Family of missing woman wants serial killer doll removed from Vancouver store

December 30, 2004


VANCOUVER (CP) - The store that apologized for stocking a doll portraying members of a Nazi SS combat division originally created to guard concentration camps is again under fire, this time for a doll depicting a serial killer.

The Vancouver Virgin Megastore is selling a figure depicting Jack the Ripper, the mysterious Victorian-era killer believed to have murdered about a dozen prostitutes. The doll's bloodied hands hold a knife and a doctor's bag. Blood also spatters the caped, black-hatted doll's face.

The toy comes with several bloody knives and a saw, as well as a sryinge.

And, says the sister of one of Vancouver's missing women, it's too close to home.

Maggie DeVries wants Virgin to remove the doll.

In the past two decades, 69 women have vanished from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, a squalid 15-square-block area populated with drug addicts and sex-trade workers.

The disappearances led to the formation of a joint RCMP-Vancouver Police Department task force which continues to investigate missing women.

Pig farmer Robert William Pickton, 55, is charged with 15 counts of first-degree murder in the Vancouver missing women's case.

The Crown has said it expects to add another seven counts before he goes on trial next year.

Police said in October their probe of the farm owned by Pickton and his siblings turned up 31 separate DNA samples.

While Pickton has not been charged with the death of Sarah DeVries, her DNA was found at his Port Coquitlam farm.

She left behind two young children. Sarah's sister Maggie DeVries says the family has had to explain to the children what happened to their mother.

"For them, imagine them knowing their that mother was murdered, seeing a murderer of women like their mother turned into a doll would be very hurtful," she said.

"In Vancouver in particular, they're not even that far from where the women disappeared from. We have a glimmer of how these women may have died. A doll with a bloodied hand, a bloody knife is way too close to home."

Maggie DeVries says such a doll would encourage people to make light of the killings of sex-trade workers.

"We as a society use the murder of prostitutes as a source of entertainment all the time," she said. "I can't imagine who would buy such a doll."

The doll is a product of the New York-based Mezco Toys.

Staff at the Vancouver store are not permitted to comment on product lines, an assistant manager said.

Representatives at the company's head office were not available for comment.

The doll is also available for sale online and is the subject of chat room discussions.

In October, Virgin apologized for carrying dolls depicting members of the Totenkopf Division.

While members of the division fought in Normandy in 1944, it was originally formed at Dachau, Germany, site of the first concentration camp outside Munich. The Totenkopf continued to guard camps until the end of the Second World War.

"While never intending to cause offence, the company wishes to apologize for any unintentional harm that this product item may have caused," the company said at the time.

The sale of the dolls angered Holocaust survivors and the Canadian Jewish Congress, who called for the withdrawal of the figures.

Copyright by Rogers Media Inc.

Ripper doll insensitive to pain here, women’s groups say

Wendy Mclellan
The Province

January 2, 2005

The bloodied Jack the Ripper doll on the toy shelf at Vancouver's Virgin Megastore is drawing fire from women's groups. They say that in a city still coming to terms with its own serial killer, a doll depicting a man who murdered prostitutes is tasteless.

CREDIT: Gerry Kahrmann, The Province

Jack the Ripper doll.

"It doesn't display much sensitivity, does it?" asked Kate Gibson, director of the WISH Drop In Centre for sex-trade workers on the Downtown Eastside.

Maggie de Vries, whose sister Sarah is one of the women missing from the streets of the eastside, said the doll suggests that violence against women is acceptable.

"When other people see that doll, they won't be thinking what I'm thinking," said de Vries, author of an award-winning book about the disappearance of her sister.

"This is a doll based on a historical character who killed prostitutes. We have such men among us. This is not something to glorify."

Jack the Ripper is the name newspapers gave to an unknown killer who terrorized London in 1888. The case was never solved.

No one was available for comment Friday at the Vancouver store or Virgin's head office in L.A. 

© The Vancouver Province 2005



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Updated: August 21, 2016