VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Courtesy of the National Post
Tip line jammed as farm search continues
Investigators sift through details as police plead patience
Mark Hume and Ian Bailey
February 12, 2002
VANCOUVER - Police have been flooded with calls to a special tip line since launching a massive search for clues at a Port Coquitlam farm that has become the focus of one of the biggest investigations in British Columbia's history.
Detective Scott Driemel of the Vancouver Police Department said a joint VPD/RCMP task force investigating the disappearance of 50 women appreciates all the information pouring in. But he urged people to be patient, saying with more than 400 calls logged over the past few days it is impossible for police to respond to every tip immediately.
"The Joint Task Force has assigned three dedicated staff to review the tips, index them according to subject matter and other details and pass the information on to investigators. They are asking the public to be patient. Every call is taken seriously ... but it would be fair to not expect a call back right away.
"Please, if you do call and leave a tip, let it go for a little while before calling again because we're getting the lines plugged up by repeat callers," he said.
Det. Driemel described some of the information provided in tips as "very significant."
He also said police met on Sunday night with members of the missing women's families to update them on the search and, "some family members have told us that they would rather not hear every specific detail about what's going on. Others feel some knowledge about our search may help their grieving process."
Police say the investigation, which now involves 85 officers, ranks as one of the largest co-ordinated law enforcement efforts in B.C. history.
"There are forensic experts, major crime investigators, family consultation experts and a variety of other subject experts adding their knowledge to this case," Det. Driemel said.
"Investigations of this magnitude are a complex and often shadowy web of interconnected issues and bits of information. As we discover yet another link in the web it can change the nature of what we already know. Hopefully, we will soon see the full picture," he said.
When news of the search broke on the weekend it seemed to release pent-up anxiety about the case, which has baffled police for more than a decade.
The relatives and friends of the missing women, most of whom are sex-trade workers who vanished from the sordid streets of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, have been making pilgrimages to the farm on the outskirts of the city, where a small army of police officers are searching for evidence.
Although police are stressing they may not find anything at the farm, it has become a focal point for people's hopes and fears because it could produce the first physical links to the women who vanished without a trace.
Richard Dopson, a psychologist who has worked with juvenile prostitutes, said the farm is a magnet for those who have lost people they love on Vancouver's streets.
"Here's a place they can go to, feel sad, talk it out and tell their stories. There's never been a place for them to do that," Mr. Dopson said of those who are showing up at the farm to light candles or place photographs of missing women.
"They're exposing themselves now.... If it turns out all for naught, this could be devastating," he said.
One of Mr. Dopson's former clients was Sarah deVries, who went missing in 1997 after going out to work on the streets at 4:30 one morning.
A close friend of hers, Wayne Leng, said he has been following the search with a mixed sense of "dread and hope."
He said he wants to know what happened to her, but is haunted by the fear she might have died a terrible death.
"What are they going to find? How did these women die? Was it horrible? It probably was," Mr. Leng said.
"It's so hard when you don't know."
Mr. Leng said he first heard about the Port Coquitlam farm years ago, when he was contacted by a man responding to posters he put up around the city after Ms. deVries vanished.
"He was involved with a prostitute. She had told him about a farm ... [and] a mobile home with all kinds of women's clothing and identity papers in it."
Mr. Leng said the posters of Ms. deVries also prompted a series of chilling calls to his pager, which recorded 20-second sound bites.
"This fellow said: 'Drop the case. Stop looking. Get off the case.'
"He said, 'Sarah's dead'.... He said he was with a man who killed her and another time he said he killed her.
"He said, 'There's going to be a prostitute killed every Friday night.' "
Mr. Leng said he turned a tape of the voice message over to police, but it was untraceable and never led anywhere.
He has been thinking about that call again this week, because of the search at the Port Coquitlam farm.
The task force telephone tip line is 1-877-687-3377.
reawakens familie’s old torments
As police sift the muck at a Port Coquitlam pig farm, their search is also unearthing old torments for the families of missing women.
Sandra Gagnon, whose sister Janet Henry vanished in 1997, suffered another loss when her youngest son, Terry, 23, took his own life.
Just before midnight last Thursday -- the day Gagnon learned of the search -- Terry committed suicide at his brother's Maple Ridge home.
"Terry remembered his Auntie Janet very well, and he loved her, but even more than that, he knew how terribly I suffered when she went missing, and how I'd searched for her, and then when he heard about this horrible farm and saw the scenes on TV, it was too much for him," said a grieving Gagnon, who lives in Vancouver but is now staying with her remaining son, Richard, 25.
"He told me on the phone he was very worried about me, how I could handle things if there was news of Janet at this place, and then later that night, before we could get together, he took his own life. And it was his brother Richard who found his body."
Gagnon said Terry, a roofer, was also despondent because his girlfriend had moved away with their young son, whom he adored, because Terry could not get enough work to support his family.
"This news must have just put him over the edge."
Gagnon said Janet Henry, who was last seen on June 6, 1997 at the age of 36, was her "favourite sister, the one I was closest to in life.
"Even after she began living in the Downtown Eastside, and was deep into her addiction, she'd still call me every other day. I'd go down there and pick her up, take her to my home in Maple Ridge, give her a meal and clean clothes, let her sleep and relax.
"I'd make a picnic with her favourite foods and we'd go to the park together, trying to forget the horrors of her life down there."
Wayne Leng, who maintains a website on the missing women and keeps in touch with their family and friends, admits he is worried about Gagnon, and some of the other relatives of the missing women.
"To see those horrible sights at the Port Coquitlam farm is like something out of a Stephen King novel," said Leng, who set up the website after his friend Sarah deVries disappeared in 1998.
Ernie Crey, whose sister Dawn went missing in the fall of 2000, was among those who made a weekend pilgrimage to the Port Coquitlam site.
"The families are focused on this search, and they're faced with the torment, of 'are they going to find a tooth, a bone, some hair from my sister, my aunt, my mother?'" Crey said yesterday.
© Copyright2002 The Province
Wednesday, February 13, 2002
Memories of Sarah cut through despair
Missing B.C. woman lives in hearts of Guelph kin
By THANE BURNETT
GUELPH -- Sarah deVries hated the
taste of tomatoes. She loved to draw and, at one time, do cartwheels.
Tuesday, February 12, 2002
Police provide haven
Updated: August 21, 2016