VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Motherís pen documents frustration with police
Notes provide a window into the mindset of Vancouver authorities as the list of missing women grew
By JANE ARMSTRONG
VANCOUVER -- Deborah Jardine is a compulsive note taker. The habit began years ago when she was taking her daughter to specialists looking for answers to a baffling string of medical problems.
So when Angela Jardine went missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside in November of 1998, her mother took note of what authorities were doing to find her.
From her home in Sparwood, B.C., Ms. Jardine jotted down the time, date and name of each police officer she spoke to, then transferred her work to a journal.
Eventually, those notes would form the blueprint for a formal complaint against Vancouver police, alleging failure to properly investigate Angela's disappearance. That complaint was rejected in 1999 by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner. Ms. Jardine appealed, but that, too, was dismissed by the same office.
Today, with her daughter named as one of 50 women who may have fallen prey to a serial killer, Ms. Jardine's meticulous records provide a window into the mindset of Vancouver police during the late 1990s when the number of women who vanished began to soar.
"My daughter is gone and no one ever investigated it," Ms. Jardine said in a telephone interview from Sparwood. "It's a real crime."
Liberal MLA Tony Bhullar says Ms. Jardine's accounts show how police misread the warning signs of a possible killer in the Downtown Eastside. They also underscore the need for a public inquiry.
Mr. Bhullar also said that Angela's disappearance, in 1998 when she was 27, occurred around the time that Kim Rossmo, a Vancouver police profiler, wrote a report warning that a serial killer might be stalking prostitutes. The report was never acted upon and Mr. Rossmo's contract was not renewed.
Mr. Bhullar has also launched a complaint with the Police Complaint Commissioner, calling for an inquiry.
The Surrey-Newton MLA said Ms. Jardine's failed attempts to get police to consider foul play was likely experienced by dozens of relatives of other missing women.
"I can't imagine what it must be like to lose a loved one and then realize that nothing is being done about it," Mr. Bhullar said.
Among other things, Ms. Jardine's records show that police did not call her after Angela vanished. It was Ms. Jardine who finally contacted Detective Al Howlett of the missing-persons squad in January of 1999.
By then, two months had passed since Angela was last seen. When Ms. Jardine asked why police didn't notify her, the detective replied that Angela was an adult. Later, he told her he believed Angela may have moved to the United States to start a new life.
At the same time that the missing-persons detective was playing down Angela's disappearance, beat Constable Dave Dixon, who worked the Downtown Eastside, told her that scores of women were vanishing. In January of 1999, Constable Dixon said his East Hastings Street office wall was "plastered" with photos of missing women.
Her notes also show police did not search Angela's hotel room or interview her social worker or friends in the weeks after she disappeared.
"I didn't know what the hell was going on," Ms. Jardine said. "I mean, No. 1, no one seemed to care that Angela was missing. No. 2, the police didn't certainly care because they never notified us. No. 3, I have a constable that worked in the Downtown Eastside telling me it was like a serial killer on the loose taking women."
Vancouver police spokesman Scott Driemel said police would not comment on Ms. Jardine's complaint, saying it is confidential.
Ms. Jardine, like other relatives of missing women, thinks her daughter was ignored because Angela was a drug-addicted prostitute who lived in a rundown hotel on skid row. Today, she believes Angela is dead, likely slain.
She said she was particularly frustrated when police tried to suggest that Angela may have left town to begin a new life. That response told her that police were not serious about investigating her daughter's disappearance.
"Anyone who knew Angela knew she wouldn't be capable of something that complicated."
Angela was mentally handicapped and had the intellect of a 10-year-old. Her mannerisms and reactions were impulsive and childlike, her mother said.
Ms. Jardine said her daughter's life was plagued with debilitating mental and emotional problems.
The Jardines put Angela at age 18 in a home-care centre in Castlegar, B.C. But a year later she ran away and drifted to Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
In February, the joint RCMP-Vancouver police task force on missing women charged Robert William Pickton of suburban Port Coquitlam with two counts of first-degree murder. Since then, police have laid four more murder charges against the 52-year-old pig farmer.
A paper trail
Angela Jardine has been missing since Nov. 20, 1998. Her mother, Deborah,
immediately began recording the steps taken in the effort to find her daughter.
Below is a compilation of her notes from November of 1998 to July of 1999.
Nov. 10: Angela called her mother in Sparwood, B.C. from her caseworker's office. Angela said she got her hair cut and her caseworker, Eileen McQuade, had taken photos and would send them to Ms. Jardine.
Nov. 20: Angela was seen at a day-long conference on drug use and harm prevention in the Downtown Eastside's Oppenheimer Park. She wore a pink dress and high heels. At 4 p.m., she approached Liz Evans, who worked at the Portland Hotel where Angela lived. Angela kissed her goodbye and left. That was the last known sighting of Angela.
Dec. 16: Ms. McQuade called Ms. Jardine and told her Angela hadn't been seen for weeks. Ms. Jardine wrote down Ms. McQuade's exact words. "As a parent, you have a right to know your daughter is missing," she quoted Ms. McQuade as telling her.
Dec. 20: Ms. Jardine called Ms. McQuade a few times before Christmas but she had left for holidays.
Dec. 25: When Angela didn't call or appear at Christmas, the Jardines
feared the worst. Residents in Sparwood began circulating photos of Angela and
the Jardines' church set up a trust fund to pay for posters.
Jan. 19: Constable Dixon returned Ms. Jardine's call. He said he knew Angela and said it was unlike her to disappear. He said Angela was now among several women who had vanished from the Downtown Eastside. He said he believed there were many more. He gave Ms. Jardine the name and number of Detective Al Howlett in missing persons.
Ms. Jardine phoned Detective Howlett. He returned her call the next day. She identified herself and asked why police had never called her about Angela's disappearance. Detective Howlett replied that it was because Angela was an adult. She asked him to fax her a copy of the missing-person poster on Angela. Det. Howlett replied that it was still being made.
February: Ms. Jardine said she made several calls to police, the Portland Hotel where Angela lived and other Downtown Eastside agencies. She said she repeatedly expressed concerns that police weren't looking for Angela.
Feb. 3: Det. Howlett called Ms. Jardine to say there had been sightings of Angela in the neighbourhood and this was delaying the investigation. (It turned out that some people were mistaking Angela for Sereena Abotsway, another neighbourhood woman who some said resembled Angela. Ms. Jardine disputes the resemblance. Eventually, Ms. Abotsway vanished as well. She is now one of six women Robert Pickton is accused of killing.)
Ms. Jardine called Crime Stoppers three times. On the first two occasions. she was told that Angela was not in a data bank of missing persons. On the third try, Ms. Jardine spoke to an officer who had once lived in Sparwood and knew Angela. He located her file and entered Angela's name in the data bank.
Feb. 15: Ms. Jardine called Mark Townsend, who managed the Portland Hotel where Angela lived. Mr. Townsend said police had not searched her room. Ms. Jardine cited this fact in her police complaint, alleging it showed police didn't properly investigate Angela's disappearance. In its response to Ms. Jardine, the Police Complaint Commissioner's office explained this was because "the Portland Hotel staff had been through the room and did not find anything amiss." Ms. Jardine argued that hotel staff aren't trained to look for missing persons.
July 28: Ms. Jardine filed a complaint to the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner, alleging the Vancouver Police Department neglected its duty by failing to investigate her daughter's disappearance.
Updated: August 21, 2016