Seek Tips, Possible Links in Disappearance of 25 Prostitutes

June 1, 1999

By Robert Anthony Phillips


Forensic investigators carry a body out of Kendall Francois' home in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., in September.

VANCOUVER, British Columbia ( -- Although they officially decline to describe the disappearance of dozens of local prostitutes as a possible serial killing pattern, Vancouver authorities are consulting police involved in two different serial killer investigations in the northern United States, has learned.

Detectives probing the disappearance of 25 Vancouver prostitutes over the last 13 years have been in contact with investigators in the Green River killings case in Seattle as well as the Kendall Francois case in Poughkeepsie. Francois is accused of killing eight prostitutes who disappeared between 1996 and 1998.

Two police sources, who asked not to be identified, told that although no evidence yet exists that a serial killer has been stalking the Vancouver prostitutes, investigators are looking for tips on techniques used by other police departments to identify and track down such killers.


Kendall Francois


Links to Green River case?

The sources said Vancouver investigators have talked with King County, Wash., Detective Tom Jenson, the lone investigator still probing the notorious Green River killer case in the Seattle area. The deaths of at least 49 women -- many of them prostitutes -- are attributed to the still-unidentified killer who was active in the 1980s in the Pacific Northwest.

The case got its name from the fact that some of the victims were found in the Green River. The remainder were discovered in wooded areas around Seattle and Portland, Ore.

Jenson was called by Vancouver detectives in order to establish contact and possibly provide information from a vast Green River investigative database of evidence, tips and suspect information, a source said. With Vancouver just 117 miles north of Seattle, there is some thought that if a serial killer is responsible for the disappearances of the Vancouver prostitutes, he may be operating on both sides of the border, the source said.

Jenson confirmed that he had received a call from Vancouver police about the missing prostitutes. He said Canadian police asked him about "people who may have been connected to both areas." He said that during his investigation of the Green River Killer, he had not come across any serious suspect who could be linked to Vancouver.

"We have not exchanged any information," Jenson said.

Seek lessons from Poughkeepsie probe

Vancouver police have also talked with Detective Lt. William Siegrist, a Poughkeepsie lawman who investigated the case in which 27-year-old Francois is accused of murdering eight prostitutes and then hiding the bodies in his family's home. The case has similarities to what has been occurring in Vancouver.

In both the Vancouver and Poughkeepsie cases, prostitutes with close ties to the community and in contact with their families on a regular basis vanished from the streets over a period of years.

The purpose of the call to Poughkeepsie was to seek investigative advice on how the case was solved and what techniques police used that led investigators to the suspected killer, the sources told

Siegrist told that he was aware of the Vancouver case but would not discuss specifics of the call he received from Vancouver police.


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Still no evidence of single killer

Since the beginning of the investigation into the disappearances of the prostitutes from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside red-light district, police have emphasized that investigators still don't have any evidence pointing to a lone killer. They stress that they don't even know if the missing women have been slain. There are no bodies, clues or suspects.

Vancouver police say that given the transient nature of prostitutes, the women could have left the area to ply their trade in another part of Canada, or even the United States.

However, despite stepped-up investigative efforts, detectives have not been able to find anyone with a clear-cut motive to kill any of the women, such as a jealous boyfriend, the source said.

Probe's current focus

According to the source, police are now:


  • Interviewing 40 to 50 men with a history of harassing prostitutes. Investigators are compiling histories of what they refer to as a "creep" list and have already interviewed several of the men.
  • Interviewing other prostitutes. Police still believe that some of the prostitutes actively working the streets of the Downtown Eastside may have more information on suspects and could hold the key to the investigation. Poughkeepsie's Siegrist reportedly told Vancouver police that in his case, he found that the suspect had sex with more than 50 of the estimated 70 hookers on the street and was well-known to the hookers in the city. The suspect also had a history of committing acts of violence against the women.
  • Using a new vice squad computer program, the Deter and Identify Sextrade Consumers (DISC) database, which investigators hope will help identify possible suspects. The program allows officers to index every scrap of information they gather about johns, pimps and prostitutes into a searchable database. This includes such information as who has visited the red-light districts of Vancouver, nicknames of johns, physical and vehicle descriptions, and even if specific johns have any particular perversions or tattoos. A police source said that scraps of information compiled in the database could be useful in creating a suspect list.


Kim Stallknecht/
Marchers demanding police action in Vancouver last month

Ties to community important

While not directly commenting on the Vancouver case, Siegrist said that it was an important clue that the missing prostitutes in Poughkeepsie had "close ties to the community."

In interviewing the families and relatives of missing prostitutes in the Poughkeepsie case, Siegrist said that several of the missing women had children, family members or boyfriends they stayed with, visited regularly or kept in contact with.

Relatives of the missing Vancouver women also say that the women had close ties to the community and would not just pick up and leave for long periods of time without contacting them.

In Vancouver, police report that one prostitute has disappeared so far in 1999; seven vanished in 1998; eight were reported missing in 1997; one in 1996; and four in 1995. Three others vanished from the streets between 1986 and 1993. Another woman, who is not officially on the list, is still considered by some investigators to be part of the group.

Reward offered

Relatives of the missing women and advocates for the city's sex-trade workers have criticized the Vancouver police for not fully investigating the disappearance of the women.

The issue exploded in March when a former prostitute who runs a drop-in center for sex-trade workers, called a news conference and said she believed a serial killer was responsible for the disappearance of the women.

Now, police have assigned more personnel to the case, and the city and British Columbia governments have offered a $100,000 reward (Canadian) for information leading to the whereabouts of the women.

Robert Anthony Phillips is an staff writer (



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

Updated: August 21, 2016