VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
600 suspects in missing women case
Families encouraged after meeting with investigators
Monday, October 15, 2001
R.C.M.P. and Vancouver police officers investigating the disappearance of women from the Downtown Eastside have a list of more than 600 potential suspects.
Sergeant Wayne Clary said each suspect represents a potential lead that will have to be followed up by investigators on a case that has become a mammoth undertaking for police.
He also said the joint team of police is still considering adding more names to the list of the missing women who were involved in drugs and the sex trade.
The Vancouver Sun reported last month that the number of missing women linked to the case could reach 45.
Investigators have yet to uncover any evidence that would prove that a serial killer is at work, Clary said.
"I would say it has to be a possibility. But we don't want to limit our focus."
He made the comments Sunday at the Delta Vancouver Airport Hotel in Richmond, where police held a four-hour meeting with relatives of the missing women. Family members who attended said that about 50 relatives and 10 police officers took part.
Reporters were barred from the meeting, but relatives said later that investigators introduced themselves and briefed the families on the work accomplished to date.
Ernie Crey, whose sister Dawn Crey is among the missing, said later that he was encouraged by what he heard.
"Where I was concerned was: First, is this a serious investigation? Are the two police forces working together? And are these folks really going to do a good investigation?
"And I left reassured, for now, that that seems to be the case, that it's going to happen, that they're going to do a good job."
Crey said he was impressed by the experience of the investigators on team, and by the patience they displayed in the face of anger and frustration expressed by family members.
"I think the job of the politicians in the province. . . is to lend as much support as they can to both the families and, of course, to this investigative team so that they can do a good job -- that they have the resources that are required to do it," Crey said.
A series of Sun stories last month found the original investigation by Vancouver city police was hampered by a lack of resources, inexperience and infighting among detectives.
The investigation eventually stalled, and Vancouver police joined forces with the RCMP earlier this year to review the missing files, as well as all murders, attempted murders and assaults of women in the sex trade across the province.
A team of 16 investigators is currently working on the case.
Maggie deVries, whose sister Sarah deVries is among the missing, also left the meeting Sunday feeling more positive.
"I believed them that they are going to do everything they can to find the person or persons responsible for the murders of the missing women and to find out what happened to the women and where their bodies are," she said.
"It's encouraging that they are, truly, all of them working full time on this case only. And that was never the case before. It was all bits and pieces. They made it look like it was a whole bunch of them."
But deVries said she was also discouraged by the amount of time that has passed since her sister went missing in 1998 and by the overwhelming task now facing police.
She said police are evidently look at a large number of potential suspects. "They bandied around different numbers, but they were all huge. They were all far too big to have very much meaning.
"It's horrifying to think that there could be that many men out there that they [police] could think could do such a thing. It just shows how many horrible, dangerous people there are wandering around the streets."
DeVries said the case seems so difficult that "it's hard for me to imagine that they would actually find out what happened. But, hopefully, I'm wrong."
DeVries said a lot of the questions from relatives at the meeting focused on what police are doing to identify new missing women cases more quickly and to keep other women safe.
"I can't really speak for [the police], but I think they may have been a little surprised that so much of our focus -- even though our loved ones are already gone -- is not on finding out what happened to them, but is on what are you doing to stop the horrors that happened to us and our loved ones from happening to other Downtown Eastside women and their families."
DeVries also said that much of the relatives' anger was directed at Vancouver city police for its original investigation, but the new team was unable to respond to much of that criticism.
"They had to take a lot of anger," deVries said. "They did a pretty good job of just standing up there and taking it.
"They didn't get defensive or anything, because they just can't expect people to be willing to go, 'Okay, let's just forget about all that and we'll start fresh now.'"
She also said the investigators seemed prepared to share and be more open about the case, and were not simply attempting to placate the families.
"I was afraid that it was going to feel today like being patted on the head. . . but I didn't really feel that," she said.
Clary said police plan to meet with the families on a regular basis.
"In any investigation of a serious nature like this, there needs to be contact with the families," he said.
© Copyright 2001 Vancouver Sun
How the investigation was flawed-Sept 22, 2001
Updated: August 21, 2016