Missing women list may grow

Task force will reveal identities of nine more potential victims

Kim Bolan
Vancouver Sun

Thursday, July 25, 2002

The number of women missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside may climb by another nine to 63, according to the joint police task force investigating the suspicious disappearances.

The task force will reveal the identities of the additional nine women at a news conference today in the hopes of trying to find some of them alive.

If they are not located, the names of the nine will be added to 54 now formally on the list of women whose disappearances are being investigated in connection with a Port Coquitlam pig farm.

One of the farm's owners, Robert (Willy) Pickton has been charged with killing seven women on the list who had earlier been reported missing. The case is due to go to a preliminary hearing in November.

Pickton is charged with first-degree murder in connection with the slayings of Mona Wilson, who vanished in November of 2001; Diane Rock, who went missing in October 2001; Sereena Abotsway, who disappeared in August 2001; Andrea Joesbury, who was reported missing in June 2001; Heather Bottomley, who was last seen in April 2001; Brenda Wolfe, who went missing in February 1999, and Jacqueline McDonell, who disappeared in January 1999.

A continuing police file review that is looking at every missing person case in the province, as well as information that has come forward from the public, has led to the concern about the nine additional women.

The list of missing women has more than doubled in length since Vancouver city police first announced a disturbing trend of disappearances from the poverty-stricken neighbourhood in 1998. When police produced a poster of missing women in 1999, the number stood at 31.

Four of those women were located, two alive and two dead, leaving the formal police list at 27. Last September, a Vancouver Sun investigation revealed that the number of missing women actually stood as high as 45.

In December, police confirmed The Sun's report, saying the list of missing women had reached the mid-40s.

By January, the official police tally had climbed to 50 women.

At the end of March, six weeks after police executed a search warrant at the Pickton farm, the task force announced it was considering adding another five names to the list. One of those women was located alive.

Last week, the task force formally added the other four, increasing the number to 54.

"It is just sickening," said Elaine Allan, a long-time activist in the Downtown Eastside, when told the number of missing women may be as high as 63. "I have been holding my breath and waiting for more bad news."

She said the numbers are increasingly disturbing.

"But it was disturbing when it was 54. It was disturbing when it was 30," she said. "At least now it is being taken seriously."

Karen Duddy, executive director of the Women's Information Safe House (WISH) - a drop-in centre for sex trade workers - said women in the neighbourhood have always believed the number of missing is much higher.

"I'm sure there have been even more than that," Duddy said. "It's tragic. My mouth is just open."

She said neighbourhood activists met with federal MP Libby Davies Wednesday to discuss the issue.

Sandra Gagnon, whose sister Janet Henry went missing five years ago, said she wonders when it is all going to end.

"It is a nightmare, a real nightmare," she said.

Meanwhile, the task force has released new details of the forensic investigation being conducted in Port Coquitlam, which is now Canada's largest crime scene investigation.

Police described the team working at the farm as "a small army of police investigators, scientists, and specialists [who] are applying the latest in technology and forensic investigative tools to try and unravel mysteries surrounding the disappearance[s]."

In a recent release, the task force said most of the charges against Pickton so far "have come from not only hundreds of hours of old-fashioned police legwork - finding and interviewing individuals that are often hard to find - but from the precise and painstakingly detailed work of scientists and forensic experts."

"The excavation and recovery team consists of 51 anthropologists specializing in archeology and human osteology, representing universities from across Canada, in particular, the University of Toronto, University of Manitoba, University of Saskatchewan, University of Alberta, and Simon Fraser University," said the release, signed by Vancouver police Detective Scott Driemel and RCMP Constable Catherine Galliford.

"All have experience identifying human bone from fragments as small as a fingernail to complete elements, under different circumstances and in a variety of contexts," the pair said. "Members of the team were selected for their ability to recognize bones in diverse states of decay that have been exposed to factors ranging from fire to water."

 Copyright  2002 Vancouver Sun

Investigation turns up more missing women-Sept 21, 2001



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Updated: August 21, 2016