'Insensitive' coroner's staff rub more salt into victims' wounds

Family told murdered woman's remains would be returned by post

JUNE 25, 2009

Anxiously awaiting a court decision today on the fate of convicted serial killer Robert Pickton, Britney Frey is hoping she will finally be able to lay to rest the remains of her mother, Marnie Frey.

Britney, who is only 16 but has been designated Marnie's next-of-kin for legal purposes, says she is angry that "the coroner's office told me they would put my mother's remains in the mail there's no way I'd let them do that."

Britney will be in court today to hear if Pickton's conviction for the second-degree murder of her mother and five other women will be upheld, or whether more legalities will delay the release of her mother's remains.

Britney and her late mother's stepmother, Lynn Frey, will be up at dawn today to catch a ferry from Nanaimo and then a bus to get to court in Vancouver. Both called the coroner's remarks "insensitive."

"I thought it was disgusting, and I told them not to do that, because I will come and get my mother," said Britney.

Lynn Frey, who attended many days of the lengthy legal proceedings against Pickton, said yesterday: "I got a call from Victims' Services and they said, 'Don't bother coming to court, it will only be a minute,' and they refused to give us any funding to attend court.

"I said, 'I want justice and don't tell me there's no point in me coming down.'

"This decision is important," she said, "because we want to bring Marnie home. We want Marnie's remains back.

"We have got a death certificate now, but when I talked to the coroner, I was told when it comes time to release the remains, 'We'll put it in the mailbox for you.' This is the kind of insensitivity we've had to deal with all along."

Marnie Frey gave birth to Britney in 1992, when she was 18. Marnie, who grew up in Campbell River, was introduced to hard drugs in her teens. She moved to Vancouver, but called home regularly, up to eight times a day.

On her 25th birthday, she called home, but was never heard from again and, in 1997, she was reported missing.

In November 2002, the Freys were told an RCMP forensics team had found Marnie's remains on the Pickton farm. At Pickton's lengthy trial, evidence showed only Marnie's jaw and three teeth had been recovered.

On Dec. 9, 2007, a jury found Pickton guilty of the second-degree murder of Marnie Frey and five other women: Andrea Joesbury, Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson, Brenda Wolfe and Georgina Papin.

The Freys will likely still have to wait for the end of legal proceedings against Pickton. Both prosecution and defence are expected to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, leaving all the victims' families waiting to bury their loved ones.

B.C. Coroner's Service spokesman Jeff Dolan confirmed "we've had ongoing discussions with them [the Freys and other victims' families] and they've been told [victims'] remains will be released at the end of legal proceedings."

Dolan said the coroner makes decisions on each case in consultation with prosecutors.

Dolan could not confirm who spoke with the Freys.

He said human remains, "whether complete or a smaller portion, are released in a way to guarantee the dignity of the deceased." He said he had not heard of any coroner ever mailing human remains.

"In the history of the coroner's service, I can't say it's never happened, but we treat all remains with the same dignity."




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

Updated: August 21, 2016