VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Troubled child, lost woman, she sought family’s love
By Steve Mertl
Andrea Borhaven was an enigma, a wild child, a lost child. Probably both.
She reached out for some sort of belonging during years of being shuffled between her mother, father, an assortment of relatives and strangers, followed by life on Vancouver's hard-edged streets.
But then she stung those who took her in.
Still, the young woman retained a sense of compassion and warmth even as her life drifted into oblivion.
``She was a bit of a mystery,'' said Maggy Gisle, a recovering drug addict who knew Borhaven and many of the women who went missing from Vancouver's ugly Downtown Eastside.
Andrea Fay Borhaven was born in 1972 in the southern B.C. town of Armstrong, to Roger Borhaven and Sharon Lochrie, his common-law wife who was less than half his age.
Borhaven, then close to 50, had already raised seven children with his former wife Emily before taking up with the teenaged Lochrie, the daughter of a family friend.
According to Andrea's half-sisters, the baby was an ``accident.''
The relationship didn't last long, said Roger Borhaven, now 81 and living in Quesnel, B.C.
His youngest daughter began a rootless existence.
``She bounced around a little bit there,'' Borhaven said of Andrea as an infant.
With no legal custody arrangement, Borhaven took Andrea for a couple of stints, each a few months long.
``She lived with me part of the time and then her mother would con her back from me,'' he said.
But mother Sharon Hall, who married and divorced after splitting from Borhaven, challenged that recollection, saying Borhaven only had their daughter for a short time while Hall worked nights at a Vernon nursing home.
Borhaven, an entrepreneur who tried everything from gravel hauling to homesteading and training race horses, had care of Andrea twice as a young child, said Hall.
He was running a restaurant and cabaret in Enderby, B.C., when Andrea was two.
She was smart and spunky.
``When I had the restaurant, she figured she was the top waitress there, running around at two years old trying to take orders,'' he chuckled.
But there were already signs something seemed wrong.
Her half-sisters, Lynne, Heather and Cheryl _ closer to Sharon's age when Andrea was born _ became surrogate mothers, their children her playmates.
``Whenever she did visit you could just tell that she was a very troubled little girl,'' said Lynne Borhaven, 60, who saw her fairly often.
``She was very jealous of the fact that ... these other children were running around calling grandparents.''
Andrea adopted Emily Borhaven, Roger's ex-wife, as a grandmother.
When Emily Borhaven showed some affection to one of her natural granddaughters, little Andrea bit the girl on the back and announced ``That's MY Gramma!''
Emily Borhaven's kind, nurturing manner must have been a powerful attraction to a rootless little girl whose father admits to being an ``old school'' disciplinarian.
Her adult sisters' families put her own situation in stark relief.
``She wasn't a happy little girl,'' said Heather. ``I guess she figured everybody else had it so good and she didn't.
``She'd say to Michelle (Heather's daughter): `You're lucky. Your mum loves you.'''
But Hall said she made every effort to smooth her daughter's early path.
Andrea was diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, put on medication for a time and given a special diet.
When she turned 13, Borhaven began to get into trouble at school and outside too, smoking pot.
In a drastic bid to find help for Borhaven, Hall made her daughter a ward of the court so she would be accepted at Mara House, a Vernon residential facility for children in conflict with their families.
But the hoped-for specialized care never materialized and Borhaven lasted only two months, running away from the open-door facility and eventually moving in with her mother's cousin, Sue Watt and her young family, for several months.
Watt remembers Borhaven as loving and intelligent but with no ability to control the impulses that sometimes led to outbursts she later regretted, simply deepening her own feelings of worthlessness.
Hall's voice fills with anger and heartbreak and she rails at family legislation that gave her daughter a strong say in her future at age 13 and government policy providing an independent living allowance for Borhaven when she was only 16.
From there, it was a short path to the streets of Vancouver.
But Hall angrily rejects the suggestion by some Borhaven family members that she and Roger wrote off their daughter.
``She had a warm house to come home and stay,'' said Hall. ``She had all the support of her family on my side.''
But there would be rules.
``You don't get into drugs, you go back to school or you get a job.''
Andrea would surface periodically, sometimes with a dubious-looking boyfriend in tow, asking for money or a place to stay.
Her half-sisters took her in but say they were rewarded with petty theft or seeing the things they bought her sold for drugs.
Said sister Lynne: ``I had asked her on occasion if that's what she wanted for herself and she seemed to think that she would never end up there.
``But that's exactly where she ended up.''
Police say Andrea Borhaven was last seen in 1997 and was reported missing May 28, 1999.
In 1996, she had testified in a sexual assault case that resulted in a man being declared a dangerous offender, according to a police source.
Just before she vanished, Hall believes her daughter was ready once again try to quit the street.
``She was coming home,'' said Hall. ``All her clothes were sent home on the bus _ I have all her clothes _ and then I didn't hear from her.''
Through all her troubles, Andrea's desire for connection remained, especially with Emily Borhaven, whom she visited as she lay dying of cancer in a Vancouver hospital.
``She'd tell my mother that she had been in and out of rehab for drugs and stuff,'' said Lynne Borhaven, her remembrance broken by sobs.
``She'd go there and she'd call her Gramma.
``She'd bring her something that she had made in rehab. My mother was very touched by that.''
© 2006 The Canadian Press
Updated: August 21, 2016