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Local mother waits as murder probe tightens

Friday February 8, 2002

Mercury Staff and Canadian Press

PORT COQUITLAM, B.C. - A Guelph mother says she is dreading police may discover the remains of her daughter as they narrow the focus of a major British Columbia murder investigation.

Officers probing the disappearances of 50 women since 1983 searched a Vancouver-area pig farm Thursday amid speculation of a major break in the case. Police said they could be on scene for months.

Guelph's Pat deVries said she has a "busy life" and is not really prepared to deal with her daughter Sarah's body being found.

But it's important to her that the news does come in time.

"It's not going to be very pleasant," she said. "I am not looking forward to it."

RCMP Const. Catherine Galliford told reporters yesterday the pig farm is a property of interest in the disappearance of the women, mainly sex-trade workers from Vancouver's seedy east side.

She said a search warrant for the farm was issued Tuesday night related to firearms.

Robert William Pickton, 52, was charged with storing a firearm contrary to regulations, possession of a gun without a licence and possession of a loaded restricted weapon without a licence. Police said Pickton was not being held.

Families of the missing women, including deVries in Guelph, were contacted by police so they would not learn of the search through the media. Sarah deVries is also the niece of local author Jean Little.

Sarah deVries, who was 29 when she disappeared in 1998, had become involved in prostitution to support a drug habit.

Her story and those of other women who have gone missing from the Vancouver sex trade form the subject of a new book, Bad Date.

Author Trevor Greene looks at theories surrounding the disappearances, involving murderous freighter ship crews and serial killers, and also recounts the out-of-control lives of Sarah and the other women.

Wayne Leng, a friend of Sarah's who runs a Web site devoted to spreading information about the missing women, said relatives and friends are hopeful their questions may be finally answered. But everyone is also fearful about what they might learn.

"It's a waiting game at this point," he said in a telephone interview from his home in California.

The mayor of Port Coquitlam, the community where the pig farm is located, said residents are in shock.

"Certainly the discussions in the coffee shops and around kitchen tables in our small town this morning are ones of shock and disbelief," Scott Young said.

He said he found out about the search Wednesday morning.

The city was working with police to locate water mains and other services in case police decided to excavate the property, located between a discount retailer and new residential development.

A woman whose friend disappeared in 1989 said she heard about the search and decided to have a look.

Dawn Sangret said she and her friend Elaine Dumba came to British Columbia from Regina around 1965.

"I'm not really into hearing that she's maybe under one of those mounds," she said, looking at a large gravel hill on the property.

A sister of one of the missing women spent about half an hour at the farm Thursday morning.

Sherry Koski, whose sister Kerry Lynn Koski has been missing since January 1998, was crying as she spoke to police officers. She brushed by reporters, saying she didn't feel like talking to the media.

Galliford said the search of the 11-hectare farm, which contains a house, a trailer and other outbuildings, could take days or months. More than three dozen officers were on the scene.

She said investigators had talked to the farm's owners but didn't know where they were. "That's not a concern to us at this time," she said.

Neighbours said the swampy area was fenced and guarded by dogs.

A friendly rottweiler roamed the property. A sign on the gate warned: This Property Protected by a Pit Bull with AIDS.

It appears to be a working farm, with pigs on the property, but there were also piles of dirt and gravel, along with heavy earthmoving machinery.

The case of the missing women has troubled Vancouver for years. The number of victims, some of whom disappeared as early as 1984, has climbed steadily as a joint Vancouver police-RCMP task force added more names to their file.

There has long been speculation a serial killer was preying on prostitutes in the downtown east side. Police initially discounted the theory, saying there was no evidence to support it. But as the list grew, it gained credence.

http://www.guelphmercury.com/news/news_02020885948.html 

Family awaits word from West Coast

Saturday February 9, 2002
VIK KIRSCH
MERCURY STAFF

GUELPH - As police sift through a West Coast property for the bodies of dozens of murdered women, a 10-year-old Guelph girl is hoping her mother isn't among them.

Sarah de Vries, the daughter of Guelphite Pat deVries, disappeared in 1998 at age 29 from a seedy part of Vancouver, where she supported her drug addiction with prostitution. A man who frequented prostitutes may be the serial killer of as many as 50 women in Vancouver over the past several decades.

Mrs. deVries has been looking after Sarah's children, Jeanie, 10, and Ben, 5.

Police informed the family Wednesday of a possible break in the case. The Vancouver Sun reported Friday police found identification and other items from at least two of the missing at a dilapidated suburban Vancouver pig farm owned by brothers Robert and David Pickton. Robert Pickton was charged Thursday with weapons offences related to possession of an unregistered handgun, though police said the brothers are not suspects in the disappearances.

DeVries said her grandchildren are aware of the flurry of police activity.

"They know -- well, Ben is only 5, but Jeanie's been told. She still had a bit of hope she (her mother) was still alive."

DeVries doesn't share this optimism, saying it's not realistic. If her daughter isn't dead, the only alternative is that she's been held captive these past four years, which deVries said is too difficult to believe.

She said she hasn't heard a word from RCMP since families of the disappeared were contacted Wednesday by police who didn't want relatives to hear the news through the media.

"They let us know they were going in to search a house," said deVries. "They found a purse (on the property)."

Police have said little since. "We're not being given a lot of inside information."

DeVries sounded sombre during a brief telephone interview. She's feared the worst for years.

"My daughter disappeared four years ago." To find any remains after all this time "would be a miracle."

She was also exasperated by the intense media attention on families of the women, saying a thorough police investigation isn't going to conclude overnight, so families can't be expected to have learned much. "It's going to take time," said deVries.

"I've been waiting for four years (to find out the fate of her daughter). It's not going to matter if it takes another four." That, she feared, is because the news likely will be bad: the recovery of Sarah's body at best. "It's not going to bring her back."

The discovery of Sarah's body in some forlorn location, should that prove the case, wouldn't shock deVries.

"I would have expected something exactly like this. I'm not surprised," said deVries.

http://www.therecord.com/news/news_02020985658.html 

©Guelph Mercury 2001
8-14 Macdonell St.,
Guelph, Ontario, Canada, N1H 6P7
519-822-4310

B.C. police search revives hopes of Guelph girl

Saturday February 9, 2002
VIK KIRSCH

Police activity at a B.C. farm is reviving a 10-year-old Guelph girl's hope that her mother is alive.

Jeanie de Vries' mother, Sarah, disappeared in 1998 from a seedy part of Vancouver where she became a prostitute to support a drug habit. She was 29.

She is one of the 50 women who have gone missing from Vancouver's east side since the early 1980s. RCMP began searching a former farm in Port Coquitlam, a Vancouver suburb, this week after receiving a tip that the site contains important clues to the case.

Jeanie's grandmother, Pat deVries, said her grandchildren are aware of the flurry of police activity in B.C.

"They know -- well, Ben is only five, but Jeanie's been told. She still had a bit of hope she (her mother) was still alive."

Pat deVries, who is raising the children, doesn't share this optimism.

"As far as I'm concerned, she's dead."

Even to find remains after all this time "would be a miracle," she said.

DeVries, sounding sombre during a brief telephone interview, said she's feared the worst for years.

She said she hasn't heard a word from RCMP since families of the missing were contacted Wednesday by police who didn't want relatives to hear the news of the development through the media.

"They let us know they were going in to search a house," said deVries. "They found a purse (on the property).

"We're not being given a lot of inside information."

She said she is exasperated by the media attention on families of the women.

A thorough police investigation isn't going to conclude overnight, so families can't be expected to have learned much, she said.

"It's going to take time," said deVries. "I've been waiting for four years. It's not going to matter if it takes another four."

In B.C., family and friends of the missing women have been drawn in recent days to the ramshackle property owned by brothers Robert and David Pickton.

Police said the brothers are not suspects in the disappearances.

A search warrant executed Tuesday led to three firearms charges against Robert William Pickton.

But something else found during the search led investigators to get another search warrant.

News reports quoted police sources as saying identification and other items belonging to at least two of the missing women prompted the second warrant.

At a briefing yesterday, police refused to confirm the information, or provide any other details of what led them to the farm or what they hope to find there.

"We can't go into any specifics with regard to what we're looking for,'' said RCMP Const. Cate Galliford.

"Anything that we find, or may find, of evidentiary value will be put before the courts, so we don't want to jeopardize the integrity of the investigation.''

Police have said it could be weeks or even months before they conclude the search.

The sprawling suburban Vancouver property, adjacent to new condominiums and a golf course, was being secured yesterday by RCMP tactical officers and a newly erected fence to keep out curious onlookers.

A roadblock limited traffic on the road in front of the property to local residents.

Investigators could be seen carefully lifting shovels full of material in a barn, while others outside picked up debris -- an old purse, a rolled up hose, a discarded running shoe.

Galliford would not comment on the found items.

"Different teams have been assigned to different stages,'' she said. "Right now those stages mostly involve the outbuildings on the property.''

Workers from the SPCA took away a Rottweiler dog that was roaming the property, along with the farm's pigs.

Candles lit by members of a prostitute-advocacy group late Thursday still sat on a fence rail in the driveway.

Vehicles, including six television satellite trucks, lined the road outside the farm in a macabre vigil for information.

Ernie Crey, whose sister Dawn hasn't been heard from for more than a year, said he was reluctant to come. But in the end he just needed to see the site task force members say is of interest in the disappearance of 50 women, dating back to 1983.

"I don't know what's going on behind those gates across the way,'' an emotional Crey said yesterday outside the four-hectare property.

It's horrifying to think any of the 50 missing women may have met a terrible fate, said Crey, but he still wants to know.

"I want to find out what became of my sister,'' he said.

If Sarah deVries's body were to be found in some forlorn location, it wouldn't shock her mother.

"I would have expected something exactly like this. I'm not surprised," said Pat deVries.

GUELPH MERCURY WITH FILES FROM CANADIAN PRESS

THE LITTLE SISTER BEHIND THEY STATISTIC-Feb 15, 2002

Missing women's friend keeps families informed via website-Feb 11, 2002 

http://therecord.com/news/news_02020992152.html 

She's focusing on the living-Dec 6, 2001

 

Email: wleng#missingpeople.net 

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

Updated: August 21, 2016