Arrest brings relief, painful reminder for families of missing women

Saturday, February 23, 2002

Stephanie Lane Sarah deVries

VANCOUVER (CP) -- You could hear Michelle Pineault's heart breaking Friday after police told her that her daughter was still one of dozens of women missing from Vancouver's downtown eastside.

A member of the joint RCMP-Vancouver police task force investigating the disappearances of 50 women from the area called her Friday afternoon to tell her an arrest had been made.

Robert William Pickton was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree murder but the news brought little relief for Pineault.

"I was informed definitely that it was not my daughter,'' said Michelle Pineault, whose daughter Stephanie Marie Lane disappeared in 1995.

"All I can say is that hopefully there will be a family or two that can sleep the night now,'' said Pineault, her voice dropping to a whisper.

Out of respect for the families, RCMP Const. Catherine Galliford said the names of the two women Pickton has been charged with killing will not be released until Monday.

"This is a time for family grieving and for the families and friends to reconcile what is happening,'' Galliford said at an evening news conference outside Pickton's ramshackle farm in suburban Port Coquitlam.

Task force members began searching the property Feb. 6 to try to determine what might have happened to some of the women missing.

Rebecca Guno disappeared in June 1983.

In the years since at least 49 other women, most of them drug addicts, many prostitutes, seemingly vanished from the impoverished neighbourhood.

The disappearances increased in frequency in 1997 and 1998. Nine women disappeared each of those years, including Sarah deVries, who was reported missing in April 1998.

Sarah's friend, Wayne Leng, was in shock Friday night after hearing of Pickton's arrest.

"It has been a long time,'' Leng said.

Just a year ago families and friends took to the streets to try to force some action from police they believed ignored the women because they were poor and drug addicted.

RCMP joined Vancouver police on a joint task force last spring.

"To go from almost a zero investigation to a massive investigation and to produce results this quick is just amazing,'' said Leng, who maintains a Web site dedicated to the women.

Leng said not knowing what happened has been difficult.

"I believe that she's gone but it's still hard for me to believe that she's gone, just knowing the person, I couldn't see anybody want to do her harm,'' he said.

Sarah's mother, Pat deVries, didn't think Pickton's arrest would provide any answers about her daughter.

"It's not difficult any more for me because I'm concentrating on the living,'' deVries said in a telephone interview from Guelph, Ont. "I'm raising Sarah's children and I've got plenty to do.

"There's nothing I can do for the dead. I'm looking after the living."

Pineault, 43, is also raising her five-year-old grandson.

"She went missing when he was eight months old,'' Pineault said.

"He's at the age now where he's starting to ask questions. 'Why did my mommy run away from me? Can we go see my mommy's gravestone?'''

"Well, your mommy doesn't have a gravestone, honey, she's lost. It's tough.''

 Copyright  2002 Canadian Press

Vancouver Vigil for missing women-Feb 23, 2002



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