Skeleton ID'ed

Almost 30 years after she mysteriously died and was stuffed into a crawl space, police are one step closer to solving Lillian O'Dare's disappearance

Lori Culbert
Vancouver Sun

Friday, August 17, 2007

Lillian Jean O'Dare is the oldest case on Vancouver's list of 65 missing women.

Police still don't know who caused her to disappear nearly three decades ago, but advanced DNA technology recently confirmed it was her skeletal remains found almost 20 years ago in a house on Salsbury Drive in East Vancouver.

The Missing Women Task Force is looking for new clues in the old cold case, and are hoping a woman known only by the name "Diana" - captured in a faded photograph with O'Dare - may come forward to speak with investigators.

"We are seeking the public's assistance in locating Diana, who may have been a roommate, an associate of Lillian's, around the time of her disappearance in 1978. We believe she could have information that could further the police investigation," RCMP Const. Annie Linteau said in an interview today.

O'Dare was 34 when she disappeared on Sept. 12 1978.

While doing some spring cleaning on April 22, 1989, a tenant in a house in the 900-block of Salsbury Drive came across a skull in a crawl space. Police would later find the rest of the skeletal remains.

Linteau said police knew the victim was a woman and expected foul play, but an "intense" investigation could not determine who she was.

Fast forward in time, and now officials not only have the science of DNA to help them but even greater advances that can get results from more degraded biological evidence.

This new technology, "miniSTR," allows for more refined DNA information to be extracted from very small samples and helped the B.C. Coroners Service finally put a name to the skeleton.

Little is known about O'Dare, except that she stood 5-6, had short, reddish-blond hair and was reported missing the same day she disappeared.

In 2002, nearly 25 years after she vanished, the Missing Women Task Force decided to add O'Dare's name to their list of women who had disappeared from the Downtown Eastside.

Vancouver police Sgt. Sheila Sullivan said the task force researched hundreds of B.C. missing person files and decided to put those with similar backgrounds - ties to the Downtown Eastside and involvement in the sex trade and/or drug use - on the official poster.

"When Lillian O'Dare's missing person's file was reviewed by the task force... there was enough info at the time to make investigators believe that she fit the profile," Sullivan said.

In 2002, the task force said it was unable to locate any relatives of O'Dare's.

Today, Sullivan said they'd found her family and informed them of the development in her case.

Linteau said O'Dare was not living in the Salsbury house at the time of her disappearance.

The Vancouver Sun reported in 1989 that the house on Salsbury had been occupied by a number of tenants, including members of a motorcycle gang.

The official police list of missing women at one time had 69 names on it, but four of those people were found alive so it now sits at 65.

Accused serial killer Robert (Willie) Pickton is accused of killing 26 of those women.

He is on trial now for six of those murders, and is expected to face a second trial on 20 counts in the future. Sullivan said police continue to investigate what happened to the other 39 women.

"There are dozens of cases and many leads to follow up on each one of those," she said.

Linteau said advances in science could bring answers to the other families.

"The case of Lillian O'Dare was the oldest case on the missing poster and it certainly should give hope to the families, and to ourselves, that even after 29 years we can really still pursue actively an investigation."

 Vancouver Sun 2007



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

Updated: August 21, 2016