Tanya Holyk

Heather Chinnock

Inga Hall

Sherry Irving

Mother now knows fate of her missing daughter

Tanya Holyk went missing six years ago, and is now the 15th name on a growing list

Lori Culbert
Vancouver Sun

Thursday, October 03, 2002

Dorothy Purcell has spent countless days outside a Port Coquitlam pig farm since the owner of the property, Robert (Willy) Pickton, was charged last February with murdering two women missing from the Downtown Eastside.

Purcell was drawn to the property, looking for answers about the whereabouts of her daughter, Tanya Marlo Holyk, who was last seen in October 1996.

This week she got the news she had been dreading: Pickton has been charged in the death of her daughter, one of four new charges laid against the pig farmer.

And as Pickton appeared in court Wednesday -- now charged with killing 15 women from the Downtown Eastside -- Purcell returned to the farm again.

"You go because people you love are there," said Purcell's friend Val Hughes, whose sister Kerry Koski is also on the list of missing women.

Hughes, who spoke on behalf of her friend Wednesday because Purcell was too upset to give interviews, said going to the farm is like visiting a cemetery.

"That's what the place is to us. . . . How many people [need to be found there] before it's a legal graveyard?"

Holyk was last seen in October 1996, just before her only child, a boy, turned one. The 21-year-old woman lived with her mother in Vancouver, and had been trying to kick her drug habit.

"Tanya had been trying to move away from the drug scene, had been in rehabilitation," Hughes said. "She was just going out for an evening with friends that night that she disappeared."

Purcell knew there was something wrong when her daughter didn't come home, but Hughes said her friend received little cooperation from Vancouver police when she tried to make a missing person report.

"Dorothy had a terrible time trying to get the Vancouver city police to recognize that her daughter was missing," said Hughes, who noted that many women have gone missing since Holyk's disappearance.

"So, every person after that on the list, including my sister --who's responsible for that?"

One of the women who vanished after Holyk's disappearance was Sherry Leigh Irving, who Pickton is now also charged with killing.

Irving was last seen in April 1997, and was reported missing the following March to the Stl'Atl'Imx tribal police in Mount Currie, near Pemberton.

Irving, who would have been 24 years old in 1997, was reported missing by her younger brother Chris Irving, who lives in Mount Currie.

Sherry and Chris moved often as children, because their father worked in the air force. They spent their childhood years in Edmonton and on Vancouver Island, before their parents split up and their mother brought them to live in Mount Currie with her Indian band, said Mount Currie Chief Allan Stager.

Their mother has since died, and their father lives in Ontario.

Sherry moved to the Lower Mainland as an adult, and in 1996 was convicted in New Westminster and Burnaby of prostitution-related offences. She had an outstanding prostitution charge laid in November 1996, but she never appeared in court again and the Crown recently threw the case out.

Relatives in Mount Currie last saw Sherry in December 1996 and spoke with her a few more times by phone before she disappeared.

"Everybody was worried. They had pictures up everywhere," Stager said.

Tribal police received only one tip about Sherry's whereabouts, but that led nowhere. In July 1999, the tribal police sent information about her to Vancouver, after that police agency sent out a bulletin looking for any cases that could be linked o the missing women from the Downtown Eastside.

Chris Irving is a councillor with the Mount Currie band, and Stager is helping him arrange a memorial service for Sherry, who did not have any children.

"According to police, the remains can't be released because they need it for evidence. All they'll get is a death certificate, but that means a lot to the family because at least they know," Stager said. "We'll have a gathering of our own for the family."

Pickton was also charged on Wednesday with first-degree murder in the deaths of Inga Monique Hall and Heather Gabrielle Chinnock.

Hall, who was born in 1952, was last seen in February 1998 and was reported missing in March of that year. She was a known drug user and sex trade worker in the Downtown Eastside.

It was reported in June 1987 that Hall and another woman were charged with robbing a bank on Main Street, while armed with a plastic handgun.

The Sun could not reach any friends or relatives of Hall's.

Chinnock would have been 30 years old when she was reported missing in June, 2001. She was last seen a month earlier, getting into a cab and leaving her Surrey apartment following a fight with her boyfriend. She did not pack any clothes and had stopped picking up her welfare cheques.

Chinnock was a heroin addict and was convicted in 1997 of soliciting in New Westminster and Burnaby. She has a young son who is in the care of the ministry for children and families.

Chinnock's boyfriend, Garry Bigg, said in March that she had been visiting the pig farm for nearly a decade before her disappearance, sometimes spending several days at a time there as a refuge from her difficult life in Surrey's sex trade.

"Heather used to call it her farm. The guy used to tell her to call it her farm, that's what Heather told me. I guess when they were out there they had kind of the run of the place," Bigg said at the time.

Bigg, who has since written a love song for Chinnock, said he called Vancouver police and the RCMP about the farm several years ago, but he did not hear whether any followup was done.

 Copyright  2002 Vancouver Sun

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

Updated: August 21, 2016