VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
"Am I next?" serial killer victim wrote before vanishing in 1998
BY NEAL HALL, VANCOUVER SUN FEBRUARY 28, 2012
Sarah de Vries holding her son.
VANCOUVER — The Missing Women inquiry heard again Tuesday from Sarah de Vries, one of the victims of serial killer Robert Pickton.
"Am I next?" de Vries wrote in 1995, three years before she disappeared.
"Is he watching me now? Stalking me like a predator and its prey. Waiting, waiting for some perfect spot, time or my stupid mistake. How does one choose a victim? Good question. If I knew that, I would never get snuffed."
The passage from de Vries's journal was read out from the book Missing Sarah, written by her older sister, Maggie de Vries, who teaches creative writing at the University of B.C.
She read another passage written the year before Sarah vanished in April 1998 while working as a street prostitute at the corner of Princess and East Hastings in Vancouver.
"Somebody's going to leave us tonight," Sarah wrote, months before she was killed.
"I don't know who and I don't know why. I feel it, I fear it, it's in the air. It's so just ... well, just there. It makes my flesh tingle from goose bumps and sends my heart through a flash of panic."
Sarah wrote that she felt "cold, emotionless, empty, yet too tough to show that you're cracking inside and starting to cry.
"Deep, deeper and deeper still, way down in the abyss o my heart a spark shows through all the empty, cold darkness."
Maggie de Vries told the inquiry that her sister's writing shows that even though Sarah presented a hard exterior to the world, "inside that shell there is a person in pain."
Sarah took precautions to stay alive, de Vries said, but despite her fears she was killed — likely because she "may have encountered a rapid use of force."
She recalled that police — when Sarah was first reported missing — didn't make Maggie feel that her sister's disappearance was important.
She said she wasn't contacted by police for a week to 10 days after she reported Sarah missing. She would have appreciated more police contact and more updates.
One Vancouver police detective, Lori Shenher, showed warmth, but she was overworked as she investigated the mounting number of missing women cases, de Vries said.
She recalled attending a Vancouver police meeting with families of the missing women in June 1999.
"We were patted on the head and told to go away," she recalled feeling after that meeting.
Maggie de Vries is part of a panel at the inquiry, along with Wayne Leng and sex trade activist Jamie Lee Hamilton. The inquiry, after hearing four months of testimony from experts and many police witnesses, has decided to move to panel discussions to try to find practical recommendations to make to government.
Leng established a website, missingpeople.net, in January 1999. Initially it was a tribute to his friend Sarah, but eventually it was expanded to include all the missing women, he said.
Leng said he also brought the problem to the attention of the TV program America's Most Wanted, which did a show about the women who were then disappearing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
An inquiry report must be submitted by the end of June.
"Our focus is to prevent this from ever occurring again," inquiry commissioner Wally Oppal told the panel Tuesday.
The inquiry recently had 24 lawyers, most of them representing police, but the number had dwindled to less than a dozen by the time the first panel began Monday.
The inquiry is expected to resume the cross-examination today of Don Adam, the former team leader of the joint VPD-RCMP investigation of Pickton, which began in 2001.
Scheduled for next Monday is a panel of three former VPD officers who are now retired: Dave Dickson, a constable who was trusted by sex trade workers; Doug MacKay-Dunn, a former staff-sergeant who is now a North Vancouver District councillor; and Gary Greer, a former deputy chief who was in charge of the policing district that included the Downtown Eastside.
The inquiry is probing why it took so long to catch Pickton, who began killing Vancouver women in the early 1990s. His killing spree ended with his arrest in 2002.
Pickton was convicted of six murders at his first trial in 2007. The Crown decided not to proceed on a second trial for another 20 murder counts after Pickton lost all appeals.
The murder of Sarah de Vries was among the charges stayed for the second trial.
Pickton, now 63, once confided that he killed 49 women.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
Updated: August 21, 2016