VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Sarah de Vries' name added to list of B.C. murder victims
Slain Vancouver woman's mother and children are living in Guelph
Thursday, May 26, 2005
GUELPH - Ever since Sarah de Vries vanished seven years ago, her older sister has been repeatedly tossed into a bizarre, uncomfortable mix of emotions with every new step in the case.
Sarah and daughter Jeanie
And a major step was taken in a Vancouver courtroom yesterday when Sarah's name was added to the long list of murder charges facing accused serial killer Robert Pickton.
Pickton, 55, was charged with 12 more counts of first-degree murder yesterday, bringing the total number of charges against him to 27.
Maggie de Vries received a phone call Tuesday afternoon, letting her know her sister's name would be added.
"I'm feeling overwhelmed," the 43-year-old book editor said yesterday from Victoria.
"It's another step forward. But it's also sad because it brings back thoughts about Sarah's death and the manner of how her death might have been and the horror of it. It sends you back into that place."
Pickton, a former pig farmer from Port Coquitlam, was arrested in 2002 in connection with the disappearance of some of more than 60 women, mainly sex-trade workers, from Vancouver's sleazy Downtown Eastside during the 1980s and 1990s.
Sarah de Vries went missing off those streets in April 1998. She was 28. An investigation of Pickton's property uncovered some of her DNA in August 2002.
Maggie de Vries
De Vries' children are being raised in Guelph by her mother, Pat, who chose not to comment yesterday.
"I have nothing more to say about this. (Sarah) has been gone for seven years," she said.
Maggie de Vries said the ordeal has been horrible for the family, magnified by the fact that it has been drawn out for so long.
But she said yesterday was one of the most significant developments in her sister's case.
"For me, it makes the link between Sarah and whatever happened on that property much stronger," she said. "And it makes it all much more real."
Wayne Leng, a close friend of Sarah de Vries who now lives in California, said he just felt "thankful," after hearing of the new charges.
"Because at least now, we know she's accounted for," the 55-year-old said.
"There are so many other families who don't even know."
Today, Leng operates a website dedicated to gathering information on the investigation of all of the women who disappeared from Vancouver's streets.
He said he last saw de Vries when she briefly visited his Vancouver home only hours before she disappeared.
As a child, she was adopted into the de Vries family, who were living in an affluent area of Vancouver, but she started running away as a teenager and eventually resorted to prostitution to support a drug addiction.
By 1998, she was sick of her lifestyle, Leng said.
"She was so tired and she wanted to get out," he said. "She wanted her kids in her life and she wanted her family in her life but had these drugs and they were so hard to shake."
In 2003, Maggie de Vries published Missing Sarah, based on her memories of Sarah and excerpts from her sister's journals. The book was nominated for a Governor-General's Literary Award.
De Vries now helps to operate a book club for women in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and sits on the board of Prostitution Alternatives Counselling and Education, a non-profit outreach group for sex-trade workers.
She said she has been asked many times whether days like yesterday bring any sense of "closure."
"I'm not very keen on that word," she said. "What happened to Sarah is a part of my life. It's a part of who I am and it always will be.
"But at some point, hopefully I won't have to be having these conversations."
What people need to remember is that amidst the sexual and violent elements of the case that get sensationalized by the media, there are real women who lost their lives, de Vries said.
"They were people who were part of this world, not just off somewhere else," she said. "Sarah was a very dynamic, loving, troubled, loyal, angry, kind, talented, creative, beautiful person."
Leng said she also had an infectious laugh and an amazing drive to help those she considered forgotten.
"She had a golden heart," he said. "I just miss her."
© 2005 Guelph Mercury. All rights reserved.
Updated: August 21, 2016