Army of investigators making progress in search for missing women: police

Canadian Press

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

VANCOUVER (CP) - A "small army" of investigators, scientists and specialists are involved in investigating the disappearances of 54 women missing from Vancouver's downtown eastside, say police. Two sprawling farm properties owned in part by accused serial killer Robert William Pickton are the site of Canada's largest-ever crime scene investigation.

"A small army of police investigators, scientists, and specialists are applying the latest in technology and forensic investigative tools to try and unravel mysteries surrounding the disappearance of 54 women missing predominantly from the eastside of Vancouver over the past 13 years," said the statement issued Tuesday by the joint RCMP-Vancouver city police task force investigating the disappearances.

Police investigators have been joined by 51 anthropologists specializing in archaeology and human osteology from universities across Canada, including the University of Toronto, the University of Manitoba, the University of Saskatchewan, the University of Alberta, and Simon Fraser University.

Police said members of the team were selected "for their ability to recognize bones in diverse states of decay that have been exposed to factors ranging from fire to water."

Pickton, 52, has been charged with the first-degree murders of seven of the women missing from the downtown eastside since police first began searching the properties in the Vancouver suburb of Coquitlam in February.

RCMP have officially added four more women to the list that have gone missing since the early 1980s.

Forty-three of the 54 women have disappeared from the drug-infested downtown eastside since 1995.

The charges against Pickton follow hundreds of hours of old-fashioned police work as well as the painstaking work of scientists and forensic experts, according to the task force.

Pickton's farm has been divided into 216 search grids, each 20 metres by 20 metres.

Soil from the grids is sifted and deposited onto one of the four conveyor belts under the close watch of task force members.

"As the team members examine the sifted soil on the conveyor belt they search for bone and other material with potential forensic value," police said.

Osteologists - experts in identifying bone fragments - take the material they recover to a special processing area.

"Each item that is seized is thoroughly examined and documented," said police. "The potential evidence is redirected to various specialists for additional analysis and documentation."

Each bone is examined by one of two forensic anthropologists working with the task force to determine its significance.

 Copyright  2002 The Canadian Press

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