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Stories of 20 women linked to Pickton untold

 

STEPHANIE LEVITZ

The Canadian Press

 

Published: August 05, 2010 11:01 a.m.

 

The difference between the six women Robert Pickton murdered and the 20 others he was charged with killing isn't their lives.

It's their deaths.

Only trace DNA evidence and personal effects of the 20 women were found on his Port Coquitlam, B.C. farm, while much more was found for the six women he was tried for killing.

The stories of Mona Wilson, Sereena Abotsway, Andrea Joesbury, Georgina Papin, Brenda Wolfe and Marnie Frey came out during Pickton's year-long trial.

But the stories of the remaining 20 could not be introduced at his trial and now that the charges have been stayed, those women remain only a footnote in the infamous history of the case.

In life, all 26 were sisters of the street.

They bounced in and out of the same rooming houses and addiction treatment centres, befriended and fought the same police, shared the same fears about abusive johns and the general danger of life on the Downtown Eastside.

Andrea Borhaven was last seen in 1997. The year before, she'd testified in a sexual assault case that had a man locked up as a dangerous offender, a police source said. She had been determined to leave sex work behind and right before she disappeared, sent all her clothes to her mother.

Heather Chinnock also talked about kicking her addiction to alcohol and drugs, which she'd feed not by prostitution but by shoplifting. She'd steal food and clothes and sell it on the street.

Basic survival for the women also meant trying to take care of themselves, physically and mentally.

Tiffany Drew was known for taking pride in her clothes and hair and Sarah de Vries was fastidious about taking her vitamins and getting exercise on her Rollerblades.

Jacqueline McDonell scrounged donation bins looking for books to read.

De Vries was also one of several women who left children behind.

Inga Hall's daughter Dianna kept among her prized possessions a photograph of a lean smiling women on top of a horse.

Helen Hallmark had given her daughter up for adoption. While Cheslea George knew her mothers' name, it wasn't until police knocked at her door that she learned her mother was dead.

Like several of the women, Hallmark's childhood was filled with abuse, but for others, their rough existence on the street was a complete contrast to carefree youth.

As a teenager, Heather Bottomley used to dress up as as Jake Blues, the raunchy half of the duo that made the Blues Brothers comedic icons in the early 80s.

Jennifer Furminger and her two best childhood friends were so close they were named the Three Musketeers, and Furminger was known for her artistic skill in school.

Angela Jardine once made a gingerbread house and carried it on her lap for an eight-hour bus ride so she could present it to her family.

But blood family was just as important as street family.

Patricia Johnson's optimistic energy was infectious, so much so that she captivated a local Vancouver photographer who included her in a book about the lives of street workers and addicts.

He kept a message she left on his answering machine for years.

Cara Ellis, who loved the biker girl image she'd cultivated, became inseparable from a woman named Maggy Gisle.

The duo shared a room and a drug addiction, selling sex to feed their habit. But they also had a promise _ the first one who managed to break the bonds of addiction would return to look for the other.

When Gisle returned from rehab, she found Ellis cowering in an alcove, her once well-kept wardrobe in tatters and sores on her face.

That was 1997 and Ellis was never seen again.

Christmas of that same year was the last time Kerry Koski's family saw her alive. In January of 1998, her sister went looking for her at the hotel she called home, but couldn't find her.

The mother-of-three was reported missing that month.

For other families, long stretches went by without contact.

When Cindy Feliks' family didn't hear from her for a while in 1997, they just figured she'd turn up like she usually did, whether it was in jail, rehab or at her family's doorstep looking for a break.

Cathy Hall didn't realize her sister Tanya Holyk was missing until she saw a poster on a telephone pole in 1996.

The two had last spoken in 1995 when Holyk asked if she could come home and also revealed she had a son.

But both Holyk's mother and Felik's sister, like so many other family members of missing women, had gone to police.

Their concerns were brushed aside, with police saying the fact the women were prostitutes meant they could have simply moved on.

The label irritated family members.

Wendy Crawford's sister wrote a scathing letter to a local paper in 2004, saying Crawford was a mother and friend, desperate to make ends meet for her two children.

The family of Debra Lynne Jones insisted as well that she wasn't working a prostitute, but "was a poor woman who had nowhere else to live but downtown so her medicine could be given to her."

Dianne Rock did hold down a solid job for a time, working as a community support worker in Abbotsford, B.C with mentally challenged adults. In 2001, she enrolled in college to upgrade her skills.

No one suspected her addiction and when she left work that spring, it was the last her co-workers heard of her.

Friends too are left with unanswered questions.

When Pickton was charged with Sherry Irving's death, the Comox Valley Record quoted a friend of hers saying she nearly fell off her seat when she saw the picture on the news.

"That mug shot of a tired-looking young woman who had obviously had a hard time completely shocked me because that was Sherry...my friend from long ago. Once vibrant and beautiful. Still beautiful.''

While many of the women were known in the Downtown Eastside, at the time the trial started, some were enigmas, like Diana Melnick. There was little public information about her except her police record.

Today, there's a Facebook group in her memory, with 34 members who've posted pictures of a girl with an impish grin and talked about memories of swimming and sharing black licorice.

In a post a few months ago, one member of the group writes she is puzzled why there wasn't more information about Melnick in the public realm. She was last seen in 1995.

Before she disappeared in 1998, de Vries asked the same question about all the missing women.

"If she were some square john's little girl, (crap) would hit the goddamn fan," she wrote in her journal.

"Front page news for weeks, people protesting in the streets.... While the happy hooker just starts to decay, like she didn't matter, expendable, dishonourable.

"It's a shame that society is that unfeeling. She was some woman's little girl, gone astray, lost from the right path. She was a person."


http://www.metronews.ca/calgary/canada/article/595683--stories-of-20-women-linked-to-pickton-untold

 

 

 

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Updated: August 21, 2016