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Dead body sparks serial killer fears in Edmonton

Chris Lackner
National Post

Monday, July 14, 2003

The recent discovery of a young woman's body on the outskirts of Edmonton has renewed fears that a serial murderer is preying on the city's sex trade workers.

The body of a woman about 25 years of age was found last Monday in a farmer's field near Rollyview, a rural community 20 kilometres south of Edmonton.

Almost 10 months ago the burned corpse of prostitute Edna Bernard was found in a field 15 kilometres east of Rollyview, and in January the bodies of prostitutes Melissa Munch, 20, and Monique Pitre, 30, were discovered five kilometres apart in farmer's fields in Strathcona County, east of Edmonton.

"We're very concerned about the possibility that one person or one group of people might be responsible for these incidents," said Roxanne Beaubien, an RCMP spokeswoman. "Because of the similar circumstances of these deaths, we're examining all possible links."

The RCMP is treating the most recent case as a suspicious death.

The force has yet to determine if foul play has occurred. Forensic tests are underway to determine how the woman died.

After reviewing missing-persons reports for the Edmonton region, Ms. Beaubien said investigators believe they have identified the dead woman, but are waiting for lab work for confirmation.

"We don't want to alarm anyone's family or friends until something is concrete," she said. Police will also not confirm she was a prostitute.

The RCMP is treating each woman's death as a separate case, but investigators are conferring with the Edmonton Police Service looking for possible connections between the murdered women.

Ms. Beaubien said the RCMP is also trying to identify a woman between the ages of 25 and 35 whose skull was found on April 12 near Miquelon Lake, 75 kilometres southeast of Edmonton.

"People in this line of work are very susceptible to assaults and other forms of attack. It's no secret that the sex trade offers a dangerous lifestyle," Ms. Beaubien said. "We encourage those involved in the trade to look out for their personal safety and to watch out for their friends on the street."

Sex trade workers in Edmonton were anxious after the bodies of Ms. Munch and Ms. Pitre were discovered, said Marc Barylo, vice-president of Catholic Social Services, a non-profit social-welfare organization in Alberta.

"They identified with the victims, and many kept thinking, 'It could have been me, it could have been me,' " he said.

Mr. Barylo said both his organization and the Edmonton police suggest a number of safety practices for women who find themselves trapped in the profession, including working the streets in numbers, always bringing a client to their home or a familiar residence instead of taking a ride to a secluded location, as well as collectively keeping licence plate numbers and "bad-date" sheets for troublesome clientele.

Violence against sex trade workers has garnered a high public profile over the last two years following the arrest of alleged serial killer Robert Pickton in Port Coquitlam, B.C. Mr. Pickton has been charged with 15 accounts of murder since police began discovering the bodies of missing prostitutes on his property last February.

The Pickton case stirred accusations of police apathy toward the death of sex trade workers -- something Ms. Beaubien is quick to dispute in regards to the Edmonton murders.

"We have spent thousands of hours to bring these investigations to their conclusion -- every life that is lost is just as important as another," she said.

clackner@nationalpost.com 

 Copyright  2003 National Post

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Updated: August 21, 2016