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$100,000 offered for tips about missing prostitutes

Vancouver cops question police board's tactic

ROBERT MATAS
BC Bureau,
THE GLOBE AND MAIL

A $100,000 reward has been offered in the search for 27 missing Vancouver prostitutes, despite opposition from police working on the case.

The Vancouver police board, headed by Mayor Philip Owen, voted unanimously yesterday in favour of the reward. The city will contribute $30,000 and the province is expected to pay $70,000.

"I don't think it's workable," Sergeant Geramy Field, a member of the department's homicide unit, said after the vote was taken.

Police are concerned about how they will assess information received as a result of the reward. So far, they have found no evidence of any crimes.

A police investigation usually begins with a body, and, as a rule, rewards are offered when police are looking for a suspect, Deputy Chief Constable Brian McGuinness said. Police withhold information from the public and that information is used to identify tips worth further investigation.

But in their investigation of the missing prostitutes, police so far have no bodies, no crime scenes, no suspects, not even any tips that a crime was committed, Deputy Chief Constable McGuiness said, adding that there is no information with which to filter out false leads.

Vancouver police received reports of 3,199 missing persons last year. Friends and family of 22 of the missing women have alleged that a serial killer is stalking Vancouver's skid row. Most of the women have disappeared in recent years, but the list of names includes a prostitute last seen in 1986.

All the women were last seen in the same area of the city and disappeared suddenly, without telling family or friends or taking their personal belongings. Police have discovered that at least some of the women have not withdrawn any money from their bank accounts or picked up their welfare cheques since they disappeared.

Deputy Chief Constable McGuiness said 27 prostitutes have disappeared since 1978. Two who were thought to be missing have been discovered in recent days, he said. One was in a hospital in the United States and another was hiding in Nanaimo and did not want to be found, he said.

Vancouver police and the provincial government have been under pressure to offer a reward, especially since they decided to offer $100,000 rewards for information in connection with several recent home-invasion and garage robberies in Vancouver.

Maggie deVries, a sister of Sarah deVries, who has been missing for more than a year, said the reward is of important symbolic value and shows that police are taking the investigation seriously.

"In our society, it's easy to dismiss {prostitutes}," said Ms. deVries, who teaches part time at the University of British Columbia and in Surrey schools.

All the women were last seen in the same area of the city and disappeared suddenly, without telling family or friends or taking their personal belongings.

Wayne Leng, a close friend of Sarah deVries, said Ms.deVries, 29, had been involved in the sex trade for about 15 years. On occasion she would not be in touch with anyone for two or three days, but has never disappeared for so long, he said.

Those pressing police to offer the reward are aware that it may not solve the problem, Mr. Leng said. "It's another tool in the hands of the police."

B.C. Attorney-General Ujjal Dosanjh has previously indicated he fully supports the reward offer.

Another measure taken in the search for the women is the creation of a Web site on the Internet at   http://www.missingpeople.net     The site has extensive information on the missing women and photos of "sexual predator' that have been published in the media.

Puzzle of death haunts kids of lost mother-April 16, 2000

 

Email: wleng#missingpeople.net 

Missing Women Tip Line: 1-877-687-3377

Updated: August 21, 2016