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Sarah’s street diaries

Lorraine Passchier
CTV News staff

The dialogue began when Sarah de Vries opened one of her journals. Still beautiful, still able to smile, she survived on the streets for more than a decade and the words flowed with ease.

Sarah addresses specific audiences in her journals.

Sarah had a story to tell and she wanted others to listen. Her canvas was any available piece of paper. She transcribed her thoughts regularly, up until the time she vanished from a street corner in 1998. Sarah came of age on Vancouver's lower eastside and her life was shadowed by addiction and violence.

She never made it off the streets. But the interior of her world, in part, is being preserved by her sister Maggie de Vries, who is writing a book about her life. Missing Sarah covers the many entries she made in her journals during the latter stage of her life. Maggie says her sister produced a substantial body of work.

"She wrote a lot, she wrote all the time, she would often write just on napkins or pieces of paper or whatever. It was sometimes hard for her to keep a journal in her possession, but she would write on whatever she could get a hold of. It was a compulsion for her," Maggie says.

Sarah’s Poem

      Woman's body found beaten beyond recognition
      You sip your coffee
      Taking a drag of your smoke
      Turning the page
      Taking a bite of your toast
      Just another day
      Just another death
      Just one more thing you so easily forget
      You and your soft, sheltered life
      Just go on and on
      For nobody special from your world is gone
      Just another day
      Just another death
      Just another Hastings Street whore
      Sentenced to death
      The judge's gavel already fallen
      Sentence already passed
      But you
      You just sip your coffee
      Washing down your toast.

      She was a broken down angel
      A child lost with no place
      A human being in disguise
      She touched my life
      She was somebody
      She was no whore
      She was somebody special
      Who just lost her way
      She was somebody fighting for life

      Trying to survive
      A lonely lost child who died
      In the night, all alone, scared
      Gasping for air.

by Sarah de Vries

Maggie says her sister was tough, but adds she was also a woman who lived with an understandable amount of fear. She says Sarah was beaten regularly by johns and a long-term boyfriend. The injuries were many and included broken bones as well as frequent visits to the hospital.

"She describes twice in her journals situations where she was in terrible danger, where in both cases she could have ended up dead. In one case, at least the person intended to kill her and I would imagine that those weren't the only times," Maggie says.

Diaries address the reader

The journals are striking in the way they are structured. Maggie says unlike most diaries, Sarah addresses a specific audience as she writes. At one point, Maggie says she's talking to the general public about how sex trade workers are perceived and asks to be regarded with a sense of humanity.

Sarah's gaze was direct, and emotion flashed through her eyes every time she looked into a camera. She appears intent on engaging the other side. She once participated in a television documentary and said there are only three ways off the street: "You go to jail, you end up dead, or you do a life sentence."

Sarah was the youngest of four children.

Maggie says it was difficult to understand the world Sarah had gravitated towards and to watch her struggle. Eight years older, Maggie was away at university when Sarah began running away. She recalls phone calls back home as her parents searched for ways to take their youngest child off the streets.

Sarah was raised by adoptive parents in the Vancouver suburb of West Point Grey, which is recognized as one the wealthiest neighbourhoods in the city. Only Sarah could say what she was seeking when she began running away at age 14.

By the time she turned 20, she was living in the grips of addiction and an abusive relationship. She was also pregnant. The deVries family found out about the pregnancy when a downtown hospital phoned to say Sarah had gone into labour. All of their lives were about to take a dramatic shift.

Maggie, who had returned to Vancouver to work on a graduate degree, received the call at her mother's home. Pat de Vries, a nurse by profession, went to the hospital and assisted Sarah through her labour. In the days that followed, she bonded with the baby girl and visited her daily during her extended hospital stay.

Sarah delivered a son six years later, and both of her children now live with their grandmother in Ontario. Sarah's friend Wayne Leng says that she was talking about getting closer to her children at the time she disappeared. At 28, she was trying to find an exit from street life but her earlier words proved prophetic.

Sarah never found an escape route. Maggie reported her sister missing within days of her disappearance in April 1998. Like many other of the missing women, Sarah had developed a network of friends in her neighbourhood and kept in regular touch with her family. Her absence was noticed almost immediately.

Shortly after she disappeared, Wayne and Maggie found themselves distributing posters of Sarah on the lower eastside. Wayne started a website for the missing women and Maggie spent hours reading through Sarah's journals, and becoming familiar with the people and places that inhabited her world.

"We talked to people in all the hotels, bars, corner stores, and service organizations and it was really quite wonderful because many of them remembered Sarah and they were all concerned and caring people. I realized that for all the difficulty and hardness in people's lives there is a sense of community there," Maggie says.

The case opens wide

Maggie spent the next year becoming involved in a series of activities including planning a memorial for the missing women and pressuring the police to take more action. Maggie said she eventually paused to focus on the grieving process and remembering Sarah as she was. More anguish arrived early in 2002.

"In February a whole new process started again out in Port Coquitlam with the search. In late February, another process started with the first murder charges and in August another whole new process started again when they said they had found Sarah's DNA out on the property. So you keep starting over," Maggie says.

Sarah was known for her sense of humour.

She says the search of the Pickton property brought some gratification. She could see some progress in the investigation. At the same time, the media frenzy left her feeling uneasy, especially since the coverage focused on the more sensational aspects of the story rather than the human aspect.

When Maggie was told that Sarah's DNA had been found at the Pickton farm over the summer, she experienced a mix of emotions. Maggie says she wasn't holding out hope that her sister would be found alive and at one level was relieved the wait was over. Still, the news came as a shock.

"I knew what they were going to tell me. I didn't know how much they would tell me. Yes, it was shocking in that it makes more real that Sarah is dead and that she was murdered. It wasn't shocking in that we had every reason to expect that we may get that call," Maggie says.

A murder charge has not been laid in connection with the discovery of Sarah's DNA. Several other families have also been told that the DNA of their loved ones have been found at the Pickton property without charges being laid.

The last time Maggie saw Sarah was over breakfast on Christmas morning in 1997. Due to Sarah's heavy addiction, she could never venture very far away from her neighbourhood or for very long. Maggie was grateful that one of Sarah's friends helped out.

Maggie says she grew closer to Sarah during her final years as her sister's health began to deteriorate and she took her to medical appointments. Like many of the women on the downtown eastside, Sarah was HIV positive and had hepatitis C.

"I saw her, I told her that I loved her, she knew that I was ready to support her in whatever ways she needed," Maggie says.

Today, Maggie is active in a number of projects aimed at supporting the women in Sarah's community, including the Missing Women's Legacy Society. Their goal is to open a rehabilitation house in Maple Ridge, located about 45 minutes away from Vancouver, for women locked in the cycle of addiction and the sex trade.

Was there only one killer?

Lorraine Passchier
CTV News Staff

A single person stands at the epicentre of Canada's largest serial murder investigation. Still, it has yet to be determined whether Robert William Pickton is the only person that will be charged in a case that has riveted the nation.

Pickton faces 15 first-degree murder charges.

Pickton faces 15 first-degree murder charges in connection with B.C.'s missing women case. Not everyone is convinced the accused serial killer acted alone or that one person could be behind all the disappearances. Canada's most prolific serial killer, Clifford Olson, claimed 11 victims.

Pickton recently appeared in a B.C. provincial court where he calmly sat behind bullet-proof glass with his hands folded in his lap. For some family members it was their first glimpse of the accused, who was clean-shaven and neatly dressed.

But while Pickton's appearance is unremarkable, even ordinary, his presence stirs strong emotions. Family members of the murdered women are struggling to come to grips with the violent way their mothers, sisters and daughters died.

Questions about the fate of the other missing women linger as families await possible word that DNA from yet another victim has been found at the farm. So far, 63 names stretching back more than two decades have been officially added to the case.

The search for answers has been long. Yet, until investigators started combing two Pickton properties in Port Coquitlam, there were few clues to indicate what may have happened to the dozens of women that seemingly disappeared without a trace from Vancouver's downtown eastside.

The number of disappearances began to spike sharply in the mid-90s after averaging about one per year. At least 21 women went missing in 1997 and 1998 alone. By the time 2001 came to a close, at least 37 women had disappeared from the area over a five-year period.

SFU criminologist Neil Boyd says it's one aspect of the case that is often overlooked. Boyd believes the women who disappeared prior to the mid-90s likely fell victim to the violent world of the sex trade. Many of the missing women were drug addicted and supported their habits by working a high-risk stroll.

Lawyer Peter Ritchie recently reached a funding agreement with the province.

A study of street-level sex trade workers on Vancouver's eastside shows the women are subjected to violence and threats on almost a daily basis. Boyd says an alarming number of "tricks" end in violence and rejects suggestions that one person is behind all the disappearances. There are other aspects of the case that Boyd also questions.

He says that Pickton does not fit the typical mould of a serial killer and believes he may have operated with another person. When asked whether Pickton could have been following someone else's lead Boyd said: "It's possible."

Steve Egger also says it's highly unlikely one person was behind all the disappearances and killings in the missing women case. He is a former homicide detective who teaches criminology for the University of Houston at Clear Lake.

"It's very possible you had an individual killing by himself and then he teamed up with someone -- that would have been the reason for the increase," Egger says in reference to the spike that appears in the 90s.

Canada's most notorious serial killers, Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka raped and killed two schoolgirls after choosing her younger sister as their first victim. Depending on the source, between 17 and 25 per cent of serial killings are committed by serial teams.

"Team killers are not rare and in almost all the cases that I know of you have one controlling figure and then you have a figure that is a follower," Egger says.

Police have said they've looked at hundreds of suspects in the case. Earlier this year, Pickton's lawyer Peter Ritchie asked to see a list of police suspects during a court appearance. His office says he can't comment on whether any documentation has been forwarded since he made the request back in April.

Edge of a city

A publication ban means that few details of Pickton's preliminary hearing will enter the public domain as court proceedings unfold. Glimpses inside Pickton's personal life reveals a man who travelled in a sphere that encompassed sex trade workers and bikers.

Many of the missing women lived in a string of hotels that dot Hastings Street.

Members of the Hells Angels partied at a venue dubbed Piggy's Palace that the Pickton brothers opened in rural Port Coquitlam. Politicians and locals were also known to attend events held inside the hall on Burns Road, located minutes away from the pig farm and near a manicured golf course.

A similar combination of elements intersects on Vancouver's downtown eastside. The area is known as an open shooting gallery that sits within eyeshot of the downtown core and the mainstream. A Vancouver police station borders "Low Track," the stroll where many of the missing women solicited customers.

A powerful chapter of the Hells Angels also have a stake in the area. One high-ranking member of the East End chapter had an interest in the No. 5 Orange strip club and Starnet, an Internet gambling and pornography company that was busted in the late 90s.

Starnet was located near the heart of the downtown eastside on Carrall Street. The company streamed live sex shows online from No. 5 Orange and was also known to distribute pornography depicting sadomasochistic scenes.

"Anything can happen down here. It's openly okay to sell down drugs here, it's openly okay to solicit prostitution, it's openly okay to break into anybody's vehicle, it's just like a war zone. The police are all over the place but they don't do anything," Steven Arsenault says.

Arsenault moved into an upscale loft near Main and Hastings which serves as the nerve centre for the area. A familiar Vancouver landmark, Carnegie Centre, is positioned on the corner of the busy intersection where locals mingle and drug transactions go down.

Some of the missing women lived in a hotel next door to Carnegie Centre called the Roosevelt. Dawn Crey and Andrea Joesbury were two of those women and they once socialized with Dinah Taylor -- a woman who moved out of the hotel to live with Pickton.

A series of reports suggest Taylor invited women from the eastside out to the farm after she moved out. Crey was reported missing in November 2000 following a lull in the disappearances. Joesbury disappeared in June 2001 and Pickton has been charged with her murder.

Dawn's brother Ernie Crey says he will be attending Pickton's preliminary hearing even though it will likely mean hearing some grisly details.

"I'm prepared to do that because of the memory of these women and also because I expect that some time in the near future the police will have information for me and my family about the disappearance of my sister," Crey told the Canadian Press.

The number of murder charges against Pickton has grown in tandem with the investigation as forensic experts carefully sift through the soil at the farm. While Pickton now faces 15 murder counts, family members say the DNA of other women has been found on the Pickton farm.

"On October 3rd, 2002 we were notified by the Missing Women's Task Force that our daughter's DNA was confirmed and found at the Pickton property in Port Coquitlam, B.C.

"The (police) strongly believe our daughter Angela Jardine is a victim. Her case is still an active investigation. We hope pray we will have justice in behalf of Angela," Deborah Jardine says at a website documenting her family's ordeal.

Dark side of the moon

What first drew Pickton to the eastside is unclear. For two decades he delivered pig entrails to a rendering plant located near the stroll where many of the missing women worked. He would also hang out at bars on the lower eastside even though he doesn't drink.

Investigators have collected thousands of DNA samples from two Pickton properties.

Some women from the area say they feared him and refused to go out to the pig farm, which is situated 35 kilometres away from the downtown core. One of the women who did venture out to the farm was Wendy Lynn Eistetter.

Pickton was charged with unlawful confinement and attempted murder after she escaped from the farm with knife wounds in 1997. Eistetter said she was handcuffed and attacked. Pickton said he attacked Eistetter in self-defence. The charges were stayed the next year.

Several women have come to Pickton's defence including Gina Houston who said she believed police were going to arrest her in connection with the case earlier this year. Pickton supporters have described him as a quiet man who often tried to help women working in the sex trade.

The Pickton siblings inherited the pig farm from their parents and sold portions of the land to developers for millions of dollars. But it appears the huge profits were offset by the enormous costs of preparing the swampy land for development.

Pickton's younger brother Dave has described himself as the organizer and the one who took care of their business interests which included a salvage operation. A report in the Vancouver Province said the Pickton brothers invested in a film tax shelter operated by Monarch Entertainment Corp. back in the 90s.

Dave, who is a divorced father of two grown children, was convicted of sexual assault in 1992. Police say he is not considered to be a suspect in the case. The brothers have an older sister who lives in an upscale neighbourhood in Vancouver.

During court proceedings, Ritchie has said that Pickton is a man of limited financial means, citing his stake in the family farm as his primary asset. The lawyer has described his client as an unsophisticated man anxious to get on with the legal proceedings.

Just as police have remained tight-lipped about their investigation, the defence has yet to give any hints about the strategy it will follow. Ritchie has said the complex case covers an enormous volume of evidence in his fight to have funding for Pickton's defence increased. He struck a deal with the government on Nov. 8.

Media reports say police have found purses, IDs, teeth, bone fragments, and blood at the farm. So far, investigators have reportedly collected more than 10,000 specimens from two Pickton properties in addition to thousands of samples of DNA. Family members were warned that investigators only expected to find body fragments when the probe began.

"It has all the hallmarks of a particularly horrible case because of the circumstances under which the women died, because of the methods through which their bodies appeared to be disposed of, because of the extraordinary vulnerability of the victims, and because the motivation for the killings remains unclear," Boyd says.

Murder by Number
Lorraine Passchier

The shades of grey surrounding Vancouver's missing women case finally seemed to be evaporating in the late 90s. Word about a pig farm in Port Coquitlam and a wood chipper had moved beyond the street and into Vancouver police headquarters.

The search at the Pickton farm could exceed $20 million this year.

The man who lived on the farm had already stirred police interest. Robert "Willy" Pickton was charged with unlawful confinement and attempted murder after a woman escaped from the farm with knife wounds in 1997. The charges were stayed the next year. His brother, David, had been convicted of sexual assault in 1992.

Lynn Frey trekked out to the farm after her daughter went missing in 1997 and reported the location to Vancouver city police. Wayne Leng, who operates a website about the missing women, said he told police about the farm in mid-1998 after being contacted by Bill Hiscox.

Hiscox later visited the farm with the lead investigator in the missing women case, Vancouver police detective Lori Shenher. Hiscox, a former Pickton employee, once picked up his paycheques at the farm and became suspicious after being told about a collection of purses and IDs that were kept in a trailer on the property.

The numbers seemed to speak with telling clarity. For more than a decade the disappearances averaged about one per year. The first significant spike appeared in 1995 when four women went missing. A steeper rise followed when 21 women disappeared in 1997 and 1998.

The figures could become more startling. In September, police added nine more women to the list, pushing the overall number from 54 to 63. They say five more names could be added to the case.

But as the disappearances reached a fevered pitch in 1998, the Vancouver Police Department issued a news release saying it did not believe a serial killer was behind the disappearances of women from the eastside.

A bond formed between the families and friends of the missing women. One thing seemed certain, this was a story about women loved and an investigation stalled by blue denial.

As anger mounted in the community, friction was also building within the VPD. The same questions still linger -- why weren't women being warned and what was being done to stop the disappearances?

A Vancouver Province report says the VPD's surveillance squad, Strike Force, watched Pickton for a week in 1997 but uncovered no evidence. The suburban farm is situated in RCMP territory and the report says the VPD turned to the Mounties to continue the investigation.

"It became a pissing contest to see who wouldn't do it," a police source told The Province. In the end it appears no one did. At least 37 women, many drug addicted and working a high-risk stroll called Low Track, disappeared from Vancouver's eastside from 1997 to 2001.

That was back when women such as Brenda Wolfe, Heather Bottomley, Mona Wilson, Sereena Abotsway, Jacquilene McDonell, Dianne Rock, Andrea Joesbury, Georgina Papin, Patricia Johnson, Helen Hallmark, Jennifer Furminger, Heather Chinnock, Sherry Irving and Inga Hall still had time.

Time to escape a violent end at a mucky farm 35 kilometres away from the streets they called home. Today, their names represent 14 of the 15 murder charges police have laid against Pickton.

Until this October, no one assigned to the case would publicly use the words serial murder. But when the murder count had grown to 15, police started calling it the "largest serial killer investigation in Canadian history."

Search for truth

The Pickton siblings inherited the Port Coquitlam farm from their parents several decades ago. Willy Pickton, 52, has an older sister and younger brother. The sister, Linda, was sent away to attend school and shares a distant relationship with her brothers.

Peter Ritchie is the lawyer representing Robert Pickton.

The siblings began to sell off parcels of the farm in 1994, but their profits, which exceed $6 million, were offset by development costs. Pickton, who is a slight man with thinning blond hair and a beard, continued to use the remaining parcel land that has been valued at $3.3 million.

The brothers liked to hang out with bikers and held parties out at the farm in a venue dubbed Piggy's Palace, which featured a dance floor and white-washed walls. Depending on the source, Pickton is described as either being a kind-hearted man or a cold-blooded killer.

His lawyer, Peter Ritchie, says his client is innocent. No charges have been laid against his brother and police say he is not a suspect in the case. A preliminary trial is scheduled to begin in November and the defence is seeking Hiscox as a witness, apparently to show police found no evidence when they went out to the farm in 1998.

Vancouver Police Joint Task Force spokesperson Det. Scott Driemel says Shenher, like all members of the force, is not able to talk about the case. The present investigation is being conducted with extreme care and the task force is staying tight-lipped on all fronts.

While police stand on guard at the floodgates, the past promises to break through with resounding fury. Pickton's trial could echo the O.J. Simpson case where police bungling dominates closing arguments. Two civil lawsuits are waiting in the wings.

Doug Creison alleges negligence on the part of the RCMP as well as the B.C. and federal governments in a lawsuit filed in Victoria. His daughter Marcella was last seen in December 1998.

Karin Joesbury filed a lawsuit in April after Pickton was charged with murdering her daughter Andrea. The suit alleges that the VPD, the RCMP and the cities of Vancouver and Port Coquitlam "allowed the killing to continue" after a possible serial killer had been identified.

Joesbury has also filed a suit against Pickton in B.C. Supreme Court. The suit seeks forfeiture of the Pickton farm for use as a memorial site for the woman he is accused of killing. In a statement of defence, Pickton has denied "each and every allegation of fact" contained in the Joesbury suit.

Pickton is also charged with murdering Mona Wilson. She was last seen on November 23, 2001 and Pickton was charged with her murder less than three months later. Like at least 30 per cent of the women in the case, Wilson was aboriginal.

Wilson's foster brother, Greg Garley, believes the farm was under surveillance at the time of her disappearance. He also believes police would have handled the situation differently if the woman involved came from an upscale neighbourhood.

"If it was a white woman from the British Properties, she wouldn't have gotten four feet onto the property before the SWAT team would have been there. Why did it take this many women to go missing and all these stories before anything got done?" Garley told BC-CTV following a memorial service for Wilson in April.

Advocates for the missing women have said the case would have been given a higher profile if the women were homemakers from Kerrisdale or joggers from trendy Kitsilano. Instead, the missing women came from the city's poorest neighbourhood where minorities are over represented.

Mapping death’s path

Heavy excavation is under way at the Pickton farm as a team of bone experts and technicians sift through soil samples. Still, the massive investigation, which could exceed the $20 million mark this year, extends well beyond the perimeter of the farm and the search for human remains.

"This investigation is about slowly and carefully unravelling a very tangled web of knotted connections, loose affiliations, and conflicting paths," Driemel said after Pickton was charged with a sixth count of murder.

Dozens of investigators have been assigned to the case under the direction of the joint task force. Back in the late 90s, the resource-strapped VPD could only dedicate a couple of full-time detectives to the missing women case. But at least one available resource went untapped during that period.

Former VPD detective inspector Kim Rossmo is well known for a geographic profiling system he created to help track serial killers while he was earning his doctorate at Simon Fraser University. The system has been used in Canada, the United States and Europe to examine a series of cases.

Rossmo says he heard about Pickton from Shenher, who served as the lead investigator on the missing women case for three years. Even though Pickton had become a prime suspect, no one in the department asked him to analyze the file prior to his departure.

Kim Rossmo is well known for a geographic profiling system he created.

He says two pieces of information could have advanced the investigation if geographic profiling had been used. Rossmo notes Pickton had a place to dispose of the bodies while his work regularly took him to a rendering plant on the downtown eastside where he delivered pig entrails.

Rossmo now serves as director of research at the Police Foundation in Washington, D.C. He says one of the most striking aspects of the case is how the number of disappearances rises sharply in the mid-90s.

SFU criminologist Neil Boyd calls the shift "an alarming change in trend." He says it's possible that some of the women who went missing prior to the mid-90s may be linked to the Pickton farm. But he points out that street prostitution is plagued by violence and death.

"There has been a consistent reference to the 50 women and a consistent suggestion, if only implicit, that this one person is responsible for the deaths of all 50 women. I think the best evidence runs contrary to that assumption," Boyd says.

When asked whether he believes Pickton was operating with another person, he replied: "Yes." Rossmo holds a similar viewpoint and wonders if a handful of unsolved 1995 cases in the Fraser Valley may be linked to Pickton.

Still, much could remain unknown. The clock has been ticking on the missing women case for more than two decades. Family members report the DNA of several women was found on the farm over the summer, but police told them there wasn't enough to press charges.

Texas criminologist Steven Egger has identified seven major problems with serial murder investigations. He says police can suffer from "linkage blindness" when they run into issues of jurisdiction. He also says it can take police far too long to acknowledge they're dealing with serial murder.

Chasing the dragon

Vancouver's lower eastside is located just minutes away from city's downtown core and within eyeshot of a harbour that fuels the drug trade. Many of the missing women were heavily addicted to drugs and needed $300 to $400 a day just to hold steady.

Sarah de Vries, a mother of two, was last seen in April 1998.

Opium seduces with haunting ease, wrapping users in a womb-like warmth that filters out pain, fear, and hurt -- at least for a while. Low Track is lined by women searching for the next fleeting surge of euphoria. Anything for the drug, anything to keep from getting sick.

The carnage of addiction can been measured in lost children, discarded dreams and malnourished bodies pockmarked by scars. Even though HIV and hepatitis C are ongoing threats, street life is clocked by the intervals between highs. There is no time off and home is often a hotel room.

The dark side of street life was portrayed in a television documentary where Sarah de Vries appears shooting-up. "When you need your next fix, you're sick, puking, it's like having the flu, a cold, arthritis, all at the same time, only multiplied a hundred times," she tells the camera.

De Vries was approaching 30 when she told Leng she was thinking of leaving street life behind. The weather was lousy, it was getting harder to make a buck, and she wanted to get closer to her children. She thought of becoming involved with a marijuana grow operation.

Before she went missing in April 1998, Leng says deVries pointed to a man standing on the street on the lower eastside that he believes may have been Pickton. De Vries told him she was afraid of the man standing in the dim light and stayed away from him.

De Vries sister, Maggie, recently told Leng that her DNA had been found at the farm. He says she may have been lured out to the Fraser Valley, which has become a hub for the production of 'B.C. Bud,' with the belief she was going to a marijuana grow operation.

Residents on the lower eastside say some of the women ventured out to the farm after being promised drugs and money. A series of reports suggest some of the women were taken to the farm by a woman who once worked in the area.

Dinah Taylor lived with Pickton for an 18-month period until the end of 2001. Before the relationship began, she stayed at the same lower eastside hotel as several of the missing women including Dawn Crey and Andrea Joesbury.

Her move ushered in the end of a cooling period that began after a poster of the missing women was issued in April 1999 along with a $100,000 reward. More attention was brought to the case when it was profiled by America's Most Wanted that summer.

Following the media blitz, the number of missing women dwindled down to three for a 19-month period. But the lull was followed by a steep rise that begins with the disappearance of Crey in November 2000.

At least nine more women went missing over the next year without any kind of public warning. Seven of the 15 murder charges that have been laid against Pickton can be traced to this period.

Egger says serial killers often target the most vulnerable members of society such as sex trade workers. "Society doesn't place a lot of value on the victims, so police don't either," he says.

He likens serial murder to an addiction. Egger says serial killers are frequently playing out their fantasies and continue to target victims when their expectations aren't met. "Generally, they don't stop until they die or they're put in jail," he says.

Timeline

1970s
In September 1978, Lillian Jean O'Dare disappears from Vancouver's eastside. She is the first name to appear on a newly-revised list of 63 missing women. The year after O'Dare disappears, the Pickton siblings inherit their parent's pig farm in Port Coquitlam.

1980s
Robert Pickton begins making trips to the West Coast Reduction plant to deliver pig entrails. The plant is located near a high-risk stroll where many of the missing women worked. The disappearances will average one per year over the next decade.

1991
Advocates for the missing women begin to press for a tougher investigation as the number of disappearances continues to grow. An annual Valentine's remembrance is established.

1995
The number of missing women suddenly begins to rise as four women disappear. The Pickton siblings sell two parcels of land in July for $3.4 million. The first parcel was sold for $1.76 million the year before.

1996
Four women go missing throughout the year. The Pickton brothers establish a non-profit group called the Good Times Society to hold 'fundraisers' at a venue dubbed Piggy's Palace on Burns Road. The parties begin.

1997
Eleven women go missing, three in the month of August alone. Robert Pickton is charged with unlawful confinement and attempted murder after a sex trade worker flees the farm with stab wounds. The charges are later stayed.

1998
Ten women go missing. Suspicions about Pickton and the pig farm are reported to Vancouver city police. That same year, the VPD issues a news release saying it does not believe a serial killer is behind the disappearances of the missing women.

1999
A poster of the missing women along with a $100,000 reward is issued by the city and province. America's Most Wanted covers the case in July. A cooling period follows as the number of missing women dwindles to three for a 19-month period.

2000
The VPD scales back its investigation. Dinah Taylor starts living with Pickton after moving from an eastside hotel. Dawn Crey, who lived in the same hotel, is reported missing towards the end of the year. Another woman is also added to the list.

2001
The number of missing women shoots up to eight for the year without a public warning being issued. The VPD and the RCMP join forces to review the files of the missing women. Sixteen investigators and five support staff are assigned to the case.

2002
Police arrest Robert Pickton on February 22 after executing a search warrant. Over the next several months, he is charged with 11 counts of first-degree murder. Four more charges are added in October, bringing the total to 15.

Links

Missing Women Links

Vancouver Police Department

Joint Missing Women Taskforce

Missing Women's Legacy Society

A tribute to the missing women

Missing People Net - Vancouver

Vanished Voices

Vancouver's missing women group

Unsolved/missing & unidentified cases group

Finding People & Voice of the People Magazine

CTV.CA

B.C. Missing Women- Sarah's street diaries

 

Email: wleng#missingpeople.net 

Missing Women Tip Line: 1-877-687-3377

Updated: August 21, 2016