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Missing loved ones honoured in Downtown Eastside memorial

Lori Culbert
Vancouver Sun

VANCOUVER - A small group of friends and relatives of women missing from the Downtown Eastside released balloons Sunday into a beautiful sunny sky as they remembered loved ones who vanished years ago.

As music played, one by one the mourners laid flowers, candy canes and other Christmas decorations on a memorial bench in Crab Park Sunday afternoon.

The bench, which has a stunning view of Burrard Inlet, was dedicated years earlier to the long list of women - most who worked in the survival sex trade and/or had drug addictions - who were vanishing from city streets.

Two photographs were propped on top of the bench: one of Marnie Frey, a smiling 14-year-old with braces, and one of Cara Ellis, when she was just eight or nine.

A few years later, when those children became women struggling with addictions, they both disappeared. That was in 1997.

Robert (Willie) Pickton has been charged in both their deaths. Pickton's first trial on six counts of murder - including Frey's - is nearing completion at New Westminster Supreme Court.

He is expected to face a second trial on 20 other counts of murder - including Ellis's - later. Pickton has pleaded not guilty to 26 counts of first-degree murder. The defence completed its closing arguments last week at his first trial, which began Jan. 22.

The Crown is expected to continue making its closing arguments today. Justice James Williams will also address the jury this week about the evidence in the case. Then the seven men and five women will begin deliberations, but that is not expected to happen until late this week.

lculbert@png.canwest.com

The Vancouver Sun

 

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Updated: August 21, 2016