
Despite all the pandemonium, by the end of 1999, following an exhaustive investigation, the Missing Women’s Review Team had only managed to eliminate four names from their list. Rose Anne Jansen and Patricia Perkins were discovered alive and well and living elsewhere in Canada. Karen Smith had died of heart failure in an Edmonton hospital on February 13, 1999, and Linda Coombes had died of a heroin overdose on February 15, 1994.
Police also began to wonder if the Eastside nightmare was over. Andrea Borhaven and Julie Young had been reported missing in May and July, but they had disappeared in 1997 and 1998, and Georgina Papin and Brenda Wolfe had not been reported missing as yet. As a result, as far as police knew, there had been no new disappearances since Jacquilene McDonell vanished in February. “For a while there,” said Sergeant Field, “for the majority of 1999, we felt that we didn’t have any more [missing persons] and that either somebody was in custody or the perpetrator had died or moved on, perhaps because of the media pressure.”
But whether it was the publicity or something else entirely, the eight month hiatus in disappearances [police thought it was ten] ended on December 14 when police learned that Wendy Crawford had gone missing.
The forty-four-year-old mother of two had struggled much of her life with diabetes and Crohn’s disease. And though she lived in Chilliwack, Wendy was last seen on November 27 near Columbia Street.
Wendy’s disappearance was followed one month later by the disappearance of twenty-eight-year-old Jennifer Furminger. “Genteel, feminine, and mellow,” Jennifer had been working the streets of Eastside since she arrived there in 1990 at the age of eighteen. Last seen on the cold winter night of December 27 at the corner of Cordova and Jackson Streets, when Jennifer hadn’t been seen for awhile, her friend, Noel Paris, thought she may have moved in with a client or gone to Toronto, something she frequently spoke of doing.
Four days after Jennifer disappeared, on an even colder New Year’s, and exactly one month before her twenty-fifth birthday, Tiffany Drew disappeared. The tiny, four-foot-eleven, ninety-five pound mother of three, grew up on Vancouver Island, but moved to Vancouver to support her heroine addiction. When Tiffaney’s sister, Kelly, went to Vancouver to look for her, the once beautiful young woman with the wavy blonde hair and lovely blue eyes had altered so much, Kelly didn’t recognize her from her photo ID.
Not only was little progress made on the case during 2000, there was also another puzzling hiatus. After Jennifer Furminger and Tiffaney Drew went missing in December 1999, there were no disappearances until Dawn Crey vanished on November 1, a full ten months later.
Like so many of the missing women, Dawn Crey got off to a bad start in life. Her father Earnest died of a heart attack while playing with his three-year-old daughter in the back yard of their home, a trauma Dawn never recovered from. After Earnest’s death, Dawn’s mother, Minnie, resorted to drinking and the seven Crey children were parcelled out to foster homes. Abused at the first home she was sent to, at the age of nine Dawn finally went to live with Jake and Maria Weibe. Unfortunately the six unhappy years in between had already scarred her. Her emotional scars were made worse after she had acid thrown into her face, leaving her was permanently disfigured. After a life of disappointments and struggles, Dawn went missing at the age of forty-three.
She and forty-three-year-old Deborah Jones, who disappeared four days before Christmas, were both reported missing in December.
Aside from the addition of Dawn Crey and Deborah Jones’s names to the missing Eastside womens list, by the beginning of 2001, the investigation into the disappearances had ground to a halt. In the middle of February, the Missing Women’s Review Team disbanded and the RCMP Cold Squad took over. In April, a month before the now two-year-old, $100,000 reward was scheduled to expire, two members of the VPD and two members of the RCMP set up the Joint Missing Women’s Task Force “to review all Vancouver files related to the homicides and disappearances of street trade workers.”
The Task Force was just getting underway when a wrongful dismissal suit launched by Kim Rossmo against the VPD and Deputy Chief John Unger came before the courts in June. During the proceedings, Rossmo claimed that as early as 1998 he had advised senior police to issue a press release, warning the public of a possible serial killer and urged them to establish a task force to “investigate whether a serial killer was preying on the women of Downtown Eastside.” According to Rossmo, the suggestions were not only met with hostility, but Inspector Fred Biddlecombe, the officer in charge of serious crime at the time, deliberately went out of his way to publicly deny the possible existence of a serial killer.
When Rossmo’s allegations became public, a number of families of the missing women were angered and hurt. “I think [warnings of a possible serial killer] might have made a difference,” said Deborah Jardine, whose daughter Angela had now been missing for two and a half years. “The women would have taken extra precautions, including my daughter.”
But most people seemed to think that was highly unlikely. “If they’re heavily addicted and need money,” said Eastside’s Constable Dave Dickson, “they’re probably going to jump in the car with a guy no matter what anyone tells them.” Before she disappeared, Mona Wilson told her boyfriend that, “the addiction to the heroin overcomes the fear of being murdered.” And Cynthia Feliks’s former common-law partner, John Anderson said that, “Eventually they will do anything for that bag … I mean anything. Even going to a pig farm and getting murdered and eaten by pigs. If that ain’t a tale of a dead end, I don’t know what is.”
Before the uproar created by the Rossmo civil suit had a chance to subside, the disappearances of Cindy Feliks, Georgina Papin, and Elsie Sebastian, missing since 1992, were reported to police and another five women vanished: Patricia Johnson, Yvonne Boen, Heather Chinnock, Angela Joesbury, and Sereena Abotsway.
Patricia Johnson had lived in Eastside for five years before she disappeared on March 3. The years had taken their toll. Her drawn face and the dark circles around her eyes, made her look forty, not twenty-four. Remembered by her family as a beautiful young woman who could “light up a room by just walking into it,” Patricia was reported missing when she failed to pick up her welfare cheque.
Blonde-haired and blue-eyed, strikingly tall and beautiful, thirty-three-year-old Yvonne Boen, disappeared less than two weeks after Patricia. The mother of three boys, Joel, Troy, and Damien, it was Yvonne’s son Troy who suspected something was wrong when his mom failed to call and confirm a visit she had asked Troy to make to her home in Vancouver. Her family reported her missing only five days later.
Twenty-nine-year-old Heather Bottomley and her “off-the-wall” sense of humour disappeared one month after Yvonne. Unlike the vast majority of the missing women, Heather was raised in a stable, loving home in New Westminster. Freckle-faced and mischievous, as a young girl Heather had loved sports and practical jokes and, in a sad twist of irony, enjoyed mimicking her favourite Blues brother Jim Belushi.
It is uncertain whether thirty-year-old Heather Chinnock disappeared before or after Heather Bottomley. What is known is that for ten years before she disappeared, the green-eyed and brown-haired, thirty-year-old mother of one had been a regular visitor to Robert Pickton’s farm in Port Coquitlam, enticed there because of the booze and drugs that could be had in exchange for sex.
Pretty and blonde, twenty-two-year-old Angela Joesbury’s life spun out of control when she lost custody of her baby girl. She went missing on June 6, reportedly after going to meet Robert Pickton.
Sereena Abotsway’s aunt said that for all of Sereena’s short life “she was misplaced.” A victim of fetal alcohol syndrom, when she was four, the “troubled child” went to live with Anna and Bert Draayers, but was removed from their home at the age of seventeen when she became violent. Placed in a group home with street wise kids, she soon joined their burgeoning ranks. Despite her problems and lifestyle, for the next thirteen years Sereena called Anna and Bert daily. When she failed to make it home for her thirtieth birthday on August 20, Anna and Bert immediately reported her missing.
With six new disappearances in the first eight months of 2001, it was clear that whatever had prompted the ten month suspension of disappearances, had crashed to a convulsive stop.
Then things took a dramatic turn.
To date, no one other than those involved knows precisely what transpired within police circles during the second half of 2001, but whatever it was, it was eventful enough to kick the investigation into high gear. Over the course of the previous few months, the number of officers working on the Missing Women’s case had been whittled from nine to six to four. Then, on September 20, police unexpectedly added six more officers to the Task Force. When asked why, Deputy Chief John Unger would only say that, “Without revealing the investigative leads that we have, I can’t really go into that. But I can say that we’ve made significant progress.”
Unfortunately, regardless of what significant progress Deputy Chief Unger may have been talking about, in October and November another two women disappeared.
Diane Marin got pregnant with her first child, Melissa, at age fifteen. At seventeen she got married and had her son Donnie. At eighteen she had her second daughter, Carole Ann, and got divorced. Finding herself alone with three young children, Diane discovered that stripping paid a whole lot more than working as a nurses aide. She also discovered that drugs gave her the courage to go stripping.
In 1992 Diane almost died of an overdose. In an effort to make a fresh start, that same year Diane and her new husband Darren Rock and Diane’s three children moved from Ontario to British Columbia where the Rock’s sons, Darren and Justin were born. For the seven years Diane and Darren were there, Diane worked in Abbotsford with developmentally handicapped adults. She also managed to stay straight. But beginning in 1999, she reverted to doing drugs which led to her second divorce. When her addiction began placing her children in jeopardy, her two youngest boys went to live with their father. Diane’s father-in-law, Terry Rock, believed it was then “she just gave up.” In April, 2001, Diane took a three month leave of absence from work and never went back.
A “cute little thing” with pretty blue eyes, and blonde hair, thirty-four-year-old Diane was last seen on October 19 by the owner of the Marr Hotel where she was staying.
On November 23, Mona Wilson’s boyfriend Steve Rix saw her in front of the Astoria Hotel on Hastings. It was the last time anyone saw twenty-six-year-old. When she failed to appear at Christmas, a holiday she always spent with her family, Mona’s sister Ada, knew something was wrong. A victim of childhood abuse, in the three and a half years Mona worked in Eastside, she had tried several times to kick her habit and get off the streets. Remembered as “a sweetheart” who loved unicorns and pink lipstick, Mona was the last Eastside woman to go missing.
On December 4, four days after Mona was reported missing, the Task Force produced a new Missing Women’s poster which included an additional eighteen faces, pushing the total to forty-five.
28. Sereena Abotsway, 20 August 1971, 1 August 2001, 22 August 2001
29. Angela Arsenault, 20 May 1977, 19 August 1994, 29 August 1994
30. Heather Chinnock, 10 November 1970, April 2001, 19 June 2001
31. *Nancy Clark [Greek], 29 July 1966, 22 August 1991, 23 August 1991
32. Wendy Crawford, 21 April 1956, 27 November 1999, 14 December 1999
33. Dawn Teresa Crey, 26 October 1958, 1 November 2000, 11 December 2000
34. Cindy Feliks, 12 December 1954, 26 November 1997, 8 January 2001
35. Jennifer Lynn Furminger, 22 October 1971, 27 December 1999, 30 March 2000
36. Sherry Irving, 19 March 1973, April 1997, 21 March 1998
37. Angela [Andrea] Joesbury, 6 November 1978, 6 June 2001, 8 June 2001
38. Patricia Rose Johnson, 2 December 1976, 3 March 2001, 31 May 2001
39. Deborah Lynn Jones, 31 December 1957, 21 December 2000, 25 December 2000
40. Laura Mah, 23 March 1943, 1 August 1985, 3 August 1999
41. Leigh Miner, 24 March 1958, 12 December 1993, 24 February 1994
42. Georgina Faith Papin, 11 March 1964, 2 March 1999, 14 March 2001
43. Elsie Sebastian [Jones}, 11 January 1952, 16 October 1992, 16 May 2001
44. Brenda Anne Wolfe, 20 October 1968, 1 February, 1999, 25 April, 2000
45. *Francis Anne Young, 7 January 1960, 6 April 1996, 9 April 1996
Two weeks into the new year, the Task Force added yet another five names to its list of missing Eastside women, bringing the total to fifty.
46. Rebecca Louisa Guno, 25 May 1960, 22 June 1983, 25 June 1983
47. Heather Kathleen Bottomley, 17 August 1976, 17 April 2001, 17 April 2001
48. Mona Lee Wilson, 13 January 1975, 23 November 2001, 30 November 2001
49. Diane Rosemary Rock [Marin], 2 September 1967, 19 October 2001, 13 December 2001
50. Elaine Phyllis Dumba, 12 March 1955, 1989, 9 April 1998
Then, in a move that with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight speaks volumes, two days after the addition of the five new names, the Missing Womens Task Force expanded to thirty officers. Three weeks later, the Task Force would turn the world on its head.
On February 5, police in possession of a fire arms warrant, searched a mixed farm on Dominion Avenue in Port Coquitlam, a municipality of Vancouver on B.C.’s Lower Mainland. The farm, such as it was, was co-owned by Robert, David, and Linda Pickton. As a result of that warrant, police arrested fifty-two-year-old Robert Pickton, charged him with possession of a loaded, restricted .22 calibre revolver, unsafe storage of a firearm, and possession of a weapon without license or registration, and released him on bail.
Operating within the constraints of the judicial process, police could say nothing about what else they found during their search that day -- speculation says an inhaler and ID’s from the missing women -- but whatever it was, it was sufficiently damning enough to secure a second search warrant. We are “very confident in our reasons for obtaining the search warrant,” said Corporal Catherine Galliford, one of two officers assigned to act as official Task Force spokespersons, “and as you know, we need to have some really good information in order for a judge to grant us a search warrant.“
Brandishing their second warrant, on February 6, police again descended upon the Dominion Avenue farm – fourteen acres of boggy land interspersed with abandoned vehicles, including an old bus, a house, fifteen outbuildings including a barn and mobile home -- and initiated what would quickly become the most intensive and scientifically complex criminal investigation in Canadian history.
News of the search met mixed reviews. On one hand there was relief in knowing that after a five year investigation, police may have finally caught a break in the Case of the Missing Women. On the other hand there was outrage.
Joyce Lachance and Lynn Frey, Marnie Frey’s aunt and mother, complained that during their search for Marnie, they had reported talk of the Pickton farm to police as early as 1998. According to James Hormoth, the Frey’s lawyer, “Lynn kept getting leads that were leading her back to farm and repeatedly turned those leads over to police.”
During a CBC interview, Lynn said that when she spoke to Eastside women after her daughter Marnie’s disappearance, several women told her “there’s this farm you can go to, and the guy is really dirty, and a lot of the women are going there, and they have a chipper there. I’m not talking no more ….”
Suzanne Jay, who runs a shelter and Vancouver rape counselling centre, supported the Frey’s accusations. “We had information about the location of that farm. People called us to say that they had called the police and told them something bad was going on there.” Heather Chinnock’s boyfriend Gary Biggs claimed he reported the farm to police as well. Trevor Green, author of Bad Date, acknowledged that while researching his book he heard women mention “Farmer Willy.” But the most damning report focused upon a tape recorded message reportedly given to police by Wayne Leng in 1998.
Shortly after Wayne and Maggie deVries had set up their 1-800 number, Bill Hiscox, a former Pickton brother employee, had called the number and repeated information related to him by a woman who was a mutual friend of both him and Robert Pickton. “Billy,” she told Hiscox, “you wouldn’t believe the IDs and shit out in that trailer. There’s women’s clothes out there, there’s purses. You know, what’s that guy doing? It is like really weird.”
Unable to fully respond to questions asking why police had not acted upon that information sooner, Detective Scott Dreimel, the other Task Force spokesperson, cautiously danced around them. “Information was received in the past about this case and that information has been acted upon,” said Detective Dreimel before suggestively adding that “A police investigation even involves challenging past assumptions.” In a particularly unsettling comment, Detective Dreimel also said, “We’re not about to go back and defend ourselves for something that happened years ago.”
Corporal Galliford’s concession that, “over the last few months, this became a property of interest to us … as a result of our file reviews,” was equally unsettling. Needless to say, the critical question rising from Corporal Galliford’s statement was, if the property had been of interest over the last few months, why had women continued to go missing?
On February 16, amidst the fallout, police, whose first investigative priorities had “included the mobile home and certain outbuildings,” expanded their search to the main residence on the Pickton farm. On February 22, Robert Pickton was once again taken into custody, this time charged with the first degree murders of Sereena Abotsway and Mona Wilson.
Several of Robert Pickton’s friends and neighbours reacted to the news with disbelief. “He seemed like a totally nice guy,” said Chris Diopita. “These guys [the police] are on the totally wrong track,” said Rick Contois. “He was always a nice person , generous, and hardworking,” said Tom Hyacinthe. “He is a good guy and I like his brother too.”
A month later, on March 28, the Joint Missing Women’s Task Force added yet another five names to their ever-expanding list.
51. Tiffaney Louise Drew, 13 January 1975, 31 December 1999, 8 February 2002
52. Ruby Anne Hardy [Ruby Galloway], 23 March 1965, 1998, 27 March 2002
53. Yvonne Marie Boen [England], 30 November 1967, 16 March 2001, 21 March 2001
54. Maria Laura Laliberte [Kim Keller], 7 November 1949, 1 January 1997, 8 March 2002
55. *Anne Elizabeth Wolsey, 20 December 1972, November 1999, 1 January 1997
Five days after police appended their list, Robert Pickton was charged with the first degree murders of Jacquilene McDonell, Diane Rock, and Heather Bottomley. Exactly one week after that, he was charged with the murder of Angela Joesbury. The one bright spot during the parade of horrors was that Anne Wolsey’s father contacted authorities to say that his daughter was alive and well, thereby reducing the Task Force’s list of missing women to fifty-four.
On April 17, based on information received from the hundreds of tips that were now pouring in, police executed another search warrant on an eleven acre property the Picktons owned on Burns Road. In 1996, Dave and Robert had incorporated the “Piggy Palace Good Times Society,” and converted a barn on the Burns Road property into the Piggy Palace, ostensibly to be used by non-profit organizations, “sports organizations or other worthy groups” for social gatherings. In reality the Piggy Palace was a place for all and sundry to party. Whether or not the police search of the Burns’ Road property had any bearing on the allegations, on May 22, Robert Pickton was charged with the murder of Brenda Wolfe.
Unable to reveal what they found during their searches, or what evidence led to the laying of charges, at the end of May, police announce that the Dominion Avenue site was like the “scene of a massacre,” and told the families of the missing women they “shouldn’t expect them to find any bodies;” they should only “expect them to find fragments.”
On July 26, amidst an already appalling situation, police added another nine names to the missing women list, bringing the total to sixty-three.
55. Yvonne Marlene Abigosis, 23 November 1957, 1 January 1984, 22 May 2002
56. Wendy Louise Allen, 10 December 1945, 30 March 1979, 5 April 2002
57. *Dawn Lynn Cooper [Wood], 4 May 1964, 1996, 26 June 2002
58. Sheryl Donahue, 4 July 1963, 30 May 1985, 31 August 1985
59. *Tanya Colleen Emery, 6 October 1964, 1 December 1998, 13 March 2002
60. Linda Louise Grant, 18 March 1953, October 1984, 2 February 1996
61. Kellie [Richard] Little, 12 March 1969, 23 April 1997, 30 April 1997
62. Teresa Louise Triff, 17 August 1969, 15 April 1993, 21 March 2002
63. Lillian Jean O’Dare, 8 January 1944, 12 September 1978, 12 September 1978
Police continued their search of both the Burns Road and Dominion Avenue properties, and on September 19, Robert Pickton was charged with the murders of Helen Hallmark, Georgina Papin, Jennifer Furminger, and Patricia Johnson, on October 2, the murders of Tanya Holyk, Sherry Irving, Inga Hall, and Heather Chinnock. On October 25, three weeks after laying their most recent charges, police concluded their search of the Burns Road property.
By the end of the year, police were able to eliminate another two names from their list of missing women. Tanya Emery had been found alive and well and living in central Canada; Dawn Cooper had died of a terminal illness in March 1997. With the removal of Tanya and Dawn’s names, at the close of 2002, the Task Force’s list of missing women stood at sixty-one, fifteen of whom Robert Pickton had now been charged with murdering.
Robert Pickton’s preliminary hearing, held to determine whether or not there was sufficient evidence to send him to trial, began on January 13, 2003. The previous month, after Robert Pickton’s lawyer Peter Ritchie, strenuously argued for severe restrictions on the dissemination of the “explosive nature” of some of the evidence, provincial court Judge David Stone imposed a stringent publication ban prohibiting discussion of “any submissions, representations or rulings respecting evidence or the nature of the evidence taken at the preliminary hearing of Robert William Pickton.”
Because of that ban, little is known about the evidence presented during the preliminary hearing. Crown Prosecutor Mike Petrie did confirm that it was “salacious” and “graphic,” and Peter Ritchie stated that it was of such a nature that “we don’t have to worry in this case about a discharge.” Ernie Crey, the brother of Dawn Crey, and one of the voices of articulate calm throughout the entire ordeal, told reporters that what he heard in court “shocked me. It staggered me. It troubled me a good deal.”
The hearing lasted a total of sixty days spread across a six month period. On July 20, the day before the hearing was set to conclude, police secured a fourth search warrant and began investigating a site adjacent to the Lougheed Highway in the Mission area. As it had done with the others, the court sealed the search warrant, restraining police from stating why they were investigating the three hundred and fifty by fifty metre buildingless site belonging to the first nations Kwantlen band, and where a human skull had been found eight years earlier.
On July 23, Judge Stone ruled there was sufficient evidence to commit Robert Pickton to trial. Four days later, the Pickton house was demolished; twelve days after that, police abandoned the Mission site.
In mid-November, after twenty-one months of painstakingly sifting through 378,000 cubic yards of soil, after 103 anthropologists, 26 osteologists, and 12 forensic specialists had collected 200,000 DNA samples, and after more than a hundred investigators had amassed 35,000 pages of evidence, police announced they were leaving the Dominion Avenue site and the property would revert to its owners.
Throughout the lengthy search, gruesome tales of entrails and rendering vats, of wood chippers and frozen body parts had circulated. Then, on March 10, in response to a news media leak, police issued a disturbing statement that leant credence to some of the rumours. “We do know that conditions at the farm were unsanitary, including areas where animals were slaughtered,” said Corporal Galliford. “Because of that, it is possible that some of the meat produced at the farm may have been exposed to disease and other contaminants, as well as to human DNA.”
On October 6, 2004, while the friends and families of the missing women were trying to come to grips with the latest round of horrors, police released a new poster which included the names of yet another eight missing women, raising the total to a staggering sixty-nine.
62. Sharon Nora Jane Abraham, 15 September 1965, 2000, 2004
63. Sherry Linda Baker, 28 November 1968, 1993, 2004
???64. Cara Louise Ellis [Nikki Trimble], 13 April 1971, 1996, October 2002
65. *Tammy Heather Fairbairn, 17 June 1971, 1998, December 2004
66. Gloria Christine Fedyshyn, 15 August 1962, January 1990, July 2002
67. Mary Florence Lands, 15 September 1963, 1991, 2004
68. Tania Peterson, 28 December 1969, 1998, 2003
69. Sharon Evelyn Ward, 7 June 1967, 14 February 1997, March 1997
Three weeks later, on October 29, the Sun reprinted excerpts from a Health Canada study, commissioned by the RCMP to “evaluate potential health risks to the estimated forty persons who may have consumed meat from the Pickton farm.” In his summation, Doctor Tony Giulivi is quoted as saying, “It is believed that there is the possibility that human remains were fed to pigs, but the risk of disease to those who may have had contact with the meat was negligible. The psychological effects,” said Giulivi, “may be worse than the physical.”
On Wednesday, May 25, a week before the pre-trial proceedings commenced, Robert Pickton was charged with an additional twelve first degree murders: Andrea Borhaven, Wendy Crawford, Sarah deVries, Tiffany Drew, Cara Ellis, Cindy Feliks, Marnie Frey, Angela Jardine, Debra Jones, Kerry Koski, Diane Melnick, and one Jane Doe. According to police, seven of the new charges stemmed from evidence presented at the preliminary hearing, the remaining five resulted from evidence collected during their searches of the Pickton property. Unlike the fifteen earlier charges, Robert Pickton would stand trial on the twelve new charges through direct or preferred indictment [without a preliminary hearing].
On Thursday, May 26, the day after the new indictments were laid, police announced they had located Tammy Fairbairn and that as a result of their ongoing DNA testing, they had been able to identify remains found in Vancouver in 1988 as those of Teressa Williams.
Two days into the pre-trial proceedings, Justice Geoffrey Barrow, originally scheduled to hear the trial, stood down, claiming scheduling conflicts. On June 1, Justice James Williams took over.
As he had done at the start of the preliminary hearing, Robert Pickton’s lawyer, Peter Ritchie requested a sweeping publication ban of testimony presented during the pre-trial hearing. Justice Williams granted Ritchie’s request for a publication ban, but would not agree to any extraordinary measures. Still, just as with the preliminary hearing, little is known about what transpired during the pre-trial. One tantalizing detail is that the defense intends to make “allegations that arise from the police investigation concerning potential involvement of others in the murders.”
The voir dire [trial within a trial] portion of Robert Pickton’s trial began on January 30, 2006, four years after his arrest. It began with the defendant formally entering not-guilty pleas to 26 of the 27 murder charges. Justice Williams entered a not-guilty plea on Robert Pickton’s behalf for the Jane Doe murder charge. Not until after the admissability of evidence presented during the voir dire has been argued and ruled on [it is expected to take six months] will jurors be selected and the trial commence in earnest.
Originally thought to begin in fall 2006, Peter Ritchie now believes that with the vast quantity of evidence the defense is facing, a fall start is unlikely. Another serious dilemma that has yet to be confronted is jury selection. With the trial expected to last two years, finding twelve individuals able to devote twenty-four months to the proceedings is expected to be a monumental challenge.
At present there are nearly one hundred officers assigned to the Missing Women Task Force. The list of missing women, including those whom Pickton has been charged with murdering, stands at 67, but could likely be higher, as the Jane Doe murder charge suggests. There is also the possibility that Robert Pickton could face more charges. At the end of January 2004, police informed the families of Yvonne Boen and Dawn Crey that Yvonne and Dawn’s DNA had been found at the Pickton farm, but not of sufficient quantity to charge Robert Pickton with their murders.
Clearly, the investigation into Eastside’s missing women is far from over. Neither are the criticisms of the VPD’s handling of the case.
Author Elliott Leyton once said, “Often the only difference between the serial killer who murders two people and the serial killer who murders 20 people is the quality of the police investigation.” From its earliest days, people have charged that the investigation into the missing Eastside women was seriously flawed. There are troubling claims that senior police officials were unwilling to devote sufficient resources to the investigation and that the women’s life styles allowed police the “luxury of procrastination.”
Police defend themselves by insisting that when the trial is over, when a verdict has been announced and they can talk freely, the public will see that they did a good investigation. “At the end of the day,” Vancouver Police Chief Jamie Graham is quoted as saying in November 2002, “I think we’ll be able to stand up and be proud of what we did, what the VPD did. I’d love to be able to speak about this case. I’d love to be able to open the books and let you read everything we’ve done, but I can’t, and I won’t anyway.”
Geramy Field, on the case from the beginning says “We did a pretty good investigation,” but, here’s the kicker “with what we had.” In their September 22, 2001 article, “How the police investigation was flawed,” Sun journalists Lindsay Kines, Kim Bolan, and Lori Culbert listed three primary flaws with the investigation: it was assigned to inexperienced and horrendously overworked officers who lacked sufficient resources to perform their tasks properly; an open distrust and dislike amongst senior officers resulted in counter-productive in-fighting; there were serious problems with data entry.
Kim Rossmo, the one time VPD Detective-Inspector who now works in Washington and went on to become one of the world’s foremost authorities on geographic profiling after the VPD failed to renew his contract, critically asked, “If we believe, with any degree of probability, that we have a predator responsible for 20 or 30 deaths in a short period of time, do you think our response was adequate?”
As critical as Rossmo and others have been, it is the friends and families of the missing women who are the most outraged. “[Police] refused to put two and two together when all these women started going missing,” says Rick Frey. “I’m not letting go until I get accountability and justice,” his wife Lynn insists. “If six dogs from the neighborhood had disappeared, there would have been more done” says Kathleen Hallmark-McClelland, Helen Hallmark’s mother. “The police were callous, distant and unprofessional,” says Erin McGrath, Leigh Miner’s sister, adding that in the eight years after her family reported Leigh’s disappearance, police never once called the family once.
Since Deborah Jardine filed a formal a letter of complaint, a neglect of duty allegation, against the VPD in 1999, three law suits have also been filed: the first by Marnie Frey’s parents Rick and Lynn, the second by Marcie Creison’s father Doug, the third by Angela Joesbury’s mother Karin, the latter claiming negligence against the VPD and RCMP that “allowed the killing to continue.”
Surrey-Newton MLA Tony Bhullar lodged an official complaint with the Police Complaints Commission over the early investigation into the missing women, seeking a public inquiry into how the case was handled, while Kim Rossmo and retrired VPD Inspector Doug McKay-Dunne have called for an investigation as well.
But it isn’t just those directly involved with the missing women investigation who have voiced dissatisfaction with the handling of the case. After Robert Pickton was charged with the murder of Sherry Irving, Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs said that the ”[disproportionate number of aboriginal women among the victims] reflects a dismissive and discriminatory attitude on the part of police agencies who didn’t look as hard for these marginalized women as they would have if 63 women had disappeared from the Brirtish Properties over time.” Even Ernie Crey’s voice of calm remarked, “I would hope the police would feel regret.”
For years, members of British Columbia’s police forces have been lobbying for integrated police units or a major case management system to deal with serious crime. At present, policing British Columbia’s Lower Mainland is undertaken by six different municipal forces – Vancouver, New Westminster, West Vancouver, Delta, Port Moody, Abbotsford – as well as the hundreds of RCMP detachments.
At times this division of labour has hampered sound communication. No where was this problem better exemplified than with Clifford Olson and the Case of the Missing Lower Mainland Children, where poor inter-departmental communication allowed Olson to escape early detection. It is not insignificant that ten months after a Joint Task Force assumed control of the Case of Vancouver’s Missing Eastside Women, an arrest was made.
One wonders if Detective Scott Dreimel appreciated the true significance of his words when on February 22, 2002 he told reporters, “This investigation is a very good example of what an integrated approach to solving crime can accomplish.”
Note: On March 4, 2006, Captain Trevor Green, author of Bad Date, was critically injured when he was brutally struck on the head with an ax while he and his fellow soldiers were ambushed during what the Canadian military believed were peaceful discussions with leaders of an Afghan village. Captain Green’s condition, which initially looked grim, continues to improve.
Note: On March 7, 2006, Justice James Williams threw out the Jane Doe murder charge against Robert Pickton, saying it did not meet the requirements laid out in the Criminal Code of Canada, thereby reducing the number of first-degree murder charges facing Robert Pickton to twenty-six.
Note: On February 14, 2006, eight-hundred people showed up for Eastside’s Annual Memorial March.
Updated: August 21, 2016