Families mourn murdered women

Lori Culbert, Neal Hall and Jeff Lee
Vancouver Sun

Sunday, December 09, 2007

METRO VANCOUVER - Karin Joesbury looked up at the grey sky, tears running from her eyes and overcome by the emotion of hearing Robert (Willie) Pickton had been convicted of the second-degree murder of her daughter Andrea.

Surrounded by relatives of the other five women Pickton was convicted of killing - and of the other 20 he is accused of killing - Joesbury wept as the mournful lyrics of the song Missing played while candles were lit in front of the New Westminster Courthouse Sunday.

Andrea Joesbury's grandfather, Jack Cummer, had asked Canadian poet Susan Musgrave to write the lyrics to the song, in memory of his granddaughter and the other missing women. Listening to the song seemed too much for Karin Joesbury to bear.

"I hope that her death doesn't go in vain, and it will change the way we look at those most vulnerable in our society," said Joesbury, of Victoria, who described her daughter as creative and loving.

"I still have two other children who miss their sister very much.... It's more the way she died. It's hard to lose a child or loved one, but the way in which she was taken. I knew something was wrong but I didn't have the money to come over and get her again [from the Downtown Eastside]. I came and got her three times. I wanted to come back but I couldn't afford it."

Relatives and friends cried, trembled and held each other for support while listening to the song which listed the names of the 65 missing women, including the six Pickton was convicted Sunday of murdering: Joesbury, Mona Wilson, Brenda Wolfe, Georgina Papin, Sereena Abotsway, and Marnie Frey.

"Never forgotten. You were never, ever forgotten today," Bonnie Fournier, a long-time nurse in the Downtown Eastside, cried out during the candle ceremony.

She later said the system failed these women, and that there should have been more detox services and other resources to help them get off the street.

"The government has let them down desperately," Fournier said.

Fournier hugged a weeping Tory Boen, the emotional son of missing woman Yvonne Boen, telling him: "I loved your mom."

Cynthia Cardinal and her two sisters have been in the courthouse for the last week, and was hoping for a first-degree conviction in the death of their other sister Georgina Papin but are "satisfied" with a second-degree verdict.

"I feel a lot of weight lifted off our shoulders and we can finally try to get back to our normal lives now. This has been a long and hard ordeal for us," she said, tears welling in her eyes. "We've had an emotional roller-coaster ride...Georgina is happy today and I can feel her here. She's all over the place here and she's smiling again --- she had the most beautiful smile. I love you, Georgina."

She said they are anxious to finally get Georgina's remains so they can give her a proper burial, and give the family a place to mourn.

Bonnie Fowler, Georgina's other sister, wept as she talked about the friends of Georgina she has met since coming to New Westminster to wait for this verdict.  "I'd like to thank Georgia for sharing all the gifts she's giving us while we were here... She stays alive in all of us and nobody can take that away."

Patty Evans held up a medicine pouch, filled with healing stones, made by her mother Elaine and given to many of the relatives of the victims in honour of her sister, Brenda Wolfe.

"I still don't have my sister, but we have justice on her behalf. She was a beautiful person, she was loved, " Evans said.

Ada Wilson said she hoped Pickton could hear her speaking because she had waited a long time to say how she felt about the murder of her sister Mona.

"He's taken a lot away from me, he's got no idea. But now to me it doesn't seem fair because he's still alive and she's not," Wilson said. "It's really hard around Christmas time, because that was the best time for me and her and the family."

Rick Frey, father of missing woman Marnie Frey, questioned why police didn't catch Pickton sooner or respond more quickly to missing disappearing from the Downtown Eastside.

"This can't go on. Go to the east end now and it's still the same thing. It's appalling.... there's still people suffering," said Frey, who added he would like to see a public inquiry into the case.

Frey said he was worried the jury wouldn't return a guilty verdict on his daughter, who disappeared in 1997 and who had the least amount of evidence found on the farm.

"We're extremely fortunate we got a guilty verdict out of that," Frey said.

Sereena Abotsway's half-brother Jay Draayers was in court Sunday to hear the verdict, but declined to speak to the media.

Just minutes before a verdict was announced, relatives of the native victims invited non-native families to a healing ceremony outside the courthouse.

"A lot of us families have been kind of segregated and we all got together and that was it. And then the verdict is coming down. I don't know, take it as a sign," said Marilyn Kraft, whose daughter is among the 20 women at the centre of Pickton's second trial.

 Vancouver Sun

The Pickton Case



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

Updated: August 21, 2016