VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Book chronicles disappearances in Canada's poorest postal code
Sunday, November 25, 2001
VANCOUVER (CP) - They were there and then they were gone. There are no bodies, no crime scenes, no clues as to what happened to 27 women who have disappeared from the underworld of drug addiction and prostitution in Vancouver's downtown eastside.
So far, answers have eluded police but in his recently released book Bad Date, author Trevor Greene offers some possibilities about not only where they ended up, but how they got there.
Over two years, Greene spent just about every day in the impoverished neighbourhood, eventually earning the trust of prostitutes, police and the families left behind.
He paints a graphic picture of life in the 's most drug-addicted neighbourhood.
"What I was shocked at is the violence that is perpetrated on these women by normal, everyday johns every single day," Greene said in an interview.
"You get guys who go down there not for sex but for violence."
Against this desolate backdrop, the disappearances are not surprising. Some women weren't reported missing for years.
There are 16 RCMP and Vancouver city police investigating the disappearances.
They have reviewed reports of 485 missing women in B.C. and found 18 that fit the same profile.
"We anticipate adding some new names (to the missing list) but we're not at that point yet," said RCMP spokesman Const. Danielle Efford.
The nature of life on the downtown eastside makes residents easy prey.
"They're in and out of rehab, they're in and out of jail," Greene said. "They're going up to somewhere in the Interior, they're going to Winnipeg. . . . They're on the move all the time, they never stop."
In the book, published by ECW Press, Greene ponders what could have happened to these women.
Have some died aboard freighter ships while servicing foreign crews? Did they fall prey to sexual sadists known to police? Have American serial killers crossed the border for their murderous sprees?
"I think a serial killer is knocking them all off," one woman tells Greene, after recounting a beating she suffered at the hands of a violent john.
Of the many prostitutes Greene spoke to, every single one had been beaten up, brutalized or raped.
Sixty B.C. prostitutes have been murdered in the past two decades. Forty cases remain unsolved.
A $100,000 reward for information on each of the women hasn't helped locate them.
Pat deVries, whose daughter Sarah has been missing since April 1998, tells Greene these women didn't choose to live that way.
"She desperately wanted out, but was unable to break free," she says in the book. "Heroin and cocaine owned her. I knew her as a very caring person who was tormented by her life on the eastside."
Sarah deVries' friend, Wayne Leng, hopes the book will keep the women in the public eye.
"There's not a day that doesn't go by that I don't think about Sarah, think about what's happened," he said in an interview.
Leng, who maintains a Web site on the missing women, said he spoke to Greene because he wants people to know the human stories of these women.
"They weren't throw-aways. They were good people."
Greene said he started out believing many of the women had simply escaped the drug scene. He no longer does.
Sandra Gagnon, whose sister Janet Henry was reported missing in June 1997, says she dreams of her sister still.
"I honestly don't think I'll have peace until we find Janet's remains and bring her home," she tells Greene.
Greene is hopeful that will happen.
"Something has to turn up," he said "It's so difficult to vanish. It's so difficult not to be found."
© Copyright 2001 The Canadian Press
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