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blucher 06-03-2011 01:29 PM

The Pig Farm
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For 20 years, women went missing from seedy streets. Now a court will hear evidence that they may have ended up in pies


Marnie Frey called her parents for the last time on her 24th birthday. Lynn, her stepmother, answered the phone to hear Marnie giggling, wheedling for some birthday cash. Mrs Frey was reluctant, knowing that it would be spent to feed her heroin habit.

She told her daughter that a parcel was on its way, with clothes, food and toiletries, things low down on her daughter?s shopping list for life on the mean streets of the Downtown Eastside, Vancouver. The thank-you call never came.

Rick and Lynn Frey would not learn what had become of their daughter until after a frantic search that lasted five years. Her remains were unearthed on a pig farm in Port Coquitlam, on the outskirts of Vancouver. The farm belonged to Robert Pickton, known as ?Uncle Willie,? a pig farmer well-known for the parties that he threw for prostitutes and bikers at his quasi- legal drinking club, the Piggy Palace.

Investigators dug up the remains of one woman after another, from body parts to minute traces of DNA, until the count came to 30. Four could not be identified. The other 26 were among the names of 67 women who had disappeared from the Downtown Eastside streets. On Monday Mr Pickton goes on trial for six murders, the only cases in which body parts survive.

Few of the details of the evidence have been made public in Canada, where strict publication bans have muffled preliminary hearings. But what has come to light is grim enough: butchered body parts discovered in a freezer; a woodchipper, confiscated by police, where the women?s bodies were believed to have been disposed of; and the public health warning that the pigs believed to have been fed on human remains were then slaughtered and put into the human food chain ? along with, perhaps, human meat itself.

At jury selection, the judge warned potential jurors that what they would hear would be ?like a horror movie?. But this time, he told them, they would not be able to switch it off.

But the friends and families of the murdered and missing women are those who are likely to suffer the most trauma. Evidence is expected to take as long as a year to hear. Yet most plan to be there, to find out what happened to their daughters, sisters and friends, and how it was allowed to happen. The women of the Downtown Eastside disappeared gradually, over the course of 20 years, unseen and apparently uncared for by those meant to protect them.

The Downtown Eastside is the poorest postcode in Canada, where life expectancy is less than 40. Its seedy bars and dank doorways shelter the huddled forms of vagrants and junkies, creating a filthy foreground to the gleaming skyscrapers less than a mile up the road. It has the highest rate of HIV infection in North America and is the only place in the developed world where infected women outnumber men. Social workers called the prostitutes here ?survival sex workers?. They are selling themselves merely to stay alive.

Rebecca Guno was the first to disappear, in 1983, but no one knew then that she was only the first. Fourteen years later, when Ms Frey?s call never came, Mrs Frey grew worried. When Ms Frey had still not surfaced after four months and local police said that they could not help, Mrs Frey and her sister, Joyce LaChance, travelled to the Downtown Eastside to report Ms Frey missing there. ?The police there, they didn?t seem concerned. They said she was an adult and she?d probably taken off somewhere,? Mrs Frey recalls. ?They made us think we were the only ones looking for someone missing.?

Infuriated by the police refusal to look for her daughter, Mrs Frey and her sister began their own search. They began to meet other people, like them, looking for their missing loved ones. One woman, searching for her sister, had been refused a missing person report and told to ?go put her picture up at the needle exchange?. A man, Wayne Leng, was searching for his friend Sarah de Vries, last seen on a street corner on April 14, 1998, seven months after Marnie?s last call.

Ms de Vries?s theory of what lay behind the disappearances was contained in a journal she left at Mr Leng?s. ?Am I next? Is he watching me now?? she wrote. ?Stalking me like a predator and its prey? Waiting, waiting for some perfect spot, time or my stupid mistake?? The more Mrs Frey spoke to the street girls, the more she became convinced that Ms de Vries?s theory of a serial killer was right. ?The girls told me, ?There?s this guy who picks up girls in vans and takes them to a farm and they don?t come back. He?s got a woodchipper?,? she said. ?Then they?d run away scared and wouldn?t say any more.?

Mrs LaChance suddenly thought of the farm near her home where the Pickton brothers lived. She knew a friend of theirs and had babysat for her children. The sisters relayed their suspicions to the police, who were adamant that there was no serial killer.

Family members lobbied the press and The Vancouver Sun began its own investigation. Mr Leng set up a hotline for tips about the killings and received a call from one Bill Hiscox, a former employee on the farm. He knew a woman who had been inside the trailer where Mr Pickton lived, behind the main farmhouse where his brother, Dave, lived. ?She doesn?t want to get involved. She?s kind of scared about it,? he said in the call that Mr Leng taped. ?But she told me, ?Billy, you wouldn?t believe the IDs and s*** in that trailer. There?s women?s clothes out there, there?s purses. You know, what?s that guy doing? It?s, like, really weird?.?

Mr Hiscox also noted a case known to the police, when Wendy Lynn Eistetter, a prostitute, had fled the pig farm, handcuffed, bleeding from the stomach, claiming that Robert Pickton had stabbed her. Mr Pickton, who was also wounded in the incident, was charged with attempted murder but Ms Eistetter balked at testifying and the charges were dropped. Mr Leng handed the tape to police but heard no more about it.

The name Pickton would not come up again until 2002, four years later, when police visited the farm with an unrelated warrant to search for an unlicensed gun. They stumbled upon an asthma inhaler prescribed in the name of one of the missing women and the ID cards of several others. They returned with another warrant and began searching the property, beginning with the slaughterhouse.

In the freezers, they unearthed two five-gallon tubs. Inside were severed hands and feet, and the heads of two women among the most recently reported missing. Both were sawn in half like the carcasses of the slaughtered pigs. One, Serena Abbotsway, had gone missing only a few months after leading a protest march against police inaction over the killings. Much of the evidence may have been devoured long before police set foot on the farm. ?It is believed that there is a possibility that human remains were fed to pigs but the risk of disease to those who may have had contact with the meat was negligible,? a 2003 police health study said. ?The psychological effects may be worse than the physical.?

Five years and 26 murder charges later, the cases of 39 missing women remain open. Investigators continue to sift through the samples taken from the Pickton farm in search of any trace of those still missing. An internal police inquiry has been ordered but the families are still clamouring for a public one. ?If this was a rich community in the West End, all hell would have broken loose,? Rick Frey said. Down on the seedy streets of the Downtown Eastside, a serial killer might no longer be stalking the women but the violence continues unabated. In 2005 Donald Bakker was convicted of the torture and sexual assault of nearly 60 prostitutes, whose ordeals he had taped. None reported the abuse to the police. More than 20 men have been convicted of killing one prostitute each in the Downtown Eastside since 1980.

?What?s more scary, one person killing all these women, or all these men killing just one each?? Kate Gibson, the executive director of the WISH drop-in centre asked.

At the junction of Main and Hastings, known in the Downtown Eastside as Pain and Wastings, I stop to speak to a familiar-looking young working girl. She is Natasha, the sister of Ms de Vries, whose adoption by a middle-class family did not save her from ending up here. Natasha had never met Ms de Vries but came here in search of her after fleeing an abusive boyfriend in Ontario.

But her sister had disappeared only a month before. Now Natasha leads the life that her sister left behind. ?We don?t talk about that stuff that happened,? she slurs. ?You just gotta keep going.?

Mass murderers

1609 The King of Hungary ordered the arrest of the Slovenian aristocrat Elizabeth Bathory for the vampiric torture and murder of about 600 young girls

1790-1830 Thug Behram, reputed to be the world's most prolific killer, is claimed to have murdered 931 victims while the leader of the Indian ?Thuggee? gang of assassins

1888 Dubbed the first modern serial killer, Jack the Ripper caused terror in London with his spree of prostitute murders. The exact number of victims is unknown

1957 Police searching the home of Ed Gein in Wisconsin uncovered a wardrobe of clothes fashioned from human skin. He was convicted of killing one person, but probably murdered more. Gein later became the model for Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs

1974-98 Harold Shipman killed an estimated 236 people, while practising as a GP, until he was exposed by a forged will

1995 Rosemary West was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of ten young girls, including her 16-year-old daughter in Gloucester. Her husband, Fred, committed suicide before the trial

blucher 06-03-2011 01:41 PM

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The Missing Women of Vancouver

Rebecca Guno, vanished from Vancouver in June 1983. Her name was the first of 61 women to disappear mysteriously over the 2 decades that followed. It wasn't until 19 years later, early 2002, that charges were made. The charges came after police focused on a farm in Port Coquitlam, outside Vancouver. Officers scoured the farm in search of evidence. Within months, the owner of that farm, 53 year-old Robert William Pickton, would face multiple murder charges.

The 15 victims were among 63 missing women, from the Vancouver Downtown Eastside. While some were reported missing immediately, others weren't noticed until months after they disappeared. The last of the initial 15 charges was filed in October 2002.

Pickton is charged with 1st-degree murder in the deaths of: Sereena Abotsway, 29 disappeared August 2001
Heather Bottomley, 25 disappeared April 2001
Heather Chinnock, 30 last seen April 2001
Jennifer Furminger, last seen in 1999
Inga Hall, 46 last seen February 1998
Helen Hallmark, last seen in 1997
Tanya Holyk, 23 last seen October 1996
Sherry Irving, 24 last seen 1997
Andrea Joesbury, 22 last seen June 2001
Patricia Johnson, last seen March 2001
Jacqueline McDonell, 23 last seen January 1999
Diane Rock, 34 last seen October 2001
Mona Wilson, 26 last seen November 2001
Brenda Wolfe, 32 last seen February 1999
Georgina Papin, last seen in 1999

Victim DNA found:
Marnie Frey missing since August1997
Sarah de Vries vanished in 1998. Timeline Downtown East: Missing women BC police were told years ago of pig farm

No other slum or ghetto in Canada matches the squalor of Vancouvers Downtown Eastside 10-block urban wasteland, with rundown hotels and pawn shops, stained and fractured sidewalks, gutters and alleyways littered with garbage, used condoms and hypodermic needles. They call the district Low Track, and it fits. 9 bodies in 15 years not unusual -- Crime statistics for Edmonton seem in line with prostitute deaths in other cities. Pickton, was charged in 1997 with attempted murder and aggravated assault of a prostitute, although for reasons that are unclear, he was never prosecuted. To his neighbors, Robert William Pickton is a hardworking, clean-living sort known for helping out when someone needed a hand. Dave Pickton, runs a construction business lived nearly all his life on the farm with his older brother. Today, his life and business are nearly ruined, Dave, a divorced father of 2 grown children, lives down the road from the farm on a second family property. It was the younger Pickton, who ran the show and protected his "too-trusting" sibling. Dave ran the family businesses and "made the coin" while Willy tinkered with his cars and animals. They have a sister, Linda, who left home as a teenager. Now married and has a family in Vancouver. Dave said Willy's troubles were the result of his trusting, gullible personality. Willy also loved to spin tall tales. "Everyone took advantage of my brother," Dave said. Willy gave away thousands of dollars. That only attracted more hangers-on.

Families of missing BC women want open hearing

Pickton murder trial likely to begin in 2004 -- Judge David Stone said Crown Counsel had applied earlier in the preliminary hearing to seek an additional seven counts against the accused. The charges were in connection to the deaths of Marnie Frey, Tiffany Drew, Sarah de Vries, Cindy Felix, Diana Melnick, Angela Jardine and an unidentified woman. Stone ruled the trial will only proceed on the original 15 murder counts. Outside the courtroom, prosecutor Mike Petrie refused to comment on the extra seven charges. Pickton home demolished -- July 26, 2003, Christine Cellier watched the last building on a former pig farm crumble to the ground. A lone brick chimney is all that remains of the sight where more than a dozen murders allegedly took place, was a painful reminder that Cellier's best friend, Taressa Williams, one of the missing women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, still hasn't been found.

Pickton case spokesman resigns over comments -- Police chief stands by him, but brother of missing woman calls remarks offensive. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, launched an ad campaign that compared the deaths of Canadian women murdered and dismembered to animals killed for meat.

BC Pork Producers, with all pork producers in Canada and the US, are disturbed about issues concerning the Pickton case. The pork industry is disheartened when the story is labeled as the Pickton Pig Farm.

Web auction offers dirt from Pickton pig farm

Slayer of Innocence by Jim Conover A predator pedophile serial killer on the loose for years. More than 16 boys throughout the Midwest, California, Oklahoma and Arizona disappeared and 14 had been murdered. This pedophile predator made the Midwest his killing field from 1972 until 1979 when lawmen caught his track.
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blucher 06-03-2011 02:20 PM

Robert pickton: The vancouver missing women
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Vancouver's Downtown Eastside is the poorest neighborhood in British Columbia--in all of Canada, for that matter. No other slum or ghetto in the country matches the squalor of this 10-block urban wasteland, with its rundown hotels and pawn shops, stained and fractured sidewalks, gutters and alleyways littered with garbage, used condoms and discarded hypodermic needles. Downtown Eastside has another name as well, used commonly by residents and the police who clean up after them. They call the district "Low Track," and it fits.

Missing women poster
Low Track is infamous for its "kiddy stroll," featuring prostitutes as young as 11. Some of those work the streets, while others are secured by their pimps in special trick pads. New prospects arrive in Low Track every day, runaways and adventure-seekers dubbed "twinkies" by those already trapped in The Life. A 1995 survey of Downtown Eastside's working girls revealed that 73 percent of them entered the sex trade as children and the same percent were unwed mothers, averaging three children each. Of those, 90 percent had lost children to the state; fewer than half knew where their children were. More than 80 percent of the Low Track prostitutes were born and raised outside Vancouver. In 1998 they averaged one death per day from drug overdoses, the highest rate in Canadian history.

But there were other dangers on the street, as well. Three years before Expo '86 opened its gates, prostitutes began to vanish from Low Track. By the time police noticed the trend, 14 years later, more than two-dozen had already disappeared without a trace.


Streetwalkers are by nature an elusive breed. Many begin as adolescent runaways and never lose the habit of evasion, changing names and addresses so often that investigators have no realistic hope of tracking a specific prostitute for any length of time. When hookers vanish--as opposed to being slain and left in garbage dumpsters or motel rooms, in canals and vacant lots--no one can say with any certainty if they have disappeared by choice or through foul play.

Too often, no one cares.

No pattern was discernible in the early cases. Rebecca Guno, 23, was last seen alive on June 22, 1983, reported missing three days later. Most of Downtown Eastside's vanished women were not so promptly missed. The next "official" victim, 43-year-old Sherry Rail, would not be reported missing until three years after her January 1984 disappearance. Thirty-three-year-old Elaine Auerbach told friends she was moving to Seattle in March 1986 but she never arrived, reported missing in mid-April. Teressa Ann Williams, a 26-year-old Aboriginal, was last seen alive in July 1988, reported missing in March 1989. Fourteen months elapsed between the August 1989 disappearance of 40-year-old mental patient Ingrid Soet and the report to police on October 1, 1990. The first black victim, Kathleen Wattley, was 39 years old when she vanished in June 1992, reported missing on the 29th of that month.

Guno, Rail, Williams,Soet, Wattley, victims
The unknown predator(s) took a three-year vacation before claiming 47-year-old Catherine Gonzales in March 1995, her disappearance reported to authorities on February 9, 1996. The year's second victim, in April, was 32-year-old Catherine Knight, missing seven months before police received the report on November 11. Dorothy Spence, a 36-year-old Aboriginal, vanished four months after Knight, in August 1995, but her disappearance was reported earlier, on October 30. The year's last victim was 23-year-old Diana Melnick, lost in December, reported missing four days after Christmas.

Gonzales, Knight, Spence, Melnick, victims
Again the hunt was stalled, this time until October 1996, when 24-year-old Tanya Holyk disappeared (reported on November 3). Olivia Williams rated less concern at age 22, her December 1996 disappearance ignored until July 4, 1997.

Holyk, Williams, victims
Stephanie Lane, the youngest victim so far at age 20, was hospitalized for an episode of drug psychosis on March 10, 1997. Released the following day, she was last seen alive at the Patricia Hotel on Hastings Street. Janet Henry survived a near-miss with serial killer Clifford Olson in the 1980s, drugged but spared by Olson for reasons unknown, yet she wound up in Low Track a decade later and met another predator. Henry was reported missing on June 28, 1997, two days after her last contact with relatives.

Lane, Henry, victims
August 1997 was the most lethal month to date, three women lost, although police would not learn of those cases for more than a year. Marnie Frey, age 25, was not reported missing until September 4, 1998. Nineteen days later, on September 23, the first missing-person report was filed on 32-year-old Helen Hallmark. Jacqueline Murdock, 28, was not reported missing until October 3, 1998. Detectives still have no idea exactly when or where the women vanished.

Frey, Hallmark, Murdock, victims
The next official victim, 33-year-old Cindy Beck, dropped out of sight in September 1997, but her disappearance was reported on April 30, 1998, four months before the first of August's missing women. Andrea Borhaven's friends recall that she "never had an address" and "just bounced off the walls." She vanished sometime during 1997, they believe, but no one bothered to inform police until May 18, 1999. Thirty-nine-year-old Kerry Koski was popular, by contrast: she disappeared in January 1998 and was reported missing on the 29th of that month.

Beck, Borhaven, Koski, victims
Four more women would vanish before Vancouver police took an interest in the case. Jacqueline McDonnell, 23, disappeared in mid-January 1998, officially reported missing on February 22, 1999. Inga Hall, age 46 or 47, was last seen alive in February 1993, her disappearance logged with remarkable celerity on March 3. Twenty-nine-year-old Sarah Jane deVries was last seen alive on April 14, 1998, reported missing by friends the same day. She left behind a diary filled with observations on a stunted life, including this: "I think my hate is going to be my destination, my executioner." Sheila Egan, a prostitute since age 15, vanished at 20, in July 1998 (reported on August 5).

McDonnell, Hall, deVries, Egan
As that lethal summer waned, detectives in Vancouver were about to have a nightmare thrust upon them. It continues to the present day, and only time will tell if it will ever be resolved.
Guno-Rail-Williams-Soet, Knight, Spence, Melnick, victims
Holyk, Williams, victims
Lane, Henry, victims
Frey, Hallmark, Murdock, victims
Beck, Borhaven, Koski, victims
McDonnell, Hall, deVries, Egan


The next official victim, 33-year-old Cindy Beck, dropped out of sight in September 1997, but her disappearance was reported on April 30, 1998, four months before the first of August's missing women. Andrea Borhaven's friends recall that she "never had an address" and "just bounced off the walls." She vanished sometime during 1997, they believe, but no one bothered to inform police until May 18, 1999. Thirty-nine-year-old Kerry Koski was popular, by contrast: she disappeared in January 1998 and was reported missing on the 29th of that month.

Beck, Borhaven, Koski, victims
Four more women would vanish before Vancouver police took an interest in the case. Jacqueline McDonnell, 23, disappeared in mid-January 1998, officially reported missing on February 22, 1999. Inga Hall, age 46 or 47, was last seen alive in February 1993, her disappearance logged with remarkable celerity on March 3. Twenty-nine-year-old Sarah Jane deVries was last seen alive on April 14, 1998, reported missing by friends the same day. She left behind a diary filled with observations on a stunted life, including this: "I think my hate is going to be my destination, my executioner." Sheila Egan, a prostitute since age 15, vanished at 20, in July 1998 (reported on August 5).

McDonnell, Hall, deVries, Egan
As that lethal summer waned, detectives in Vancouver were about to have a nightmare thrust upon them. It continues to the present day, and only time will tell if it will ever be resolved.

blucher 06-03-2011 02:30 PM

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Vancouver skyline
Low Track is Vancouver's Skid Row. Its cold heart is the intersection of Main and Hastings, nicknamed "Pain and Wastings" by the denizens who know it best. Low Track is the heart of British Columbia's rock-bottom drug scene, estimates of its junkie population ranging from 5,000 to 10,000 at any given moment. The drugs of choice are heroin and crack cocaine, supplied by motorcycle gangs or Asian cartels that stake out choice blocks for themselves and defend their turf with brute force. Most of Low Track's female addicts support their habits via prostitution, trolling the streets night and day, haunted creatures rendered skeletal by what one Seattle Times reporter has dubbed "the Jenny Crack diet." Safe sex is an illusion in this neighborhood, which boasts the highest HIV infection rate in North America.

Low Track's recent history is a tale of unrelenting failure. Vancouver lured affluent tourists by the hundreds of thousands to Expo '86, but the prospect of easy money brought a corresponding influx of the poor and hopeless, most of them gravitating to Downtown Eastside. Around the same time, competition among drug cartels flooded the district with cheap narcotics, encouraging a new generation of addicts to turn on, tune in and drop out. Surrounding districts passed new laws to purge their streets of prostitutes, driving the women out of Burnaby and North Vancouver, into Downtown Eastside. In 1994, federal cutbacks left welfare recipients short of cash, while mental hospitals disgorged patients onto the streets. By 1997, careless sex and shared needles had taken their toll in Low Track, one-fourth of the neighborhood's residents testing HIV-positive. So far, government needle-exchange programs have failed to stem the plague, despite provision of some 2.8 million needles in Low Track each year.
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The official search for Vancouver's missing women began in September 1998, after an Aboriginal group sent police a list of victims allegedly murdered in Downtown Eastside, with a demand for a thorough investigation. Authorities examined the list and pronounced it flawed--some of the "victims" had died from disease or drug overdoses; others had left Vancouver and were found alive--but Detective Dave Dickson was intrigued by the complaint and launched his own inquiry, drawing up a list of Low Track women who had simply disappeared without a trace. There were enough names on that second list to worry Dickson and inspire his superiors to create an investigative task force.

The four-year search for answers had begun.

Inspector Kim Rossmo, Vancouver Police
Vancouver police began their review with 40 unsolved disappearances of local women, dating back to 1971. The lost came from all walks of life and all parts of Vancouver, but the search for a pattern narrowed the roster to 16 Low Track prostitutes reported missing since 1995. By the time detectives made their first arrest in the case, that list would grow to include 54 women, vanished between 1983 and 2001, with 85 investigators assigned to the case, but in the early stages of the search police were busy trying to decide if they had a serial killer at large in Vancouver.

One who thought so was Inspector Kim Rossmo, creator of a "geographic profiling" technique designed to map unsolved crimes and highlight any pattern or criminal "signature" overlooked by detectives assigned to individual cases. In May 1999 Rossmo reported an unusual concentration of disappearances in Downtown Eastside, but police dismissed the notion in their public statements, insisting that the vanished women might have left Vancouver voluntarily, in search of greener streets. Inspector Gary Greer advised the press, "We're in no way saying there is a serial murderer out there. We're in no way saying that all these people missing are dead. We're not saying any of that." Rossmo, meanwhile, stood by his theory and resigned from the force after receiving a punitive demotion. His subsequent lawsuit against Vancouver P.D. was dismissed.

blucher 06-03-2011 02:34 PM


Internal dissension was not the only problem faced by police in their search for Low Track's missing women. Canada's Violent Crime Linkage System did not track missing persons without some evidence of foul play, and task force investigators were so far empty-handed. In the absence of a corpse or crime scene, even a specific date for most of the disappearances, forensic evidence was nonexistent. Pimps and prostitutes were naturally reluctant to cooperate with the same officers who might throw them in jail. (At one point, detectives identified a man who had serially assaulted five streetwalkers in two months, but none of the victims would file a complaint.) Resources were perpetually limited, despite increasing media attention to the case.

Still, the detectives forged ahead as best they could. In June 1999 they met with relatives of several missing women, seeking information and DNA material for prospective identification of remains. Police and coroners' databases were reviewed throughout Canada and the United States, as were various drug rehabilitation facilities, witness protection programs, hospitals, mental institutions and AIDS hospices. Burial records at Glenhaven Cemetery were examined, going back to 1978. Grim news came from Edmonton, Alberta, where police had logged 12 unsolved prostitute murders between 1986 and 1993. Closer to home, four hookers had been killed and dumped around Agassiz in 1995 and 1996, but none of them were from the Low Track missing list.

The search went on, each new day reminding officers that they were literally clueless, chasing shadows in the dark.
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Dead or Alive?


Four more prostitutes vanished from Downtown Eastside while the task force was compiling data, in the last three months of 1998. Julie Young, age 31, was last seen alive in October, finally reported missing on June 1, 1999. Angela Jardine, a 28-year-old addict with the mental capacity of a 10-year-old child, had been working Low Track's streets for eight years when she vanished in November 1998, her disappearance reported on December 6. Michelle Gurney, age 30, dropped out of sight in December, reported missing three days before Christmas. Twenty-year-old Marcella Creison got out of jail on December 27, 1998, but never returned to the apartment where her mother and boyfriend were preparing a belated Christmas dinner. Police learned of her disappearance on January 11, 1999.

blucher 06-03-2011 02:41 PM

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Not every woman on the missing list was gone forever, though. Between September 1999 and March 2002, five of the lost were found, dead or alive, and thus were deleted from the roster of presumed kidnap victims.

The first to vanish had been Patricia Gay Perkins, 22 years old when she abandoned Low Track and a 1-year-old son in an effort to save her own life. An incredible 18 years elapsed before she was reported missing to police, in 1996. Another three years passed before she saw her name on a published list of Vancouver's missing hookers, on December 15, 1999, and telephoned from Ontario to tell police she was alive, drug-free and living well.

Another survivor, also discovered in December 1999, was 50-year-old Rose Ann Jensen. She had dropped out of sight in October 1991 and was reported missing a short time later, added to the official missing roster when Vancouver's task force organized in 1998. Police found her alive in Toronto while scanning a national health-care database. Vancouver Constable Anne Drennan told reporters that Jensen had left Downtown Eastside "for personal reasons. It doesn't appear she knew she was being looked for."

Relatives of Linda Jean Coombes twice reported her missing, in August 1994 and again in April 1999. Unknown to her family or police, Linda had died of a heroin overdose on February 15, 1994, her body delivered to Vancouver's morgue without identification. Her mother viewed a photo of the "Jane Doe" corpse in 1995 but could not recognize her own child, wasted by narcotics, malnutrition and disease. Identification was finally made in September 1999, via comparison of DNA material submitted by the family, and another name was removed from the official victims list.

A similar solution removed Karen Anne Smith from the roster. Reported missing on April 27, 1999, she had in fact died on February 13, 1999, at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton. The cause of death was listed as heart failure related to hepatitis C. Once again, DNA contributed to the belated identification.

Another Low Track prostitute, 24-year-old Anne Wolsey, was reported missing by her mother on January 1, 1997, though the actual date of her disappearance was anyone's guess. Five years later, in March 2002, Wolsey's father called from Montreal to tell police his daughter was alive and well. Estranged from his ex-wife by a bitter divorce, Wolsey's father--like Anne herself--had been unaware of the police report filed in Vancouver until a suspect's arrest renewed media interest in the case.

Five out of 54 deleted from the list of vanished women, but their slots never remained empty for long. There were always new victims, it seemed, but where had they gone?
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blucher 06-03-2011 02:46 PM

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Police are never entirely without suspects when prostitutes are victimized. In fact, a more common problem is too many suspects, with streetwalkers often unwilling to file charges or testify at trial. So it was in Vancouver, as the task force began logging names and descriptions of potential predators.

One whom the detectives considered was 36-year-old Michael Leopold, arrested in 1996 for assaulting a Low Track streetwalker, beating her and trying to force a rubber ball down her throat. A passerby heard the girl's screams and frightened Leopold away, but he surrendered to police three days later. Granted, he had been in custody since then, held in lieu of bond while he awaited trial, but with disappearances dating back to the mid-1980s, any sadist with a propensity for attacking hookers rated a closer look. Leopold regaled a court-appointed psychiatrist with his fantasies of kidnapping, raping and murdering prostitutes, but he insisted that the 1996 assault had been his only foray into real-life action. Task force investigators ultimately absolved Leopold of any involvement in the disappearances, but he had a rude surprise in store at his trial, in August 2000. Convicted of aggravated assault, Leopold received a 14-year prison sentence, with credit for the four years served before the trial.

Another suspect in the case was 43-year-old Alberta native Barry Thomas Neidermier. Convicted in 1990 of pimping a 14-year-old girl, Neidermier apparently left prison with a grudge against streetwalkers. In 1995 he was jailed again, this time for selling contraband cigarettes from his Vancouver tobacco shop, driven out of business by a heavy fine. In April 2000, Vancouver police charged Neidermier with violent attacks on seven Low Track hookers, the charges against him including assault, kidnapping, sexual assault, robbery, unlawful confinement and administering a noxious substance. None of Neidermier's alleged victims were drawn from the Vancouver missing list, and Constable Anne Drennan told reporters, "It's impossible to say at this point whether or not Neidermier may be related to those cases. Certainly he is a person of interest, and he will continue to be a person of interest."

More frustrating still were the suspects described to police without names or addresses. On August 10, 2001, Vancouver police announced their search for an unidentified rapist who attacked a 38-year-old victim outside her Low Track hotel a week earlier. "During the attack," police spokesmen said, "the man claimed responsibility for sexually assaulting and killing other women in the Downtown Eastside." The victim had escaped by leaping from her rapist's car, and while she offered a description to authorities, the boastful predator remains at large.

And there are countless more, besides. The Downtown Eastside Youth Activities Society maintains a daily "bad date" file, page after page of reports from local prostitutes who have been threatened or injured by nameless "tricks." Their tales run the gamut from verbal abuse to beatings and stabbings, presented as a warning for those who support themselves and their habits on the streets.

All in vain.

blucher 06-03-2011 02:58 PM

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Piggy Palace

[QUOTE]Late in 1998, task force detectives got their best lead yet from 37-year-old Bill Hiscox. Widowed two years earlier, Hiscox had turned to drugs and alcohol after his wife died, rescued from the downhill slide when his foster sister found him a job at P&B Salvage in Surrey, southeast of Vancouver. The proprietors were Robert William "Willie" Pickton and his brother David, of Port Coquitlam. Hiscox's helpful relative was Robert Pickton's "off-and-on" girlfriend in 1997, and Hiscox picked up his paychecks at the brothers' Port Coquitlam pig farm, described by Hiscox as "a creepy-looking place" patrolled by a vicious 600-pound boar. "I never saw a pig like that, who would chase you and bite at you," he told police. "It was running out with the dogs around the property."

Robert William (Willie) Pickton
Hiscox had grown concerned about the Picktons after reading newspaper reports on Vancouver's missing women. Robert Pickton was "a pretty quiet guy, hard to strike up a conversation with, but I don't think he had much use for men." Pickton drove a converted bus with deeply tinted windows, Hiscox told authorities. "It was Willie's pride and joy," he said, "and he wouldn't part with it for anything. Willie used it a lot." The brothers also ran a supposed charity, the Piggy Palace Good Times Society, registered with the Canadian government in 1996 as a non-profit society intended to "organize, co-ordinate, manage and operate special events, functions, dances, shows and exhibitions on behalf of service organizations, sports organizations and other worthy groups." According to Hiscox, the "special events" convened at Piggy Palace--a converted building at the hog farm--were drunken raves that featured "entertainment" by an ever-changing cast of Downtown Eastside prostitutes.

David Francis Pickton
Police were already familiar with the Pickton brothers. David Francis Pickton had been convicted of sexual assault in 1992, fined $1,000 and given 30 days' probation. His victim in that case told police Pickton had attacker her in his trailer, at the pig farm, but she managed to escape when a third party came in and distracted him. Port Coquitlam authorities sought an order to destroy one of David's dogs in April 1998, under the Livestock Protection Act, but the proceedings were later dismissed without explanation. Pickton had also been sued three times for damages, resulting from traffic accidents in 1988 and 1991, settling all three claims out of court.

Soon after Piggy Palace opened, the Pickton brothers and their sister, Linda Louise Wright, found themselves in court again, sued Port Coquitlam officials for allegedly violating city zoning ordinances. According to the complaint, their property was zoned for agricultural use, but they had "altered a large farm building on the land for the purpose of holding dances, concerts and other recreations" that sometimes drew as many as 1,800 persons. Following a New Year's Eve party on December 31, 1998, the Picktons were slapped with an injunction banning future parties, the court order noting that police were henceforth "authorized to arrest and remove any person" attending public events at the farm. The "society" finally lost its nonprofit status in January 2000, for failure to provide mandatory financial statements.

Other charges filed against Robert Pickton were more serious. In March 1997 he was charged with the attempted murder of a drug-addicted prostitute, Wendy Lynn Eistetter, whom he stabbed several times in a wild melee at the pig farm. Eistetter told police that Pickton handcuffed and attacked her on March 23, but that she escaped after disarming him and stabbing him with his own knife. A motorist found Eistetter beside the highway at 1:45 a.m. and took her to the nearest emergency room, while Pickton sought treatment for a single stab wound at Eagle Ridge Hospital. He was released on $2,000 bond, but the charge was later dismissed without explanation in January 1998.
The stabbing had crystallized Bill Hiscox's suspicion about Robert Pickton, whom he called "quite a strange character." Aside from the assault, Hiscox told police, there were "all the girls that are going missing, and all the purses and Ids that are out there in his trailer and stuff." Pickton, Hiscox told detectives, "frequents the downtown area all the time, for girls."

Police recorded Hiscox's statement and a detective accompanied him to the pig farm, afterward vowing "to push the higher-ups, all the way to the top, to investigate." Subsequent press reports indicate that the farm was searched three times, apparently without result. The brothers would remain on file, "persons of interest" to the inquiry, but no surveillance would be mounted on the farm.

Back in Vancouver, meanwhile, the list of missing women grew longer, with no end in sight./QUOTE]

blucher 06-03-2011 03:09 PM

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Hardy, Crawford, Furminger, Papin, Wolfe, Drew, victim

Miner, Mah, victims

Laliberte, Feliks, Irving, victims

Crey, Jones, Johnson, victim

As a new millennium dawned in Vancouver, the task force investigation had expanded to include more than three times the number of missing women initially listed in 1998. Some of the new presumed victims had been missing since the mid-1980s, their disappearance recognized only now, while others continued to vanish from Low Track with the search still in progress. Warnings and surveillance went for nothing, it seemed, as more women dropped out of sight.

Miner, Mah, victims
From the '80s, police now listed presumed kidnap victims Leigh Miner, last seen in December 1984, and Laura Mah, whose date of disappearance was listed simply as "1985." Details were equally lacking for vanished Nancy Clark (1991), Elsie Sebastien (1992), and 17-year-old Angela Arsenault (1994). Detectives had a month for Frances Young--April 1996--but no other details were available concerning the 38-year-old woman's final days.

Police acknowledged the disappearance of three more women in 1997, bringing that lethal year's total to nine, but evidence remained elusive. One of the three, 52-year-old Maria Laliberte, had made her last known appearance in Low Track on New Year's Day, but victims Cindy Feliks and Sherry Irving proved less accommodating, their movements so erratic that police could not pinpoint the season of their disappearances, much less specific dates.

Laliberte, Feliks, Irving, victims
And so it went. Thirty-seven-year-old Ruby Hardy vanished sometime in 1998, but she was not reported missing until March 27, 2002. Wendy Crawford, Jennifer Furminger and Georgina Papin all disappeared in 1999, ignored until police listed their names in March 2000. A month later, on April 25, 2000, detectives acknowledged the February 1999 disappearance of 32-year-old Brenda Wolfe. Tiffany Drew, age 27, vanished on December 31, 1999, but she would not make the list for another two years, reported missing on February 8, 2002.

Hardy, Crawford, Furminger, Papin, Wolfe, Drew, victim
At times it seemed a hopeless cause, but Vancouver police persevered. Slowly, publicity began to make a difference, if only in the speed with which new missing persons were reported. Dawn Crey, 42, was last seen alive on 1 November 2000, reported missing on December 11. Forty-three-year-old Debra Lynn Jones vanished on December 21, 2000, her disappearance logged on Christmas Day. Police stalled unaccountably on listing Patricia Johnson, last seen alive on February 27, 2001, but 34-year-old Yvonne Boen was listed on March 21, 2001, only five days after she vanished. Heather Bottomley, a 24-year-old described in Vancouver police reports as a "violent suicide risk," held the record, reported missing the same day she vanished, on April 17, 2001. Heather Chinnock disappeared that same month, followed by Angela Josebury in June and Sereena Abotsway in July. Thirty-four-year-old Diane Rock vanished on October 19, 2001, reported missing on December 13. Mona Wilson, 26, was last seen alive on November 23, 2001, added to the list a week later.

Crey, Jones, Johnson, victim
Whatever progress detectives had made in tracking disappearances, the killer--if indeed there was a killer--seemed to have grown more brazen, striking at a pace unrivaled since the disappearances began. Police, for their part, could only watch and wait for their faceless quarry to make a mistake that would finally place him within their grasp.

BCboy 06-03-2011 03:10 PM

Thats just a 3 hour drive from me, and was BIG news years ago when it happened.

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