Police target big increase in missing women

The Vancouver Sun
Friday, July 3, 1998

Lindsay Kines 

Serial killer not behind missing-women cases, police official says.

Investigators will look into each incident to determine if there are any similarities.

Vancouver city police are concerned about the number of missing women who were involved in drugs and the sex trade and have put more resources into finding them. The police have outstanding files on 10 women who were reported missing in the past two years--including five already this year.  By comparison, there is only one outstanding file from 1996 three from 1995 and on each from 1992 and 1986.

In total, Vancouver city police have 16 such cases of missing females dating back more than a decade.  Media liaison Constable Anne Drennan said the department has assigned a second detective to the missing persons section to focus on the cases, and investigators discussed the issue at a meeting Thursday.  "The missing persons section has been told to give these particular 16 (files) the highest of priorities, " Drennan said. 

The investigators will review all the cases to look for any similarities, such as where the women were last seen, the manner in which they disappeared, as well as with whom they associated, including friends, pimps or boyfriends.  Drennan said there is no indication that a serial killer is preying on the women.  Detectives also have to investigate the possibility of a suicide or drug overdose that has gone undiscovered, or that the women were killed in a dispute over drugs.

Downtown Eastside agencies, say the level of violence toward women in the sex trade has increased dramatically in recent years.  "I don't think the public really  understands the degree of risk that children and women on the street selling themselves are experiencing these days," John Turvey of the Downtown Eastside Youth Activities Society said.  "It is phenomenally dangerous out there.   "If you don't go missing and you don't end up dead, the likelihood of getting assaulted, raped, kidnapped, abused, robbed, injured is just astronomical."

Turvey said he tends "not to buy into" the theory of a single person responsible for the missing women.  "I just think that a lot of men that have that propensity to be predators have just really figured out that these women are ideal victims with very little ramifications when they go missing." 

Four of the five women reported missing this year--Ada Prevost, 24; Inga Hall, 46; Sarah deVries, 29 and Cindy Beck, 33--had worked as prostitutes in the Downtown Eastside.  Police say the other missing woman, Kerry Koski, 38, was addicted to heroin and was known to frequent the Downtown Eastside. 

Maggie deVries, who teaches children's literature at the University of B.C., said she is "95 percent certain" that her sister, Sarah, has been murdered.  No other scenario makes sense, she said.  "Sarah wouldn't just go away of her own volition and not contact anyone," Maggie deVries said.

Her sister was last seen in the early morning hours of April 14 at the corner of Princess and Hastings.  DeVries said her sister was working with another woman, who got into a car with a customer.  By the time the car circled the block, Sarah had disappeared from the street corner.  She has not been seen since, nor has she contacted her family--including her seven-year-old daughter and two-year-old son, who live with her mother in Ontario.

Drennan said police investigate the cases as they do any other--interviewing friends, families and acquaintances, contacting welfare offices, distributing posters and entering the descriptions on the Canadian Police Information Computer.

"They're the most difficult cases that we ever are called on to investigate," she said.  "Even if you can establish murder--most of these are stranger-to-stranger crimes and those are the toughest to solve."  Drennan said the pool of possible suspects is enormous.  "There are literally hundreds of men cruising in the Downtown Eastside, cruising the streets, every night.  So, you'd have to say, it's almost like searching for a needle in a haystack.

New probe amid serial killer fears-Apr 28, 2001



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Updated: August 21, 2016