Police lawyers' absence noted: They 'can't be bothered to even listen' says victim's family


The Vancouver police search for Tanya Holyk, a young mother well-loved by a large extended family, amounted to a few scolding phone calls by a VPD clerk, the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry heard Monday.

And in a courtoom with more than two dozen lawyers acting for police officers, the VPD, RCMP and the B.C. Criminal Justice Branch, the gallery is now filled with family members and their supporters.

“All the police lawyers are gone when it’s our turn to testify,” noted Lilliane Beaudoin, the sister of Dianne Rock, who was murdered by Pickton. “They claim that they care about the families but they can’t be bothered to even listen to us. Nothing has changed.’

On Monday the inquiry heard of Holyk, who went missing in October, 1996 at the age of 21, was the mother of an 11-month-old son and the beloved niece of Lila Purcell, a Surrey woman who wept quietly as she talked about the VPD clerk’s “vicious” verbal attacks on her sister, Dorothy Purcell, Tanya’s mother.

Dorothy Purcell, who is now deceased, was a tiny woman who spoke out about the tongue-lashing she got from VPD missing persons’ clerk Sandy Cameron, telling her family and VPD Det. Const. Lori Shenher later that Cameron only added to her pain and grief.

Dorothy Purcell thought Cameron was a police officer who would look for her daughter.

Shenher told the inquiry earlier that she found Dorothy in tears and tried to confront Cameron about her apparently discriminatory attitudes toward First Nations families.

Tanya Holyk’s parents were both members of the Stlátlimx First Nation.

In a letter Dorothy Purcell wrote to the VPD on Jan. 22, 1997, read out at the inquiry by Lila Purcell on Monday, Dorothy said Cameron berated her. “She (Cameron) said Tanya was a cokehead who had abandoned her child,” said Dorothy. “I felt worse and worse.”

Despite the alleged verbal abuse from Cameron, who is slated to testify at the inquiry, Dorothy Purcell called Cameron again in November with the phone number of someone who might have information about Tanya. Cameron apparently called the number then called Dorothy back to say that “Tanya was partying...having fun and had abandoned her child.”

Cameron told Dorothy Purcell that the VPD file on Tanya Holyk was closed and hung up.

“Tanya was like my own daughter,”said Purcell, visibly upset. “Even if the (missing) women are what I believe some people consider throwaways, they come from a family like mine, who really loved Tanya.

“If the consideration for women had been deeper there wouldn’t have been such a waste of time (by police) spent looking the other way while more women went missing.”

Tanya’s DNA was discovered in 2002 on the farm of convicted serial killer Robert Pickton.

Purcell said Tanya always was very loving toward her son Gary, then 11 months.

At an Assembly of First Nations honouring ceremony a few weeks ago, Tanya’s son Gary, now 15, came forward, saying he felt for the first time as though his mother was present and cared for him.

Purcell told Commissioner Wally Oppal that the children of the missing and murdered women, although not directly part of his mandate, must be considered in future recommendations.

“We call our families a circle and when that circle is broken it takes a very long time to mend,” Lila Purcell told Oppal, who thanked her later and agreed, “what happened in the past is tragic. We have to look to the future” and consider those children left behind.

This week the inquiry is hearing from six family members of missing or murdered women.

The inquiry will wrap up hearings in early May and Oppal’s final report is due in June.




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

Updated: August 21, 2016