Kerry Koski

Middle-class mom made tragic mistake and went down

By Stephanie Levitz
The Canadian Press

Kerry Koski was a happy, middle-class mother of three with a bright smile and a good life.

She loved her children and the family and friends that lived nearby, and they loved her.

"Kerry was a lot of fun. She just had a big smile on her face," her brother-in-law, Terry Hughes, has said of her.

But she was also a lonely single mother who chose the wrong men.

One boyfriend was abusive, another a manic depressive who hung himself. Another boyfriend introduced her to heroin as a way to deal with her pain.

She was "a normal person who one day decided, for some ungodly reason, to stick a needle in her arm," Hughes has said.

"The thing that really breaks my heart is the fact that she decided to experiment with a drug, and that drug was so devastating that within three months of trying it, she was no longer here."

Koski's descent into Vancouver's Downtown Eastside was fast and infuriating to those who loved her.

Her childhood friend Dawn Bourque last saw her in July 1997 and there was no indication anything was wrong.

"She had a home, her daughters and her life, so it really saddens me that she went downhill so fast," Bourque said in an e-mail interview.

Like so many family and friends whose lives have become entangled in the tragedy of the women missing from the Downtown Eastside, she wondered if she could have changed things.

"If I had of known anything, maybe I could have helped her, but she was her usual happy self when I saw her."

Bourque said Koski was kind and generous, always willing to help out.

"She would give you the shirt off her back if you needed it. She didn't have a mean bone in her body," she said.

"She was always trying to help anyone out that she could even if it meant she went without."

Another high school classmate lamented Koski's death on a website dedicated to all the missing women.

"I thought that she was so pretty, had such a great smile and was so full of life," the man wrote. "I wanted to ask her to a school dance but was too shy.

"I am so saddened to hear how her life turned out and how it may have ended."

Most surprising to many is that Koski let the drugs come between her and her children.

"She completely adored her daughters and loved life," Bourque said.

The girls, aged 12, 14 and 16 when she disappeared, are now young women, the youngest about 20.

As the trial approached, Koski's sister Val Hughes did not respond to requests to speak about her sister.

But in numerous interviews in recent years, she has made it clear how her family has been shattered by Koski's absence.

"You would have liked my sister," Hughes once told a reporter.

"She was so beautiful."

The last time she saw Koski was at Christmas 1997, when the families gathered for Christmas dinner.

The petite, green-eyed blond had dropped to a meagre 90 pounds and she apologized to her sister for the state she was in.

Hughes told Koski her family would help her deal with the addiction that had taken hold of her.

Hughes said she held her sister tight.

"I thought we could do the work later," she has said.

In January 1998, unable to reach her by telephone, Hughes went to the Downtown Eastside hotel where her sister was staying. No Koski.

She checked the local hospitals and, finally, police cells. Still, no Koski.

Police said Kerry Lynn Koski was last seen Jan. 7, 1998 and was reported missing three weeks later. She was 39 years old and had been living downtown for only a couple of months.

Although police have described all of the women missing from the neighbourhood as sex trade workers, Koski's family is not sure she was involved in prostitution.

Regardless, Bourque wants her friend remembered for the person she was before she was caught in the tight grip of addiction.

"Kerry was a beautiful person and I hope that is how she is remembered. It's how I remember her," Bourque said.

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