VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
MORE VANCOUVER PROSTITUTES MISSING|
List Stands at 25 Women; Families Fear Serial Killer
May 26, 1999
By Robert Anthony Phillips
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (APBnews.com) -- Two more prostitutes have vanished from one of the city's red-light districts, adding to disappearances that some believe are the work of an undetected serial killer who has been preying on the women for years.
The number of missing prostitutes now totals 25, police said. However, Borhaven and Coombes vanished years ago and have just been reported as missing by their families.
Borhaven was last seen in 1997 in the Downtown Eastside, a small, impoverished neighborhood that is frequented by older prostitutes. Coombes, also identified as a prostitute who frequented the Downtown Eastside area, was last seen by her mother in 1993, police said.
The disappearances of the 25 prostitutes have led some advocates of sex-trade workers and their families to suspect that a serial killer is at large. However, police say they have no evidence of a lone killer preying on women.
Meanwhile, due to publicity surrounding the case, police have increased manpower to get to the bottom of the disappearances. The city and the provincial government are also offering a $100,000 (Canadian) reward for information on the fate of the women.
Police say they are still stumped as to what happened to the missing women and have found no clues to their disappearances. They say that given the transient nature of prostitution, the women could have moved to another area. However, family members have said that the women had "close ties" to the community and would not just pick up and leave.
Detective Constable Lori Shenher, who is investigating the case, said police are hampered by the fact that fingerprints are not taken from people arrested for prostitution-related offenses in Canada.
Shenher said without fingerprints, it is difficult for police to determine whether the women are using an alias in another part of Canada or, in cases where unidentified bodies have been found, to make positive identifications.
In one solved disappearance, a missing prostitute from the Downtown Eastside was found months later in an Arizona mental hospital. She had been arrested while on a crack binge and was using an alias, police said. Police learned of her whereabouts only after she wrote a letter to her mother.
Under Canadian law, prostitution is legal but "communicating" for the purpose of prostitution is a crime.
Although last seen in 1997, Borhaven was not reported missing to Vancouver police until May 18, authorities said.
Janice Williams, a media liaison for the Vancouver police, said the recent publicity regarding the missing women prompted Borhaven's family to report her missing to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Vernon, the family's hometown. The file was then sent to Vancouver police.
Coombes also has mental health problems, Williams said. Coombes was last seen in November 1993 but was not reported missing to Vancouver police until April.
Again, Williams said it was the publicity surrounding the case that prompted Coombes' mother to file a missing person's report on her daughter.
Williams said that Coombes' mother, living in Mexico at the time of her daughter's disappearance, sent a letter to Vancouver police in 1995 asking investigators to check on her daughter's whereabouts.
Williams said she did not know whether police investigated.
Robert Anthony Phillips is an APBnews.com staff writer (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Updated: August 21, 2016