Women worth $100,000


Sister writes letters to mayor, attorney general

By Allison Appelbe

Sunday, April 11, 1999.

A QUIET, REASONED APPEAL FROM the older sister of one of 21 prostitutes who have mysteriously disappeared from city streets since 1995 appears to be working.

Maggie deVries believes that on April 28 the Vancouver Police Board will accept a controversial demand for $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of what she and others believe is a serial killer.

Attorney General Ujjal Dosanjh has agreed to it, and Mayor Philip Owen and police spokeswoman Anne Drennan appear to be softening, she said.

DeVries sister is 29-year old Sarah deVries, who disappeared from the corner of Hastings and Princess last April 21. Around 4 a.m., Sarah, in tight black pants and halter top, was working the corner of Hastings and Princess, while a friend worked kitty-corner.

A customer picked up the friend, and the car circled the block. When it returned to the intersection, Sarah was gone. DeVries suspects her sister knew the driver. "She got in without a struggle and relatively quickly," she said. Contrary to a newspaper report, Sarah was carrying only a small purse. "She showed no indication tht she had any plans to do anything out of the ordinary."

Maggie and Sarah deVries grew up in a family of four in Point Grey. Sarah was adopted and came from mixed racial heritage. Maggie said she looked black. "She always felt she was ugly and didn't really fit in."

By Grade 8 at University Hill secondary school, Sarah was out of control. Soon afterwards, her parents separated. "By the middle of Grade 9 she was completely gone from us," Maggie said.

Sarah drifted out of the area and into drugs. She finally settled into rooms on Princess Street in the heart of the sex stroll. When she disappeared last year she was HIV-positive. Her children, Jeanie, seven, and Ben, two, live with her mother in Ontario.

"My sister had a hard life," Maggie deVries wrote to Philip Owen. "She did some things that I struggle to understand. She was addicted to heroin and cocaine, and she worked the streets to support her habit. But she was my baby sister, eight years younger than I am. I loved her very much, and she loved me. I visited her regularly and she kept in touch."

DeVries made this last point to illustrate the responsible side to Sarah deVries, and challenge Owen's assertion that these troubled or troublesome women likely left the city of their own accord.

In her letter to Dosanjh, deVries wrote of the families of nine other missing women that she contacted: "In almost every case the women kept in regular contact with someone, and that contact ceased at exactly the same time that bank accounts were left untouched, welfare checks were no longer picked up, possessions were left behind. Abruptly the women were no longer seen.

"These disappearances cannot be completely unconnected, nor can they all be women relocating," she added.

In her letter to Owen, deVries cited the mayor's conern, expressed on a TV newscast, for the families targeted in a series of West Side garage robberies, for which a reward is offered.

"I agree with you, I'm sure these families are traumatized...but my family is traumatized too, and so is every other family, nine in all, that I've talked to. We're suffering. We don't know what has happened to our sisters, daughters, mothers."

DeVries, called for public acknowledgement that the disappearances may be related, and involve abduction and murder: "As long as no public statement is made and no more aggressive steps taken, we're sending out the messge that these women are disposable. The man or men who are taking them have no reason to fear."

On May 12, Sarah's 30th birthday, deVries will host a memorial service for all the missing women at First United Church, a few blocks from Princess Street. Owen and Dosanjh are both invited.

The Desperate Quest-April 12, 1999



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Updated: August 21, 2016