Fear of Killer-March 3, 1999

THE GLOBE AND MAIL--March 3, 1999.

Globe and Mail.jpg (74677 bytes)

Fear of killer haunts Vancouver sex trade
Prostitutes say a sharp increase in disappearances
shows the need for more police protection
Fear of killer haunts Vancouver sex trade
Prostitutes say a sharp increase in disappearances
shows the need for more police protection

Wednesday, March 3, 1999
Ross Howard
British Columbia Bureau

      Vancouver -- Vancouver prostitutes say they have inadequate police protection and fear the city's worst red-light district has become a stalking zone for one or more serial killers.
     Eleven women in the sex trade on the so-called Lower Track area around East Hastings Street on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside disappeared last year, police confirmed yesterday. Nine of those were aboriginal women.
     Twenty-one women known to work as prostitutes, most of them on the Lower Track, have disappeared mysteriously since 1995. Four other Vancouver prostitutes have been killed since 1995, although those crimes have all been solved.
     Police said yesterday there is no evidence pointing to a serial killer, but the prostitutes say there is no other explanation for the sharp increase in disappearances.
     "There appears to be a particular block where almost all of them worked before they disappeared," said Jamie Lee Hamilton, an unofficial spokeswoman for many of the estimated 2,000 prostitutes working in downtown Vancouver.
     "These disappearances must be treated as homicides," Ms. Hamilton said yesterday. "They are not the kind of people to just disappear without telling their friends on the street." Many of the missing women were addicts or mentally ill, she added.
     Ms. Hamilton, who has argued in the past that a serial killer is active, appealed for an increase in police investigations and protection. In the sprawling and decrepit section of the city, drug dealing, the sex trade, open displays of addiction, homelessness and violence are rampant.
     "If these women were not street-involved, there would be an outpouring of concern and immediate action to find their killers," Ms. Hamilton said.
     "And if there were no prostitutes, these men would be killing other women. These killers are men who hate women, not prostitutes. It's just that prostitutes are more available and more vulnerable."
     Ms. Hamilton called for the donation of cellular telephones, preprogrammed to the emergency 911 number, to be distributed to prostitutes, and for a $100,000 reward to be posted.
     Vancouver police spokeswoman Anne Drennan said in an interview the sharp increase in the number of missing prostitutes in the last two years "is a cause for real concern" but does not point to a serial killer at work.
     A number of those missing may have committed suicide, or moved away to escape the rough and dirty trade, Ms. Drennan said.
     "There is not a single piece of evidence to suggest a serial killer," she said, beginning with the fact that no Vancouver prostitutes are known to have been killed in the past 15 months.
     Even among those whose bodies were dumped on the outskirts of the suburbs, there are no clues to suggest a serial killer or killers.
     "The only links are that they were involved in the sex trade and were exposed to drugs and worked in the Lower Eastside," Ms. Drennan said.
     She rejected Ms. Hamilton's claim that neither the police force nor the city is greatly concerned about deaths and disappearances in the sex trade.
     All missing-persons cases and homicides are treated equally, Ms. Drennan said.



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Updated: August 21, 2016