VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Feb. 8, 08:18 EDT
Ramshackle farm subject of search
PORT COQUITLAM, B.C. (CP) - Family and friends of women missing from Vancouver's downtown eastside have been drawn in recent days to a ramshackle suburban farm being searched by police.
Ernie Crey, whose sister Dawn hasn't been heard from for more than a year, said he was reluctant to come. But in the end he just needed to see the site task force members say is of interest in disappearance of 50 women, dating back to 1983.
"I don't know what's going on behind those gates across the way," an emotional Crey said Friday outside the four-hectare property.
I want to find out what’s become of our sister, Dawn."
It's horrifying to think any of the 50 missing women may have met a terrible fate, said Crey, but he still wants to know.
"I want to find out what became of my sister," he said.
A search warrant executed Tuesday led to three firearms charges against one of the owners of the farm, Robert William Pickton, 52.
But something else found during the search led investigators to get another search warrant.
News reports quoted police sources as saying identification and other items from at least two of the missing women prompted the second warrant.
At a briefing Friday, police refused to confirm the information, nor provide any other details of what led them to the farm or what they hope to find there.
"We can't go into any specifics with regard to what we're looking for," said RCMP Const. Cate Galliford. "Because anything that we find or may find of evidentiary value will be put before the courts, so we don't want to jeopardize the integrity of the investigation."
Seeing the property unnerved Crey.
"The idea that these women or my sister may have met the end of their lives here is just very, very troubling to me at this stage," he said.
"I don't know that that's the case. The only thing I can do is wait and see."
Police have said it could be weeks or even months before they conclude the search.
The sprawling suburban Vancouver property, adjacent to new condominiums and a golf course, was being secured Friday by RCMP tactical officers and a newly erected fence to keep out curious onlookers.
A roadblock controlled traffic on the road in front of the property to local residents.
Investigators could be seen carefully lifting shovels full of material in a barn, while others picked up debris outside - an old purse, a rolled up hose, a discarded running shoe.
Galliford would not comment on the found items.
"Different teams have been assigned to different stages," she said. "Right now those stages mostly involve the outbuildings on the property."
Workers from the SPCA took away a Rottweiler dog that was roaming the property, along with the farm's pigs.
Candles lit by members of a prostitute-advocacy group late Thursday still sat on a fence rail in the driveway.
Vehicles, including six television satellite trucks, lined the road outside the farm in a macabre vigil for information.
"It was with shock and disbelief that we awoke yesterday to find this investigation in our back yard," said Port Coquitlam Mayor Scott Young.
"I think that shock and disbelief is quickly changing to frustration and sympathy for the families who have suffered in this very tragic time.
"We're very hopeful that whatever the investigation may find will hopefully lead to a conclusion of this investigation and bring closure for the families."
Crey, a former aboriginal leader in the Fraser Valley just east of here, said he was relieved there may be some movement in the case. For months after Dawn Crew was first reported missing in 2000, the investigation seemed to be going nowhere.
"I was concerned that the Vancouver city police had lost the will and commitment to continue on with an investigation," Crey said.
The municipal police force appeared to be scaling down the investigation even as more women went missing.
Some families believe it was because the women were poor, some drug addicts and prostitutes.
Crey is reluctant to lay blame, but said he hopes Dawn wasn't considered unimportant just because she lived a troubled life in the poverty-stricken downtown eastside.
"She was a beautiful young woman," he said, choking with emotion outside the home police are searching.
"My brothers and sisters loved her very much. She has a child back home that loves here and she has an entire community back home that loves her."
Crey doesn't know if investigators will find anything at the Port Coquitlam farm.
"I don't know if the police will every turn up anything," he said. "All I've ever expected and wanted was a serious investigation."
Galliford said the task force has set up a new tip line: 1-877-687-3377.
Updated: August 21, 2016