VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Clinging to hope
By Don Plant
The Daily Courier
Troy Boen is tired of the teasing and wants people to know the truth once and for all.
His mother, Yvonne, is one of the 61 women missing from Vancouverís Downtown Eastside, and he hasnít heard from her since March 2001. Now he wants this newspaper to tell his story.
"I feel itís better people know about it and see what itís like for a normal kid to go through this. People think it canít happen to their families, but it can ā family members disappear without a trace and you never talk to them again," he said.
Troy, 17, has endured jokes about his mother from students at practically every school heís attended. He lives with his grandmother, which can provoke numerous taunts because his motherís not around.
"They call my mother a two-bit whore," he said. "I tell them about her. Iíve said my life is a living hell."
Once they hear the truth, theyíre ashamed of their taunting.
"They say: ĎOh crap, what have I done?í"
Troy last saw his mom when she and her boyfriend visited him and his grandma for three days in Rutland. She phoned him a day after she left on March 16, 2001.
He was going to visit her in Surrey a week later for spring break, but never heard from her.
Heís the last member of his family to see or talk to her. She normally calls him on his birthday and at Christmas, but the phone doesnít ring. Heís convinced her boyfriend had nothing to do with her disappearance, but has no idea what happened to her.
"I know sheís not dead. Everyone else (says so), but I say sheís not," he said. "I think sheís in hiding."
Authorities believe Yvonne Boen, also known as Yvonne England, was working as a prostitute in the drug-riddled Downtown Eastside around the time she disappeared at age 33.
Yvonne knew Robert Pickton, the pig farmer charged with the murders of 15 women, but police have found no proof she was one of his victims.
Troy met Pickton twice as a young child. He doesnít remember him but says his aunt recalls he came over once for a barbecue.
"He didnít shower. He was really smelly," he said. "My mother and my aunt met him because the Pickton family had a little bar (in Port Coquitlam)."
Yvonne had three boys ó Troy is the middle child ó but gave them up to foster care and relatives. Troy spent 14 of his 17 years with his grandmother.
For the other three years, he lived with his mother and other relatives.
"Iíve been tossed around from family member to family member for years," he said.
"My grandma has legal custody."
Troy found out his mother was on the missing-womenís list when his grandmother watched the news in late 2001, about eight months after he last saw her.
"Grandma said Ďget in here now.í I looked at the TV. Her mugshot was on TV. I freaked. I got on the phone and started dialing my aunts in Vancouver," he said. "They never told either of us about it. It scared all of us."
His bumpy childhood and concern about his mother drove Troy to crime. Heís been expelled from several schools and got in trouble with police for destroying property last year.
The punishment helped set him straight.
Heís avoided police for nearly a year and heís taking Grade 9 at the Storefront School, where teachers are like social workers.
He proudly says he hasnít missed a day of class this year.
He plans to graduate, get a good job and buy his own house.
"I believe Troy can, and is, overcoming this. But he probably couldnít have in a regular classroom," said Doug Gray, vice-principal of the Central School program.
"In this school, Troy has a smile on his face. He has the time to talk to teachers and me about his life."
Meanwhile, Troy plans to attend Picktonís preliminary hearing in Port Coquitlam.
He wants to meet the relatives of other missing women.
"Even if I just go down there and talk to some of the families, that would help me a lot," he said.
Sandra Gagnon, whose sister is one of the missing women, is willing to help.
Gagnon has appeared frequently in the media as a representative for grieving relatives.
She suggests that Troy see a therapist.
She discourages him from attending the hearing unless heís prepared for the worst.
"Itís horrible. Itís a living nightmare, especially the stuff you hear in court. Itís hard. I donít tell my family what I hear in there," she said.
"I feel for people going through this stuff, especially a child."
Updated: August 21, 2016