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Families of BC missing women in shock after reports of found body parts

CAMILLE BAINS
Canadian Press

Tuesday, June 04, 2002

VANCOUVER (CP) - The families of at least 50 women missing from Vancouver's gritty downtown eastside were in shock Tuesday after news reports that at least one head, along with the feet and hands of two women, were found in a freezer at a pig farm.

"It was shocking," said Ernie Crey, who watched a television report Monday night about the grisly discovery at the 4.5-hectare property in suburban Port Coquitlam. "It was like someone sort of hit me in the stomach," said Crey, whose sister Dawn disappeared in November 2000.

"I can only imagine how some of the other families are feeling about this at this point in time, especially those families who've already been told that their child, or their family member met their end out at the Pickton farm."

Robert Pickton, 52, co-owner of the property, is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of seven of the women who have disappeared since 1983. Thirty-nine haven't been seen since March 1995.

Crey and other relatives were taken aback by the TV report. Police normally update them about developments before they're made public in what has become a mammoth investigation involving 80 officers in the joint Vancouver police-RCMP task force.

"It was a cruel disclosure," he said of the television report.

"I can understand why all the families would be very upset. I know that I am and my entire family are just troubled by it."

RCMP Const. Catherine Galliford refused Tuesday to say what police had discovered at the site that investigators, forensic and archeological experts are scouring for evidence.

Galliford would not say anything about the TV report that said police had found the women's body parts several months ago in a freezer recovered from the farm where an intense search for clues began in February.

"We're not making any confirmation and we're not making any denial based on the fact that not only do we have an ongoing investigation but we've also got an accused before the courts, so we're not going to make any comment whatsoever," she said.

Galliford also would not say whether the task force is conducting an internal investigation to find out whether information in the report was leaked by a police officer.

"Certainly we wouldn't make any comment with regard to whether or not there is an ongoing investigation into that," she said.

Crey said he assumed police would soon meet with family members to discuss relatives' concerns but Galliford said there were no plans for any such meeting.

A news conference won't be scheduled until some other information worthy of releasing comes to light, Galliford added.

Sandra Gagnon, whose sister Janet Henry is also on the list of missing women, said news of the body parts has made her wonder about what she may hear from police.

"It's gruesome," she said. "I just feel kind of numb and sick."

Gagnon said police have already collected DNA samples from her but called Tuesday morning asking for samples from other family members.

"I don't know why they're wanting more now from the whole family," she said. "I wonder if they're close to finding Janet."

Pat Devries, whose daughter Sarah hasn't been seen since April 13, 1998, said police contacted her Tuesday to say news reports about the body parts did not contain information released by the task force.

"They phoned me to tell me that it had been leaked," Devries said from Guelph, Ont.

"I don't care," she said. "She's been gone for four years and I am concentrating on living, not on ghoulish dwelling on such things."

Crey said police appear to be doing all they can in the case. But he and other families are hoping police will give them details about how the information about the body parts came to light, he said.

Criminal lawyer Mike Tammen said he understands that police don't want to jeopardize the investigation or an upcoming court case but that they "need to say something beyond no comment."

"They should say something more," said Tammen, who has previously criticized police for not forming a task force sooner when families of the missing women complained about the disappearances.

"There's so many brush fires out there for them to put out, so they don't know what's being leaked and what's not," he said.

Galliford said Monday that 26 archeological experts and students hired to start excavating the property this week signed confidentiality agreements saying they couldn't disclose any information about their work.

 Copyright  2002 The Canadian Press

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