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Investigation continues as hearing gets going for accused serial killer

DENE MOORE
Canadian Press

Saturday, December 21, 2002

VANCOUVER (CP) - In one of the many journals she left behind, Sarah deVries said she thought she had a guardian angel. She was a drug-addicted prostitute - poor, estranged from her two children. But she was alive.

CREDIT: (CP/HO)
Sarah deVries is show in this undated police handout photo. In one of the many journals she left behind in the squalid Downtown Eastside apartment in Vancouver she called home, deVries said she thought she had a guardian angel. (CP/HO)

I've been dead at least six times over in my heart. I know, nobody can tell me otherwise, that I should legally be six feet under pushing up the daisies, she wrote.

I truly believe that I have a guardian angel watching my every move.

Not long after, deVries would become one of more than 60 women who have disappeared since 1978 from the approximately eight city blocks that make up the Downtown Eastside. Thirty-seven of them went missing in a five-year span from the beginning of 1997 to November 2001.

Now Robert William Pickton stands accused of murdering 15 of those women and police are continuing to search his suburban farm.

DeVries's family has been told that her DNA has been found at the farm, although no charges have been laid in her death.

Although Pickton's preliminary trial is just getting underway and trial is some time off, it is nearing the end of what has been a long and frustrating ordeal for family members.

n the coming months some family members will sit in a courtroom in the Vancouver suburb of Port Coquitlam and hear the Crown lay out its allegations against Pickton.

Maggie deVries said she will attend a couple of times, but doesn't plan to follow the case through the courts.

I'm not really prepared for it, said Sarah's sister.

I don't want to know a lot of details. I don't think that it would help me to know those kinds of things, she said.

Sarah deVries was last seen on the corner of Princess and East Hastings streets early the morning of April 14, 1998.

Her friend Sylvia was on the corner a block away.

Sylvia got into a car and drove around the block. When she and her date couldn't come to an agreement, she got out and noticed deVries was gone.

The petite 28-year-old is missing person case No. 98-88486 in the Vancouver Police Department, 39th on the list of missing women.

After she disappeared, her sister channelled her fear into trying to find Sarah, then trying to get police to make an effort to find her.

Now she is part of the Missing Women's Legacy Society that is trying to raise funds for a residential women's treatment centre.

And she is writing a book about her sister's life that incorporates some of Sarah's writing.

She wrote a lot, she wrote all the time, she would often write just on napkins or pieces of paper or whatever, Maggie has said.

It was sometimes hard for her to keep a journal in her possession, but she would write on whatever she could get a hold of. It was a compulsion for her.

She once wrote about one particularly brutal attack by a john that forced her to flee into a field naked but for her shoes and small jacket.

She described a terrifying game of cat-and-mouse as he searched for her and later standing naked and beaten in the police station.

They said I got what I deserved and they gave me nothing - no clothes, no bus fare, no help, no sympathy, not that I expected it but still it hurt me and deeply, she wrote.

That kind of attitude allowed an accused serial killer to prey on these women, say some family members.

Many have demanded a public inquiry, saying officials didn't take the disappearances seriously because the women were poor drug addicts.

A few have filed lawsuits alleging police negligence let the killing continue.

After deVries, 24 more women would disappear before police said some of them may have fallen victim to a serial killer.

Since February, the tally of murder charges against the 53-year-old farmer has grown to 15 - all the alleged victims drug-addicted prostitutes.

nvestigators have called it the largest serial killer investigation in Canada.

Chief Jamie Graham has defended the department against what he called scandalous and inaccurate attacks on his officers over the handling of the case.

At the end of the day, I think we'll be able to stand up and be proud of what we did, of what the VPD did.

Graham has appointed a former major crime detective who now heads the planning and research section to conduct a thorough review of what the department did and when. But officials have so far ruled out a public inquiry into the department's handling of the case.

A task force of nearly 100 police, archeologists and other experts continues to search Pickton's farm. They expect to be there for many months to come.

Police labs are burdened by the number of exhibits that still need to be identified, say police.

In the meantime, family members who once postered the Downtown Eastside with photographs, organized vigils and tried to pressure police into action are trying to move on.

This is a terrible time for us, said Val Hughes, whose sister Kerry Koski went missing in January 1999.

We've been used to fighting for something, we've been used to pushing our energies and focusing our attention on getting something done for our women and now that that's been done we're happy and absolutely support the new task force, she said.

But the families are now left with nothing to think about except the Pickton farm and what may have happened there, she said.

Hughes, too, is involved in the Missing Women's Legacy Society, which is trying to raise about $600,000 to open the treatment centre by next spring.

The proceeds of deVries's book will go to the society.

We decided now's the time to go ahead and as our form of therapy, create a legacy for our women that is other than the pig farm, Hughes said.

Hughes won't attend the preliminary hearing that has garnered so much media attention in recent weeks. There are things she just doesn't want to know.

My mind will not let me go to the specifics of (it), she said. I think I would completely break down.

 Copyright  2002 The Canadian Press

Correction in above article: Sarah deVries journals were never lost. She had kept them along with most all of her belongings at my apartment at 600 Drake Street in Vancouver. This incorrect information has happened twice in the last two weeks. I had been assured after the first article that it was corrected only to see that it hadn't. Also the mug shot photo of Sarah in the above article is not current. I had given VPD another photo of Sarah over four years ago  which they have used and is current. Families have tried to get their loved ones mug shot photos removed, sometimes with great difficulty and we still see them surface from old media files - Wayne Leng.

RE: Sarah's Journals:

These entries from the journals of Sarah de Vries are the properly of the de Vries
 family and may not be reproduced without prior written permission

Missing Women's Legacy Society

 

Email: wleng#missingpeople.net 

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

Updated: August 21, 2016