Dental expert joins pig farm search

Suzanne Fournier
The Province

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

One of North America's foremost experts on forensic dentistry has been asked by police to help compile a dental database on as many as possible of the 54 women who have gone missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Dr. David Sweet, a world-renowned forensic odontologist who directs the Bureau of Legal Dentistry at the University of B.C., said police have been bringing to his office every day any dental charts they have been able to find for the missing women.

Dr. David Sweet

With a team of up to 20 archeology students poised to start sifting through soil from the Port Coquitlam pig farm of accused serial murderer Robert Pickton, it could take only a tooth or a fragment of a tooth to provide a positive identification of a missing woman, Sweet confirmed.

"It is possible to provide an identification with very little remains, as little as a few teeth, one tooth or a fragment of a tooth," said Sweet, who assisted the search for human remains in the World Trade Center wreckage after Sept. 11 and has testified in high-profile legal cases about his pioneering technique in obtaining DNA evidence from a human bite mark on the victim.

Sweet said any teeth found at the scene can be compared to his existing dental chart database on the missing women.

It is easier to identify a victim if dental work is evident in the tooth or teeth, Sweet said, "but in some cases you can identify a person from unique anatomy features, such as the curvature of a root."

The Vancouver police-RCMP missing women's task force plans to spend more than $1 million to hire expertly-trained students to sit in front of a conveyor belt this summer and minutely scrutinize dirt and debris for bits of human bone or teeth.

A large-scale excavation of the farm is expected to start in June.

Pickton, 50, has been charged with the first-degree murders of Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson, Jacquilene McDonell, Dianne Rock, Heather Bottomley and Angela Joesbury, all of whom were sex-trade workers who went missing from the Downtown Eastside.

Relatives of the missing women welcomed the involvement of both Sweet and the archeology students, most of whom will be from Simon Fraser University.

"This indicates to me that they are finding what they believe to be human teeth and bone fragments, so I'm pleased the police have recruited a highly-reputable forensic dentist to consult on this," said Ernie Crey, whose sister Dawn went missing in late 2000.

Crey said Dawn's former foster mother, Marie Wiebe, was asked in October, 2001 for the name of Dawn's Chilliwack dentist and that police may have obtained Dawn's more recent dental records from a Downtown Eastside health clinic.

 Copyright  2002 The Province

Courtesy of The Province



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Updated: August 21, 2016