VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Parallel lives spiral down into tragedy
Two alleged murder victims were once happy teens who became skid row addicts
By JANE ARMSTRONG
Thursday, April 4, 2002
VANCOUVER -- Their life and death stories are sadly similar. Both were vibrant, curious teenagers, the kind who were always up for a dare.
Then, in their teens, curiosity turned to recklessness. Each had a boyfriend who introduced them to hard drugs. They became addicted, bore children they could barely care for, then turned to prostitution to feed their habit.
By the end of their young lives, both Heather Bottomley and Jacqueline McDonnell were sick and addicted, unable to look after themselves or find a way to change.
Police allege that Ms. Bottomley, 29, and Ms. McDonnell, 26, were killed by Robert William Pickton, a Port Coquitlam, B.C., hog farmer who is also charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of three other women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. The five are among 50 women who have vanished from the notorious neighbourhood since 1983.
Yesterday, friends remembered Ms. Bottomley and Ms. McDonnell as they were before their lives spiralled.
Danielle Montreuil said Ms. Bottomley was a pretty, high-spirited, bright girl who loved sports, pranks and entertaining friends in their protected suburban Vancouver neighbourhood.
"She was so funny," Ms. Montreuil said in an interview. "She had the most off-the-wall sense of humour. She was always doing little skits in her back yard."
Her family life was loving and stable. "They were always doing family things. She had nice parents, a brother, a dog, everything."
In Grade 9, both Ms. Bottomley and Ms. Montreuil felt lost and dropped out of New Westminster High School, one of the biggest in B.C.'s Lower Mainland.
Eventually, Ms. Montreuil returned and graduated. But Ms. Bottomley met a boy who used drugs, then got pregnant and had a child while still in her teens.
Ms. Montreuil last saw her about four years ago when she and another friend visited a dingy basement apartment in Vancouver's Eastside where she lived with her boyfriend and child. She was pregnant again. Ms. Montreuil suspected she was using drugs.
"Out of all of us, she was the last one you would have thought this could happen to," said Ms. Montreuil, who didn't know her friend had disappeared until last weekend. Ms. Bottomley was last seen on April 17, 2001.
Ms. McDonell, who grew up in Trail, B.C., was also a spirited teenager, according to author Trevor Greene, who interviewed a childhood friend for a book he wrote about Vancouver's missing women.
Willo Bartels told the author Ms. McDonell emulated the hippie lifestyle. She smoked marijuana occasionally and wore hemp skirts.
Ms. McDonell's parents split up when she was a teenager. She lived with her mother and stepfather, which was hard on her because she missed her father and clashed with her mother, Ms. Bartels said.
She, too, dropped out of high school and at 18 gave birth to a daughter.
"[The daughter] was everything to Jacquie," Ms. Bartels is quoted in the book, Bad Date, The Lost Girls of Vancouver's Low Track. "I remember when she was born, Jacquie was so happy. She went overnight from being a loving, fun, caring but kinda flaky girl, to being very responsible. All the money she had went to her daughter."
But when her daughter was still a toddler, Ms. McDonell met a drug-using man, and within months became addicted to heroin.
In early 1998, she and her daughter moved to Victoria where her father lived. But she lost custody of her child, who eventually went to live with Ms. McDonell's mother and stepfather in Trail.
After that, Ms. McDonell's life grew increasingly chaotic. She stayed with Ms. Bartels in Victoria and tried to get clean. "She seemed to be getting better, then she left," Ms. Bartels is quoted in Bad Date.
Ms. McDonell moved to Vancouver, saying she was going to get treatment, but drifted to the Downtown Eastside. Within three months, she was missing -- last seen on Jan. 16, 1999.
Updated: August 21, 2016