VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Courtesy of THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR
Girl, 14, hunted for mom on B.C.'s nastiest streets
Cheryl Stepan, Jocelyn Bell
April 11, 2002
Photo: John Rennison, the Hamilton Spectator
Carol-Ann Coté wanted nothing more than to have her mom back. For a few months, her mom had been sinking deeper and deeper into a debilitating pit of drugs. Then one day last summer, she disappeared from Carol-Ann's life all together.
So the tiny 14-year-old set out for the nasty streets of Vancouver's downtown east side to search for her among the drug addicts and prostitutes, once with her older sister, once on her own.
Terrified, she approached people smoking crack in doorways, injecting their veins with heroin in alleys or crawling on the sidewalk looking for drugs, to show them photos of Diane Rock, her beautiful 34-year-old mom.
"It was really scary down there. But I wanted my mom back. I couldn't live without her," she said through tears.
"They didn't even want to stop and talk to me. It was the worst place I've ever seen in my life. I've never seen so many faceless people."
Her mother wasn't among them. A few months later, police put the Welland women on a list of dozens of other women who'd vanished from those same scary streets. Last week, police called to say the mother of five was dead at the hands of a suspected serial killer.
Not long ago, things were going OK for Rock and her family. After a rough patch with drugs when she was in Welland and Brantford, she seemed to get her life back on track when she moved out to B.C. in 1992 with her second husband, Darren Rock, and children.
She got a good job working with handicapped adults. She showed up on time every day and was well-liked. But then she started slipping.
It started around two years ago, along with problems in her marriage. She went back to the bar scene, started coming home late, and began spending too much time in the bathroom. She claimed she was showering, but even at 12, Carol-Ann knew she was trying to hide a crack habit.
Then she didn't come home for Carol-Ann's 13th birthday, leaving her alone all night with her little brothers, aged five and 10. Carol-Ann knew something had to be done.
"She was a good woman. She was a very, very good woman. She took care of us very well at first.
"She couldn't handle the drugs. She was not capable of taking care of anybody -- not even herself -- at the time."
Carol-Ann called up Darren Rock so the boys could go live with him.
She said her mother was devastated.
"I was just trying to look out for the boys. They were too young," she said, without seeming to notice she was too young herself.
After that, she and her mom moved around for a while -- sometimes together, sometimes not.
Then in July, she talked to her mom for the last time. Over the phone -- they'd been living apart -- Carol-Ann confronted her. "She promised me she was going to get off drugs. She said it was hard for her. She didn't know how to deal with it."
In return Carol-Ann promised to stop running away and go live with her so she could help out.
"I figured since she told me not to leave, she wasn't going anywhere either," she said, before quietly starting to sob. "And then she was gone."
The next news she had of her mother was in November when a detective phoned her sister, Melissa, 18, to say her mother hadn't picked up her social assistance cheques and that she hadn't returned to her room in a sleazy eastside hotel in weeks.
RCMP spokesperson Cate Galliford said her social worker was the last person to see her alive. That was at the Marr Hotel on Oct. 19.
When the girls went on the Internet and saw the photos of the 50 missing women and later learned about the massive police investigation going on at a Port Coquitlam pig farm, the horror started to mount.
In February, police asked her and Melissa to give blood samples so they could compare the DNA with anything they might find in the search of the farm. Last month, police asked them to come and look through photos of purses, shoes, jewellery and piles of women's clothing -- items believed to have been collected from the farm -- to see if they recognized anything that belonged to their mom. They didn't.
Finally, on April 1, a detective called Melissa to tell her they had enough DNA evidence that they would be charging Robert Pickton, one of the owners of the farm, with her mother's murder. (Police refused to comment further about the nature of the evidence.)
Carol-Ann, who was sitting next to Melissa when she heard the sickening news, burst into tears.
"They don't even know where her body is," she said this week from her aunt's Welland home. "I want to know how she died. I want to know if she suffered.
"She was so beautiful -- I don't know how somebody could hurt her."
But her beauty was ravaged by the crack use. Carol-Ann said her weight dropped to 80 pounds on her 4-foot-11 frame.
Diane's father-in-law, Terry Rock, said she looked awful during the last summer of her life.
"She was like a skeleton."
He said Diane visited him a few times a week, once without shoes on, claiming someone had taken them. She also showed up with black eyes, a present from an abusive boyfriend. And he said she called all the time, day and night, asking for money. Once, she told him about a guy in Port Coquitlam who had a crush on her and was taking her out for dinner.
When Carol-Ann and Melissa would call him looking for their mother, he would pass the messages on to her. But he said she was too ashamed to talk to the girls.
"Just tell (them) I haven't been here," she would say. "I don't want them seeing me like this."
Rock said he tried to help her, but she was beyond saving.
"She just gave up. She was just slipping away on the street."
Her family and friends don't want to think of her selling her body for drugs, but they know the grim possibility exists.
"All of these girls are somebody's daughters, most of them are somebody's mothers," said Lorrie Addis, a teary-eyed childhood friend. "This is my friend. I have a hard time believing she was selling herself."
Diane's sister, Lillian Beaudoin, described Diane's life as "a sad story of a young girl who struggled.
"She only wanted the best all her life."
She was born in Port Colborne on Sept. 2, 1967. When she was just six weeks old, she went to live with Denis and Ella Marin in Welland. By the time she was four, the overhead crane operator and health care worker had legally adopted her, making her their fifth child -- the youngest by 13 years.
She grew up in a one-storey stucco house on Ontario Road where she lived a fairly typical life, according to Addis. They used to sneak out their windows to go roller skating, get their hair permed together and hang out gossiping in each other's bedrooms.
She said she remembers lying on the bed while Rock sat on the floor feverishly writing her letters.
"She loved to write," she said.
Rock became pregnant with Melissa at 15, left school and moved out on her own. At 17, she got married and had another child, Donnie. At 18, she had Carol-Ann and divorced shortly after that.
But her partying hadn't begun. She was working part-time as a health care aide at a nursing home. Her cousin Shelly Beaudoin remembers babysitting for Rock so she could go out and play bingo with her sister and mother. That was her idea of excitement.
The drug problems started when she moved to Brantford and started working in strip clubs.
Addis said she danced "because that's where the money was. She needed a job and she was a cute little thing."
"She just fell in with the wrong crowd," added Lillian Beaudoin.
Shelly thinks the drugs gave her the courage to get up on stage.
"Growing up, she was not at all involved in that scene."
Then, in 1992, she snorted enough cocaine that she nearly died. After some time in Hamilton General Hospital, she decided enough was enough.
"She knew she had to get away from that and get something for her kids," Addis said.
Terry Rock -- the father of her husband Darren -- offered to help them move out to Vancouver for a fresh start. They left Ontario behind and moved in with Terry at his apartment in North Vancouver until they eventually found their own place.
They moved into a four-bedroom duplex in a quiet neighbourhood in Abbotsford. Darren found work as a cleaner and Diane found a job as a support worker with disabled adults. They had another child.
Rock's former boss, Richard Ashton, said she was good worker who showed up on time each day.
"She had a real compassion for working with people that had more challenging needs," said the executive director of MSA Community Living Society in Abbotsford. He said even knowing what he knows now, he doesn't recall seeing signs of trouble.
"Looking back on this, we never could have predicted that her life would have ended up with way."
Carol-Ann said she was doing her best: "She was clean for seven years."
But drugs never completely lost their grip on her. And as troubles started surfacing in her marriage, the grip tightened.
Addis remembered when Rock came back to Welland for a visit a few years ago. She was lonely and was thinking about moving back.
"She was losing who she was. She'd had enough."
As the drugs crept back into her life -- due to unhappiness, marriage troubles and the loss of custody of her children -- she started to distance herself from her family and friends.
"It was almost as if she was ashamed of it when she was doing it, but couldn't stop," said her cousin Shelly.
In April, she took a one-month leave of absence from her job, telling them it was stress-related. Ashton said they expected her back in May, but she never showed up.
"She went down really fast," Carol-Ann said."
So far, six of the 50 missing women have been confirmed dead. Robert Pickton is facing six counts of first-degree murder. Police have found DNA and human remains at the pig farm in a search that is expected to take more than a year.
While police have said Diane Rock is dead, her family has no death certificate, no body and nothing to bury. All that Carol-Ann has to hold on to is her mother's first communion gown, which her grandmother gave to her this week in Welland.
When she goes back to B.C., she plans to visit the farm to see what could be her mother's final resting place.
"To see it, it's going to be sick because I know my mother's body could be somewhere there. But there's families there -- families who know what you're going through. Maybe I can speak with them and help them cope."
You can contact Cheryl Stepan at email@example.com or at 905-526-3235.
You can contact Jocelyn Bell at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 905-526-462
Updated: August 21, 2016