VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Daughter phoned daily for 13 years
Suzanne Fournier, Keith Fraser and Salim Jiwa
Tuesday, February 26, 2002
Sereena Abotsway, a suspected victim of accused killer Robert "Willie" Pickton, never made it home to celebrate her birthday with the woman whom she had called mom from the age of four.
As Pickton -- the Port Coquitlam pig farmer accused of the first-degree murders of Abotsway and Mona Wilson -- made his first fleeting court appearance yesterday, Abotsway's foster mother Anna Draayers said she had no clue for months why the daughter who used to call every day never made it to celebrate her 30th birthday on Aug. 20, 2001.
"She was our girl, and we loved her a lot. She phoned daily for 13 years since she left our home at age 17," Draayers said.
"She had come home in July and she agreed to come home and celebrate her 30th birthday on Aug. 20 but she never showed up."
Anna and Bert Draayers -- who were involved in a highly public battle with the Ministry of Children and Families more than a year ago over the removal of children in their care -- said they suspected something terrible had happened to Abotsway.
On Friday, police called on the Draayers' Surrey home to tell them they had evidence Abotsway was dead.
Draayers said Sereena came to her home as a troubled four-year-old.
"She was sweet and bubbly but she was very disturbed. She gave her teachers a headache and we tried to teach her at home but there was not much you could do. At that time we did not have a name for the condition but it is now known as fetal alcohol syndrome," she added.
Amid heavy security, the charge sheet against Pickton, 52, was read out yesterday in Port Coquitlam provincial court. He was accused of slaying Abotsway "between the 18th day of July, 2001 and the 5th day of February, 2002, at or near Port Coquitlam," and Mona Wilson, 26, between Dec. 1, 2001 and Feb. 5, 2002.
Abotsway was the 48th of 50 women to disappear from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, since 1983. Mona Wilson was the last to vanish.
Pickton, one of three owners of the pig farm that has been the focus of an intense police search, shuffled into the courtroom, looking dazed. He was wearing a grey hooded sweatshirt and overalls, his straggly beard and shoulder-length blond hair unkempt.
Pickton didn't glance at the gallery, filled with reporters and a few of the missing women's friends and relatives who had endured hour-long lineups and an intensive search.
Steve Rix, Mona Wilson's common-law husband, was angry he couldn't get in, although he said sheriffs still took from him the metal squeegee he said he needed to make a living when not working as a longshoreman.
"I wanted to look at this guy [Pickton] in the face but I don't know what I would have done in there," said Rix.
"Mona was an extremely intelligent girl, and very good-looking -- people were always telling me, 'Keep a good grip on her.'"
Rix, shaking from either the chill or the hordes of microphones in his face, recalled the last night he saw Wilson.
"I hated her hooking, but she was so addicted to that life and those drugs that she'd insist, so I'd say 'I'll go too and spot for you.'"
Last Nov. 23, as the couple left the Astoria Hotel on East Hastings Street, they were accosted by two men "who drove up flashing fifties and beer at her," said Rix. "I had a gut feeling that this was bad, and I said, 'Mona don't go.' I tried to stop her but then one of the guys jumped out and came after me with a stick. She jumped in the car, they honked the horn and took off.
"I never saw her again, and we had a deal that if she was going to be away for more than a night, she'd tell me or else she'd call."
Outside court, Pickton's lawyer Peter Ritchie said his client will be applying for bail "in due course" but couldn't say whether he would seek a release from custody before his next court appearance on the charges April 2.
Ritchie said his client was "completely shocked" when he was picked up by police.
"Our client hasn't been told very much about this case against him yet," said Ritchie. "We'll find that out in due course."
A spokesman for the Crown would not explain the wide latitude in the timing of the two alleged murders.
"You'd be asking me to get into the evidence of the Crown, and I'm not going to do that," said Geoff Gaul. "Anything dealing with the facts of the case, or any potential evidence that might be coming out of the trial or the preliminary hearing, it's not appropriate for me to be getting into."
Pickton is due back in court Thursday on weapons charges.
© Copyright 2002 The Province
Sereena Abotsway's interview with the
Updated: August 21, 2016