VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
15 lives lived dangerously
Court files describe some of the desperate lives of the 15 women allegedly killed by Robert Pickton: shoplifting, soliciting, track marks, scars, bruises, next of kin: unknown. On Monday, a judge will begin to hear how they died
Saturday, January 11, 2003
VANCOUVER - When the names of the 15 missing women allegedly murdered by Robert "Willy" Pickton are read out in court next week at the start of a preliminary hearing into Canada's worst serial murder case, it will add a new dimension to legal records of a tragedy of staggering proportion.
CREDIT: Jeff Vinnick, National Post
In court archives throughout British Columbia, and especially in the database at 222 Main St., where the main provincial justice complex sits like a besieged bunker in the heart of the Downtown Eastside, there exists a series of files that reveals the desperate nature of the lives of 63 women who vanished from the city's streets over almost two decades.
For 11 months, police have been searching through mounds of dirt at the pig farm where Mr. Pickton lived in Port Coquitlam, trying to find evidence of where those women might have ended up. The joint RCMP-Vancouver Police Department task force has confirmed that DNA has been found at the site from at least 18 of the missing women. Charges have not been laid in relation to three of those findings. Other DNA samples collected at the farm have yet to be identified.
Of the 63 women on the list of missing women, the vast majority of them -- 45 -- have yet to be accounted for.
In the preliminary hearing, which is expected to last four months and will determine if there is enough evidence for a trial, the court will hear details about how 15 of them died. But those files at the justice building give a glimpse of the conditions under which they all lived.
Whatever is said in the preliminary hearing, which starts on Monday, and whatever is proved in the trial that may follow, there can be no doubt that something went tragically wrong on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Long before they vanished, the 63 women had slipped into a dangerous life of drug addiction and prostitution, where they were exposed to repeated violence.
The court records reviewed by the National Post are bureaucratic forms filled out by clerks and by harried police officers on the beat. Despite their legalistic shorthand, they make it clear the women who vanished were leading the most marginal of existences: addicted, alienated from families and without permanent homes. Many of those on the list don't have criminal records, but they worked the same streets, used the same drugs and lived in the same flop houses as those who did.
Some of them were arrested with stolen bank cards, but none of them ever had more than $20 cash. And most didn't have a cent on them when arrested.
They were often bruised, scarred from beatings and their veins were laced with track marks.
Julie Louise Young, No. 33 on the list, vanished in October, 1998. She was 21 at the time. She came from Hope, a small town just over an hour's drive up the Fraser Valley from Vancouver.
Ms. Young's record shows she had been convicted for shoplifting from Safeway, for breach of probation and failure to appear in court. The booking information notes: "110 pounds, brown hair, brown eyes, caucasian. On welfare, tattoo butterfly right ankle."
Andrea Fay Borhaven, age 25 and No. 25 on the list, vanished in 1997. The year before, she'd been arrested for shoplifting at the Army & Navy. There was an outstanding warrant for her arrest when she disappeared. The booking information notes: "Unemployed. Distinguishing features -- tracks right wrist. Tattoo -- unicorn."
Heather Bottomley, No. 45 on the list, vanished in the spring of 2001. The Vancouver Police Department control sheet in her court file cautions: "VIOLENT SUICIDE RISK." She had brown hair and hazel eyes, was 155 centimetres tall and weighed 50 kilograms. She was picked up and strip-searched, apparently after failing to pay for a cab ride. Her effects: ID, condoms, a ring and a lighter. Cash: $.00. The arrest sheet notes: Two bruised eyes from previous injury. She spent one day in jail -- April Fool's Day.
Dawn Teresa Crey, was No. 42 on the list, and at age 43 was one of the oldest of the missing women. Her DNA, say police, has been found at Pickton's pig farm although no charges have been laid in relation to her death.
Her brother, Ernie Crey, a respected native spokesman, has said she never recovered emotionally after, as a young child, she watched her father die of a heart attack. She slipped into a life of drug addiction and prostitution, despite the family's efforts to bring her back.
When she disappeared, according to police observations, she had scars on her right index and middle fingers, she was on welfare and had shoplifted so consistently her court file contains this note: "No go order for all 7-11 stores."
She was last stopped by police in October, 2000 and ordered to appear in court. She disappeared sometime later that year. Like many on the list of missing women, the last record on her file is an outstanding arrest warrant.
Catherine Gonzalez, No. 12 on the list, was 35 when she vanished from the streets of the Downtown Eastside in March, 1995, just a few months before her court date.
Police knew her well. She was arrested for stealing a wallet, for stealing motor oil, for stealing tools, for shoplifting from London Drugs, for using a stolen credit card.
Originally from Timmins, Ont., she had a slim build, blond hair, blue eyes -- and scars on her right forearm, on her cheek, on her back. She was on welfare. In the category designating "Next of kin" she had written "Lynn," then crossed it out, leaving police with no family contact. Her last known effects consisted of a ring, some condoms, shoelaces, an earring and $20 cash.
Angela Rebecca Jardine, also known as Rebecca Crystal Jardine, was No. 34 on the list. She was last seen in November, 1998. She was originally from Sudbury, Ont. Her first arrest dates to 1990, in Castlegar, B.C, where she was charged with uttering a forged document. Later, in Penticton, she was arrested for being unlawfully at large; then in Vancouver for mischief, for failure to appear, for uttering threats. Her record includes nine charges with suspended sentences and probations. One probation order forbade her from carrying a knife, but police noted she had one when she was arrested and an entry states it was "not for the purpose of eating."
She was charged with trafficking heroin after being caught in an April, 1998, drug sweep by Vancouver police. Her booking information notes: "tattoo left shoulder of Northern Star. Left ankle has a burn mark. Cash $.00... Caution: Mentally unstable, violent, contagious. HIV, anxiety, asthmatic. Requires sleeping pills, and inhaler."
In October, 1998, shortly before she vanished, Ms. Jardine signed a "promise to appear" on charges of trafficking heroin. She never made the court date.
Patricia Rose Johnson, No. 44 on the list, lived on Vancouver's streets for five years, had two children, went into rehab, but couldn't kick her heroin addiction before she disappeared in March, 2001.
Police allege her DNA was found at the farm and have charged Mr. Pickton with her murder.
She was arrested numerous times on break and entry charges.
One arrest sheet describes her as having brown hair and green eyes, but another says she has blond hair and blue eyes. This wasn't in dispute: she had a scar over her left eye.
Her last known possessions: a book (title not given), a comb, condoms, water, a spoon, cigarettes, a lighter, belt, watch, rings and a chain. She failed to appear in court.
Kathleen Wattley, No. 9 on the list, was 37 when she went missing in the spring of 1992. A known drug user and sex trade worker, she was arrested that year and charged with soliciting after approaching a police officer on Quebec Street. She was wearing a yellow blouse and black mini skirt.
Her police file notes she was listed as "a missing person" later that year -- and an outstanding warrant for her arrest was cancelled in 1999 after she had been missing for several years.
There are other files. They seem to blur together because of their similarity: shoplifting from Safeway or 7-11; drug possession; soliciting; failing to pay a cab fare; passing forged cheques; breach of probation; scars; bruises; track marks; no fixed address; next of kin: unknown.
And almost all of them repeatedly failed to appear in court.
Often they missed court dates because of their lifestyle. The missing women of the Downtown Eastside were drug users and sex trade workers with more desperate things on their minds. But eventually they failed to show up because something happened to them.
Now some of the missing women -- the ones that have been found -- will have their names read into the court record as the alleged victims of murder.
As for the rest. The police are still looking.
© Copyright 2003 National Post
Correction: Dawn Crey's DNA has not been found at the Pickton Farm.
Updated: August 21, 2016