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Children of Vancouver's missing women want to remember - and move on

Stephanie Levitz
Canadian Press

Sunday, January 14, 2007

VANCOUVER (CP) - Like mothers, like daughters.

Georgina Papin always wanted to help people. Her daughter Kristina Bateman wants to remember that legacy and become a nurse.

Sarah de Vries loved to write and draw. Her daughter Jeanie says English is her favourite class.

Photos of Marnie Frey show deep brown hair. Her daughter Brittney recently dyed hers to match.

Papin, de Vries and Frey were street sisters in the most notorious neighbourhood in Canada - Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Their daughters are now among the elders of a different kind of a family - the generation of children born to the 26 women Robert Pickton stands accused of murdering.

There are about 40 children in all - Papin herself had seven, of which Kristina is the eldest.

Their mothers' stories have come and gone in the public eye since women began disappearing from the Downtown Eastside. And with the trial on six of the murders set to begin Jan. 22, they are surfacing again.

Jeanie de Vries wishes the attention would just go away.

The 16-year-old, who likes singing musical theatre and is a freestyle swimmer, says she's tired of the focus on her mother as a drug-addicted prostitute.

"People like us, whose loved ones, mothers, parents and sisters were murdered . . . they just want to get on with their lives, they don't want media attention," she says from her home in Guelph, Ont., where she is being raised by her grandmother, and Sarah's mother, Pat.

"They just want to live and work around that."

The media attention hasn't always been kind to the children, Pat says, recounting how erroneous reports that Sarah's son Ben was born with HIV had other parents questioning whether he should be allowed to be in school.

Pat de Vries says she sees her daughter Sarah reflected in both her kids: a certain look in Jeanie's eye when she asks a question, 10-year-old Ben's love of his "heelies," shoes with wheels in them like roller skates.

"Sarah was the one woman in the Downtown Eastside who went along on Rollerblades," de Vries says.

Lynn Frey sees her daughter Marnie in her granddaughter Brittney's face.

"She looks just like her mother," Frey says of Brittney. "She walks like her, talks like her, the mannerism are the same."

Now 14, Brittney remembers bits and pieces of her mother, Frey said, though she's not sure how much is actual memory and how much is stories that have been passed down over the years.

"I think looking into her, she is trying to be Marnie," Frey says. "Because she doesn't have Marnie. . .she is going to try and be her."

It's a common response from children who have lost a parent, says Ev Cousins, a grief and loss counsellor with extensive experience working with children. None of her clients are connected to the Pickton case.

"There is always the question what if," Cousins says. "What if mom was here, what if dad was here, what if my life was different? Those questions will always be there."

Cousins says the sense of loss these children feel will be lifelong, despite the fact that many of them may not have even known their mothers that well and don't have many tangible memories of the times they were together.

Most of the children were raised by other family members or put in foster care.

"I don't think there is ever closure, I think there is just different stages of acceptance and reintegrating into life because it is always going to be part of who they are," says Cousins.

"Our losses as well as our gains make us who we are and it is how we react to them that makes a difference in our life."

Dianna Hall, 26, has only a photograph of her mother, Inga Monique Hall, showing a blond woman astride a horse in a field.

She didn't know until she was a teen that her paternal grandmother who was raising her wasn't actually her mother. She was crushed.

To this day, she looks at the photograph wondering who the blond woman really was.

"I reminisce about what could have been, how it should have been," she says. "It feels like a part of me is missing, not knowing her, her side of the family."

Georgina Papin's eldest daughter has been fortunate to know much of her mother's family.

Kristina Bateman was raised by her paternal grandparents in Las Vegas after her mother gave her into their care saying she knew her daughter would have a better life.

In the years after, Papin phoned Bateman on a regular basis and Bateman even made a trip to Mission, B.C. to visit her mother when she was 12.

Bateman has also kept in touch with her aunts and uncles near Edmonton and two of her six siblings.

Papin made sure Bateman was aware of her First Nations heritage and Bateman wants to keep her mother's spirit alive.

"I want to do something that would help people," Bateman says. "My mom loved helping people and I want to be like that."

The start of the trial will bring with it horrific details of what may have happened to their mothers in the final days of their lives.

Jeanie de Vries says she'll get everything she could need to know from her grandmother, and Lynn Frey says she'll act as a censor for Brittney as well.

"I don't want her to hear any of that crap," Frey says, though she is thinking of allowing Brittney to see the justice system in play.

"She's already devastated enough, she doesn't need to hear that, it will just traumatize her more."

Bateman, 22, says she wants to be at the trial and quit her job at the Hard Rock hotel in Las Vegas so she could take the time to travel to Vancouver.

Papin's murder is one of the six on which Pickton is standing trial later this month.

"I want to be there," she says. "I am sure if it was the other way around I'd want her to be there. I want to represent her and be there for her, just showing that I want to know everything 'cause I care."

 The Canadian Press 2007

Long road led to trial of Pickton

 

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Updated: August 21, 2016