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Police provide haven for relatives

By GREG JOYCE-- Canadian Press

February 12, 2002

PORT COQUITLAM, B.C. (CP) -- A tent is being erected outside a pig farm here as a gathering place for relatives of 50 missing women, even though police searching the property have not publicly connected it yet to any of the disappearances.

The decision was made after members of the joint RCMP-Vancouver police task force met with some family members, RCMP Const. Cate Calliford said Tuesday.

"It's understandable they need to be here near the shrine that's being built," she said.

More than 80 police investigators, including 40 forensic specialists, have been combing through farm buildings, junked cars, mounds of dirt and other material on the 4.5-hectare property in this Vancouver suburb.

For the last week they've been looking for signs some of the 50 women may have been here before vanishing over the last two decades.

Not a shred of evidence has been publicly disclosed -- though unconfirmed news reports said police found identification and a woman's inhaler at the site.

But friends, relatives and supporters of the missing women have flocked to the location, both hoping and fearing what may be found here.

Police decided to set up the tent reserved for victims' families and made it off-limits to the media.

"We ask you to understand the emotional needs of others," Vancouver Det. Scott Driemel told reporters at a daily police briefing outside the farm.

Freda Ens, executive director of the Vancouver Police and Native Liaison Society, said family members were generally happy with the way police were dealing with them.

"The tent will be a special place" said Ens.

She said her group has been in contact with relatives throughout British Columbia and across Canada.

Police have kept them informed but Ens said relatives acknowledge investigators can't release details to them for fear of jeopardizing any future case.

Since the search began in earnest last Wednesday, a number of relatives have conducted vigils at the site, lighting candles and leaving flowers.

Ens said if any family members are afraid to come because of the media presence, private visits can be arranged to "pay respects."

At Tuesday's briefing, police once again refused to report details of the progress of their search.

The farm is owned by three people, including brothers David and Robert Pickton. Police laid weapons charges against Robert Pickton last Thursday related to illegal possession of an unregistered pistol.

However neither has been named as a suspect in the disappearances, nor are they in custody.

Meanwhile, the manager of a Vancouver rendering plant said Tuesday police have not asked for records of deliveries from the farm now under scrutiny.

Humphry Koch of West Coast Reduction said the Pickton farm regularly delivered pig entrails to his facility for the last 20 years.

He said police inquired whether the plant had received entrails from the farm but not from any individual.

Patricia Johnson last seen Feb 27, 2001

 

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Updated: August 21, 2016