Debra Jones

Debra sang like Joplin, was "more than drugs," but then

By Alison Auld
The Canadian Press

Debra Lynn Jones looked nothing like the singer she could so easily impersonate.

But her voice could fool even the keenest ear, says Kathleen McKenzie of her sister's ability to mimic a famous singer whose gravelly voice became emblematic of a generation.

``She sang like Janis Joplin and played guitar, piano and dreamed of going to Nashville one day,'' McKenzie says in an online memorial about her sibling.

``A beautiful loving spirit, she was.''

They are the few details known about the brunette with the shaggy dyed blond hair, other than the fact that she was thought to be a veteran of the street after spending years there.

Even her page on a website that carefully chronicles each missing woman, including picture, date of birth and a brief description _ is no longer in service.

A small headshot on a police poster might reveal a glimpse into her mood, Jones looks straight into the camera, her eyes weary and her expression forlorn. Her neckline shows a bright orange collar, much like the jumpsuits worn by people in prison.

People who knew her on the Downtown Eastside say the 43-year-old mother was a heroin addict who was known as a ``booster,'' the name given to those who steal to support their drug habit.

``She was down on the eastside a long time,'' says Maggy Gisle, a recovering drug addict who lived in the area for 16 years.

``She was quite friendly.''

McKenzie insists Jones, who had three other sisters and a brother who died in 1982, was not working as a prostitute when police say she disappeared in December 2000, and that she had cleaned up.

``She was much more than drugs,'' she writes in the online tribute. ``She was a poor woman who had nowhere else to live but downtown so her medicine could be given to her.''

2006 The Canadian Press


MISSING LIVES - The Canadian Press

Five years ago a pig farm near Vancouver became one of Canada's largest crime scenes
What followed were headlines about the massive forensic investigation and 26 murder charges against Robert William Pickton.
Far from the headlines have been the stories of the dead women. Twenty-six women who lived on and disappeared from the streets of Canada's most dismal inner-city neighbourhood Vancouver's bleak Downtown Eastside. Twenty-six missing lives.

In the five years since the Pickton pig farm made national headlines, the memories of the women have faded even further from the public spotlight. When mentioned, they are usually referred to only as "drug addicts" or "street prostitutes." They are often only numbers 26 victims, their names seldom used in news reports. All of the stories behind the names have never been told. Until now.

The Canadian Press, Canada's independent news agency, felt those stories needed to be told. Six reporters from across the country spent hundreds of hours researching details not previously reported. The result is Missing Lives: profiles on each of the 26 women.

Missing Lives reveals the 26 women as daughters, sisters, mothers: troubled souls whose lives touched others in lasting ways.



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

Updated: August 21, 2016