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Two Missing Women Confirmed Dead

Vancouver Sun
Lindsay Kines

Thursday September 23, 1999.

They were among the 31 missing Vancouver women suspected of being victims of a serial killer, but a police probe reveals one died from heart problems and the other from a drug overdose.

Two of Vancouver’s 31 missing women have been confirmed dead, The Vancouver Sun has learned.

One of the women died from hear problems in an Edmonton hospital earlier this year. The other died of a drug overdose in Vancouver in 1994.

Next of kin have been notified.

Media liaison Constable Anne Drennan confirmed late Wednesday that investigators have determined that Karen Anne Smith died in the University of Alberta Hospital on Feb. 13. The cause of death was listed as heart problems related to hepatitis C.

Next of kin in Vancouver were not listed when she was admitted to hospital, and therefore not notified, Drennan said.

"It was as a result of continued checks by the missing persons task force with Alberta social services that her name was located," Drennan said. "Then we had to wait for confirmation from a friend of hers who had identified her at the time of her death. We had to find this person."

Smith was reported missing in April of this year, and listed as last seen in Vancouver in June 1992. She had been living in a series of foster homes and was estranged from her family.

Police now know that she had moved to Edmonton.

In the other case, Drennan said investigators have determined that Linda Jean Coombes died of a heroin overdose in a Commercial Drive bowling alley on Feb. 15, 1994.

There was no identification on Coombes’ body, and no match to a missing persons report, Drennan said.

"We had composites drawn and put them out to the public, and the body was never identified," she said.

Coombes’ mother reported her daughter missing in August 1994, but the report was never linked to the unidentified female body. Coombes’ mother then filed another missing person report again in April of this year.

Drennan said the missing women’s task force has been working closely with the B.C. coroner’s service. But in Coombes’ case, there were no dental records available either for her or the unidentified female body from the bowling alley.

Investigators showed Coombes’ mother a pictures of the dead women, but the mother was unable to confirm that it was her daughter.

However, the mother provided a DNA sample to police earlier this year, and the sample was matched to the dead woman in the bowling alley.

"Obviously, we can now provide closure to two of the families, but it is only two out of 31," Drennan said. "And we recognize that having found two of the women dead, for whatever reason, doesn’t necessarily indicate one way or another the fate of the remaining 29 missing."

The cases date from 1978 and all the women, at one time, were involved in drugs or the sex trade on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The case has become an international story over the past year, and raised fears of a serial killer stalking city streets. A $100,000 reward has been posted for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the unlawful confinement, kidnapping or murder of any or all of the women.

"Every door remains open," Drennan said. "The possibility of foul play, serial killer, multiple killers is still out there. And we’re not closing that door in any way.

"Still, we are going through every record that is available to us in minute detail to see if perhaps there are more on the list that may have met with similar types of deaths."

Drennan noted, however, that there are no other unidentified deceased females that match the description of any missing women.

Karen Ann Smith

Linda Jean Coombes

Murdered Cases Tough Sept 21,1999

Missing women, two taken off list

VANCOUVER (CKNW/AM980) -- Vancouver police have been able to determine the fate of two of 31 women missing from the city's Downtown Eastside. Karen Anne Smith died February 13th in an Edmonton hospital from heart problems related to hepatitis 'C'. Her family was not listed when she was admitted to hospital. She was reported missing in April of this year, and was last seen in Vancouver in 1992. In the other case, investigators have determined Linda Jean Coombes died of a heroin overdose in an East Vancouver bowling alley in 1994. Police say at the time of her death, she carried no identification and there were no matching missing persons reports. Coombes was reported missing in August of that year by her mother. All the missing women have been involved in drugs or the sex trade at one time in Vancouver.

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Updated: August 21, 2016