VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Witness tells inquiry women were snatched as if there was 'a monster out there'
SUZANNE FOURNIER, THE PROVINCE October 01, 2011
Elaine Allan told the Missing Women Commission Inquiry Tuesday morning that she saw her regular clients at the WISH drop-in vanish in the late '90s as if snatched by a "dark force."
"It's like there was a monster out there, an evil force sweeping up women, but we don't know what it was," said Allan, who worked in the heart of the Downtown Eastside with survival sex workers from 1998 to 2001.
Allan said the DTES was like "Mayberry," a small town where everyone knew each other, and when women disappeared, the community noticed and anxiety mounted.
Allan worked every day at the WISH women-only drop-in, where sex workers could get dinner at six, have a shower or watch TV, although they had to leave by 10 p.m.
Sharon Baptiste was highly agitated when her cousin Georgina Papin, "a very beautiful, very popular woman" went missing in about 2001, said Allan.
When now-convicted serial killer Robert Pickton, well-known by then to sex workers in the DTES, was finally arrested in 2002, Allan said there was shock, and anger.
"Sharon Baptiste immediately said, that's the guy who picked up my cousin," Allan recalled.
Allan said her friend, longtime street nurse Bonnie Fournier "told me immediately, when she saw Pickton's arrest photo, 'That's the asshole who's been parking outside the Waldorf (Hotel on East Hastings) for 25 years.'"
Evidence at Pickton's trial, which led to his conviction in 2007 of the murder of six women, including Papin, revealed he often frequented the Waldorf parking lot, trolling for women to take back to his Port Coquitlam farm. He then returned to the eastside neighbourhood to dump body parts along with pig offal at a rendering plant. Pickton boasted in jail of killing 49 women but the DNA or remains of only 33 women have been recovered.
One day, in 1999, Allan recounted, a woman named "Ashwan" was "beating on the (WISH) door, just hysterical." Her best friend Tiffany Drew had gone missing, something Ashwan insisted Tiffany would never do.
As days went by, Ashwan's anguish grew and Allan said she turned to Vancouver Police Const. David Dickson, the DTES liaison. Allan characterized Dickson's reaction as "indifferent" but as both women kept pressing him to help, he finally "took me aside," said Allan. "He told me Tiffany was in recovery (from drug addiction) and didn't want contact from her old friends, fearing she would relapse." Neither woman believed him.
The first indication of the real fate of the beautiful, blond blue-eyed Tiffany, was when "a reporter called me to say Tiffany Drew's DNA had been found on the Pickton farm," said Allan, breaking into tears.
"Why the cop told Ashwan and me Tiffany Drew was in a recovery facility when in fact she was not, will always be a mystery to me," said Allan.
Dickson was a well-known and well-regarded beat cop for many years and still works in the DTES with disadvantaged, drug-addicted women. He will be appearing at the inquiry later to tell his story.
Allan said she knew at least 20 women on the large Missing Women poster inside the inquiry room on the 8th floor at 701 West Georgia. The inquiry, slated to continue until next June, is looking into why it took police so long to catch Pickton, who was arrested in 2002, and why 1997 charges were stayed against him for the attempted murder at his farm of a DTES sex trade worker.
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Updated: August 21, 2016