Wendy Crawford

The time hasn't yet come to tell Wendy's story, her
sister says

By Stephanie Levitz
The Canadian Press

Susie Kinshella lets her life be guided by the Lord.

Politely but firmly, she declines to discuss her sister Wendy Crawford, who vanished from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside in 1999.

She's waiting on her faith to guide her to the time when it will feel right to talk, but that time isn't now.

Her voice catches when she says the words ``my sister,'' perhaps a sign the pain of losing her hasn't dulled in the last seven years.

She speaks softly of Crawford's son and daughter who she doesn't want to hurt by putting their mother's life in the public eye.

They'd be in their late 20's now _ Crawford was 43 when police say she was last seen.

Despite her reluctance to speak, Kinshella provided a letter she wrote in fury to a local newspaper in 2004 after Robert Pickton was charged in her sister's death.

They'd all lived together in a mobile home in Chilliwack, B.C., Kinshella wrote, and Crawford struggled to make ends meet.

Crawford's square on the patchwork quilt of photos making up the Vancouver police's missing person's poster shows a frizzy blond with an impish grin and dimples.

She suffered from Crohn's disease, an inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract whose main symptoms are abdominal pain, diarrhea and weight loss.

She also had diabetes.

There's only Kinshella and a sibling left in the family now. Besides Crawford, one brother died in 1982 and another in 1990.

The family moved across British Columbia, Alberta and the Yukon, but spent most of the kids' teenage years in Vancouver and Chilliwack.

Kinshella was especially angry at media reports that characterized her sister as a drug addict and a prostitute.

``She was a mother of two beautiful children. She was a sister and an aunt, as well as a great-aunt and a friend. She was not on the streets every day selling her body and she did not take drugs all the time,'' Kinshella wrote.

She acknowledged her sister worked in the sex trade, but maintained it was to support her family.

``Something is drastically wrong when you can call my sister a prostitute for trying to feed her children,'' she wrote.

Though one person familiar with sex trade workers on the Downtown Eastside had a vague recollection of Crawford, no one could remember specific details.

On an Internet message board, a man named Sam in Prince George, B.C., said he'd known her but provided no other details.

``I must say I feel sorry for anyone else who has to go through this,'' he wrote in January 2006.

Crawford kept in touch with her family and her complete disappearance in 1999 was out of character.

``I pray to the Lord and ask for His strength,'' Kinshella wrote in the letter.

``Not only for this family, but also for the families of all the missing women who were much more than prostitutes and drug addicts.''

When the strength comes, perhaps Kinshella will be ready to tell her sister's story.

I 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