|Missing women 'might' be
victims of serial killer
Adrienne Tanner, Staff Reporter The Province
Rick Loughran, The Province / Portland Hotel manager Mark
Thompson displays personal effects of Angela Jardine, missing from downtown east side.
Angela Rebecca Jardine: disappeared just before Christmas
Vancouver police Det. Lori Shenher avoids the term "serial killer" like a
sticky wad of gum on the sidewalk.
She sees it, acknowledges it and deftly steps around it.
Shenher has dropped the initial police line that the 22 women who have vanished from
the downtown east side since 1995 are just as likely to show up alive as dead.
Prostitutes and drug addicts do not lead transient lives. If anything, addiction and
poverty trap them on the sleazy strip between Powell and Hastings where it's possible to
turn a trick and score in a matter of minutes.
Police certainly suspect foul play, Shenher says. But is this the work of one serial
"I think there might be. My partner thinks there might be. But 'might' is the
operative word, because we've had these couple of pleasant surprises."
Two missing women have been found alive. One turned up after two years in an Arizona
psychiatric hospital, the other after a few months in Nanaimo.
Shenher has been looking hard for the others since July, when she volunteered to join
Det. Al Howlett in the Vancouver police department's missing-persons section to tackle the
It is proving the ultimate challenge for the young homicide detective.
There are no bodies, no signs of foul play. Just class politics, accusations the police
aren't taking the disappearances seriously and a sudden media interest in the case.
Deborah Jardine isn't satisfied with the efforts to find her daughter Angela, who
disappeared just before Christmas. Angela lived in the Portland Hotel, was mentally
challenged and turned tricks to feed her drug addiction. She called Deborah, who lives in
Sparwood, once or twice a month.
When she vanished, police didn't check to see if she'd gone home for the holidays,
Deborah says. It also took a month for them to print up a missing-person bulletin.
"The police have an oath to protect and serve. Obviously this doesn't apply to a
person with Angela's social status."
Similar criticisms have come from agencies and advocates for the poor in the downtown
Mark Townsend runs the Portland Hotel and knew Angela and a few of the other missing
women. He says it wasn't until the media latched on to the story last summer that a second
officer was added to the case.
The problem is not with Shenher, who Townsend believes cares deeply about the women and
is working hard on the case. "It's the higher-ups. There isn't a commitment to
Public pressure has now caused politicians to endorse a $100,000 reward for information
on the disappearances. The announcement this weekend has mollified some parents who see it
as a sign the police are getting serious about the case.
Shenher is not convinced a reward will yield much of value. Homicide experts say
rewards are "very, very seldom, if ever, effective."
Cross-country checks to see whether the women are claiming welfare or using health
services in other provinces have turned up nothing. Attempts to match unidentified bodies
in B.C. with the missing women also struck out. It's possible, but unlikely, that
unidentified remains in other provinces or U.S. states may account for one or two others.
Missing-person reports are logged on to a national computer system monitored by police in
There is some hope too that a few of the women could be living in other cities under
assumed names. Shenher is compiling a list of social-service agencies in Canada and nearby
states. Once complete, she will send them photos of the missing women.
Shenher has shifted her investigative focus. She's treating the cases as linked and is
hunting for "men who have shown a history of this kind of behavior."
A glance at the "bad date" sheet circulated on the streets to steer
prostitutes away from violent johns proves there is no shortage of men who abuse
prostitutes. Shenher would like to talk to them.
Will one turn out to be a serial killer?
Local prostitutes seem to think so. Many have dropped their privacy shields and
registered with local community agencies.
Shenher isn't likely to speculate much more about a serial killer. Not, at least, until
someone is behind bars.
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The day Angela disappeared
April 28, 1998
Though different, on skid row she's found a place to call
Jardine disappeared from her world in a satiny-pink party dress, the kind a bridesmaid
A splash of color against the grime of Vancouver's skid row, the
gown stood out for Mark Townsend, manager of the Portland Hotel, where Angela had lived
for seven years.
It was Nov. 20, 1998, and there was a community safety meeting in
Oppenheimer Park, he recalls.
"Angela was there and really excited--in her mind she was
hosting the event."
She bounced through the crowd, trying to con reporters into
believing she was the police chief's daughter. Her idea of a joke, Townsend says.
Angela left some time between 3 and 4 p.m. Townsend assumed she
was headed for the stroll where she turned tricks to feed her drug habit.
She hasn't been seen since.
Angela is one of 22 women who have vanished from Vancouver's
downtown east side since 1995. Like her, they were prostitutes, drug addicts or both.
Police downplayed the disappearances at first, treating the cases
as regular missing persons files. Now Det. Lor Shenher, the lead investigator, says she's
investigating them like homicides.
Despite Angela's problems, she always kept in touch with her
mother in Sparwood. Deborah Jardine believes something sinister has happened to her
"She either has to be dead or held against her will for her
not to contact me or Mark."
It was never clear exactly what was wrong with Angela, says
Deborah, who sought help from countless doctors, counselors and social workers. But from
the beginning, it was obvious she was not a normal child. Her co-ordination was shaky, her
speech slow. The behavioral problems started in kindergarten.
Angela would wake up in the night and wander the house.
"She would go into the refrigerator and take all the eggs
out and smash them on the floor."
It was these erratic outbursts that condemned her to a life on
Beneath the outlandish behavior was a kind-hearted, sensitive
girl few ever got to know, Deborah says: "Even though she used to have a lot of
arguments with me, she always used to call me up or make up things for me or just come up
and give me a hug and say, 'I love you so much, Mom.'"
Angela left home at age 16 and lived briefly in foster care.
Then she moved to Vancouver's downtown east side, where she was
soon sucked into the spiral of hard drugs and prostitution.
Angela spent her entire 27 years trying to fit in, Deborah says.
"That's one of the reasons she blended into the east side so
well....People didn't treat her like she was an outsider."
Angela became a boisterous fixture in her tough milieu. She had a
crowd of friends, people she called auntie and uncle who lived in nearby hotels where she
crashed from time to time.
In her tiny room, Angela left little behind but photos and
memories. Townsend has saved her personal effects, hoping someday she'll show up to claim
There is an unopened Christmas gift, her white teddy bear, and
clothes folded neatly in four small cardboard boxes.
Buried beneath family photos lie the remnants of her dreams--pages of
grade-school homework half done and a romance paperback that would no doubt have
stretched her reading abilities. It's title: The Measure of Heart.
documents frustration with police-Apr 15, 2002