VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Victimís sister finds comfort at hospital
Tuesday, March 12, 2002
By Maija Schell
In certain situations, looking at pictures of personal belongings can be as difficult as identifying the body of a loved one.
Family members and friends were asked to look at photographs of retrieved items police believe may belong to the 50 missing women who worked or lived in Vancouver's downtown eastside area.
Maple Ridge's Sandra Gagnon, whose sister Janet Henry went missing in 1997, was among the 60 people viewing the photographs on Sunday.
"It was just heart wrenching. I was scared. It was just as if I was going in to identify a body," said Gagnon Monday.
She described the exhibit of photographs at a Surrey RCMP office as a large billboard of pictures displaying jackets, chains and rings.
"There must have been 40 or 50 different items."
Gagnon said walking into the exhibit room was extremely difficult. She went in without family members or friends, with one police officer by her side. Gagnon said those being asked to identify the items at the office lined up and entered the room one at a time.
"It was really hard to know what to expect. I was hoping that I could recognize something, but on the other hand I was scared to," she said.
The photographs of the personal belongings were not identified by Sandra as being items of her sister's.
"I don't know what she was wearing the day she disappeared. She always wore jeans. That's just the way I remember her."
Sandra had her last telephone conversation with Janet on June 25, 1997. The sisters, who are also best friends, were at that time making plans to meet for lunch at their favourite restaurant, the King's Kitchen, in Maple Ridge.
"She was going to come and visit," said Gagnon, tears in her eyes, "but then I never heard from her again." Janet has a husband and 16-year-old daughter who wants to become a police officer once she finishes school.
Sandra said she describes her sister as a person who was loved by many and cared for all.
"She was a really caring person that would do anything in the world for anybody," she said.
On Monday morning, Sandra sat answering questions and speaking of her lost family members before she returned to her room at Ridge Meadows Hospital. Gagnon said she will stay at the hospital, under doctors care, until she feels better.
"The level of stress is so high. I'm not sure how long I'll be here. It's up to my psychiatrist," said Gagnon.
As well as the disappearance of her sister, Sandra is dealing with the recent loss of three beloved family members. "I lost my 23-year-old son, Terry. My brother three months ago and my sister 10 months ago. It's just really hard times."
Terry recently committed suicide. It was his brother Richard who found the body.
"Richard found my boy. He tried to resuscitate him but it was too late."
Sandra said her son took his life in Maple Ridge but she is uncertain as to why he would no longer want to live. "Terry has a three-year-old boy that is well taken care of by his mother, but I need to try to stay strong for their sake," said Sandra.
Although living in a constant state of heartache, she refuses to give up on her fight for justice.
"I'm going to get through this...I hope for justice for these women. I hope they catch the people who did this and they go to jail for life."
Gagnon remains hopeful police will find the people responsible for the murders and is comforted by the recent arrest of 52-year old, Richard Pickton. He was charged with first-degree murder on Feb. 22 in the deaths of Sereena Abotsway and Mona Wilson.
"I'm now happy with the way police are conducting the investigation. A police man gave me his card yesterday and said if I could remember anything else I could call him." Sandra said police are asking her to try to recall any friends of Janet's who may be able to help with the on-going investigation.
Updated: August 21, 2016