VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Province okays $100,000 Reward
$100,000 reward okayed in bid to find 21 missing women
The Vancouver Sun
Thursday, April 29, 1999.
The families of 21 women missing from the Downtown Eastside say a $100,000 reward approved Wednesday is the first step toward finding their relatives and determining if anyone was responsible for their disappearances.
Maggie deVries, whose sister Sarah deVries is missing, also applauded senior Vancouver Police officers for acknowledging for the first time that some of the missing women could be victims of foul play.
The reward was announced after the monthly police board meeting.
The city will put up $30,000, and ask the province for $70,000--which Attorney-General Ujjal Dosanjh has already promised--to aid in the investigation.
Since 1995, 22 "street-involved" women--mostly prostitutes and drug addicts--have gone missing from the Downtown Eastside. No bodies have been discovered and only one woman has been found alive, leaving 21 still missing.
Friends and relatives of the missing women, who believe a serial killer may be responsible for the disappearances, have put increasing pressure on police and city hall to offer a reward.
Previously, police had been reluctant to do so, because rewards are generally used to investigate known criminal acts when other leads have dried up. So far, no evidence has surfaced that would indicate the missing women were victims of foul play.
Deputy police chief Brian McGuiness said he has some concern that without a crime scene or a body as a reference point, officers won't know if tips are valid or fictitious--and therefore could spend time chasing false leads.
But McGuinness acknowledged there have been no tips at all on the cases so far, despite heavy media coverage.
McGuiness also said some women, such as one tracked down recently, don't want to be found because they're running from something in their pasts.
Detective Lori Shenher--one of three officers assigned full-time to the missing person unit--has been previously quoted as saying she believes at least some of the 21 women have met with foul play.
Devries, who took to Wednesday's meeting a petition signed by 484 people, believes the reward may help because someone, other than the suspect and victim, usually knows of a crime, and the money may give that person an incentive to come forward.
Relatives have accused police of not valuing the women's lives because they dragged their feet on this reward, but offered similar ones for garage robberies and home invasions.
But McGuinness said that isn't so. "These cases are not being investigated any less strenuously because they are women or ... because they are poor," he said. "It doesn't mean we value them less or consider them throwaways."
McGuinness listed a steam of work the police have done to locate these women, including monitoring bank accounts, e-mailing pictures to psychiatric hospitals, welfare offices, border crossings, and police departments across the country, checking men who are known to prey on women, and increasing the size of the missing-persons unit to three officers.
The families of the missing women also asked police Wednesday to create a task force to work on the disappearances, but the board turned that down, saying there are 20 members of the homicide unit available to help the missing-persons unit if major leads start to develop.
Jamie Lee Hamilton, director of Grandma's House, shelter and advocacy group for prostitutes, told the board she believes there is enough evidence to link the cases. Each missing women was a sex-worker from the Downtown Eastside, they disappeared from the same area, they haven't contacted relatives; and they haven't touched bank accounts or personal property.
She said more needs to be done, but the reward sends out an
important message: "We will not tolerate crime against those who are the most
vulnerable, and that we will do everything within our power to bring to justice whoever is
responsible for these crimes."
Updated: August 21, 2016