VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Women went missing after police alerted to
Wednesday, February 27, 2002
Byline: Suzanne Fournier
Source: The Province
Families of Vancouver's missing women want to know how seven of their loved ones could have died under the watch of a police task force set up in February 2001 that had quickly pegged a Port Coquitlam pig farm as a "property of interest."
Robert William "Willie" Pickton, 52, one of the owners of the pig farm, is charged with first-degree murder of Sereena Abotsway, who disappeared in August 2001, and Mona Wilson, the last woman to vanish.
Police information based on the evidence of RCMP Cpl. Ward Lymburner alleges that Abotsway was murdered between July 18, 2001, and Feb. 5, 2002, and that Wilson was murdered between Dec. 1, 2001, and Feb. 5, 2002, both of them "at or near Port Coquitlam."
RCMP Const. Catherine Galliford, who speaks for the joint Vancouver Police-RCMP Missing Women Task Force, told The Province yesterday that the pig farm -- now the subject of an intensive forensic search by up to 80 officers -- "became a property of interest to the missing women joint task force as a result of our file reviews" soon after Feb. 28, 2001.
But since February 2001, seven more women disappeared from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Two of them, Wilson and Abotsway, are now confirmed by police to be dead.
Since 1983, at least 50 sex-trade workers have vanished. An earlier Vancouver police task force, which established a $100,000 reward but made little headway, got several tips about the PoCo pig farm as early as 1998.
Wayne Leng, who in memory of his missing friend Sarah deVries now runs a web-page from California on the missing women, says he told police about the pig farm in 1998. And Leng notes the farm came to police attention the previous year when Pickton was charged with attempted murder of a prostitute who escaped from the farm after allegedly being stabbed.
Those charges against Pickton were later stayed.
But Pickton's brother, David, 50, co-owner of the pig farm, told The Province in an exclusive interview Feb. 13 that police kept an eye on the farm after the 1997 incident. He said police surveillance became even heavier after the task force was launched.
Galliford denied that the task force conducted constant surveillance at the farm but refused to say if police watched Robert Pickton.
Said Leng: "It makes you wonder how and why seven more women . . . went missing after the police task force was on the job and surely had some interest in either the farm, its owners or who was going out there."
Anna Draayer, who was Abotsway's foster mother since she was four years old, said she would like to know "if the police saw Sereena go out to that terrible place."
"Certainly, it is something that I will question the police about, but it will be months before all the truth comes out and I have to be able to sleep between now and then. One day we will definitely ask police that question.
"To think that maybe Sereena did not have to die -- it is too terrible, but if the [Children and Families] ministry had given us the proper help for her in the first place, she would never have wound up on the street."
Steve Rix, the common-law husband of Mona Wilson, said he is troubled by the fact that Wilson vanished with two men, one of whom beat him back with a stick, on Nov. 23, but the police information said she did not die until Dec. 1 or later.
"Did they tail her out to the pig farm and think she was partying and getting high for a week when she was in trouble?" asked Rix.
Marion Bryce, the mother of Patricia Johnson, who disappeared in March 2001, said she "sure would like to know" if police were watching the farm and saw any "working women" there.
"It bothers me but the police won't tell us much," said Bryce.
And Mohamed Khogaini, the boyfriend of Andrea Joesbury, who is 47th on the list of missing women, recalls police questioning him a few months after Joesbury disappeared. "They talked to me about Andrea and wanted to know if she went to Coquitlam."
Joesbury was a friend of Dinah Taylor, who lived with Robert Pickton at the farm for about 18 months until December 2001.
Taylor is known to have invited working women from the Downtown Eastside to party at the farm, according to several sources, including her friend Cheryl Shalala and Roosevelt Hotel doorman Stephen Arsenault.
Taylor has not been seen for several weeks, but her friend Ron David said yesterday: "She was questioned by police for about seven hours . . . she called to say she's got her money and has moved back east."
Galliford insisted that "the joint task force has not been involved in any surveillance on this property [the pig farm]," but she would not comment on whether Robert Pickton has been under either intermittent surveillance or constant watch in the past year.
Galliford said the task force had "approximately 600 very good suspects" but only got intensely involved in the pig farm after Coquitlam RCMP executed a firearms search warrant on Feb. 5.
The other women who have disappeared since the task force started its work are Heather Bottomley and Heather Chinnock, both in April 2001, and Dianne Rock in October of 2001.
Updated: August 21, 2016