Man dies during quest to find sister

Brother didn't miss a day of Robert Pickton's trial

Lori Culbert
Vancouver Sun

Thursday, June 22, 2006

NEW WESTMINSTER - In the long row of seats reserved for relatives of the missing women, only one chair was filled every day since the pre-trial hearings for Robert (Willy) Pickton began in B.C. Supreme Court in January.

Pickton is accused of killing 26 women, and another 41 women are still missing from the Downtown Eastside. But Lance Henry, brother of Janet Henry, one of the missing women, was the only relative to show up daily at the precedent-setting trial.

But from now on, his second-row seat -- where the friendly, soft-spoken man sat directly behind Pickton -- will be empty.

Henry died last week in his East Vancouver apartment. An emotional memorial service was held Tuesday at a native friendship centre on East Hastings, attended by more than 150 people.

Henry's sister, Sandra Gagnon, said an autopsy indicated her fit-looking, 46-year-old brother died June 14 of an enlarged heart, and that further tests are being conducted to determine why.

Although Janet Henry is not among the women Pickton is accused of killing, Lance Henry said he felt the need to go to court to support her and the other women who disappeared.

Pickton's pre-trial hearing --which will determine the evidence that will be heard when the actual trial begins later this year or early next year -- is protected by a publication ban.

The legal arguments have often been dry and technical, but that didn't deter Henry from taking the SkyTrain to court in New Westminster each day. He carried his baseball cap and little else because of the two security screening stations that court visitors have to go through.

Henry had a sly smile and a quick wit, but he was also private, and declined media requests to speak at length about why he came to court each day.

In a brief interview shortly after the pre-trial hearings began Jan. 30, he told a reporter: "Over the years I had been following it in the media but I wanted to come for myself. I was curious and really didn't know what to expect."

Gagnon, who has attended some of Pickton's court dates over the years, said her brother had nightmares about the evidence he heard.

"He was really stressed about going to [see] Pickton, and I said, 'Lance you can't go every day,' " Gagnon recalled. "He just said to me, 'Sands, I have to.' "

Henry leaves a 15-year-old son, Cody, who lives with his mother, but saw his father all the time. The grieving teen paid a special tribute to his father at Tuesday's memorial.

Henry's large native family, from Alert Bay, was torn apart and placed in residential schools or foster homes, and has gone through unimaginable grief. Five siblings have died, and Janet Henry has been missing since June 25, 1997.

"My whole family has been going through so much," Gagnon said.

Speaker after speaker at his memorial service spoke of a smiling man who loved to joke, dance, eat, and visit with family and friends.

One woman said Henry's favourite movie was Finding Nemo, about a father fish looking for his lost son. The speaker said Henry was always looking for his lost sister, and liked Nemo because it had a happy ending.

Lance Henry will be laid to rest in Alert Bay on Saturday.

 The Vancouver Sun 2006

The Vancouver Sun 2006




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Updated: August 21, 2016