VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Woman on poster
contacts police, says she's alive
Lori Culbert and
Friday, June 23, 2006
For the second time this month, a woman who was on the police poster of dozens of women missing from the Downtown Eastside has come forward to the RCMP to say she is alive.
Mary Florence Lands, 45, contacted police on Wednesday after she and her younger sister reconnected following a 16-year separation.
Lands, who lives in North Battleford, Sask., called police when she found out she was officially listed as missing.
In an interview Thursday with Global News, Lands said she was "bewildered and shocked" by news of her missing status.
She said she feels terrible that her family -- including two sons and a daughter, who were raised in a separate home -- believed she was dead.
"It must have been absolute torture for them to go through thinking that I was dead, and died horribly to boot," she said in a telephone interview from her Saskatchewan home.
RCMP Cpl. Tom Seaman said police are confident Lands is the person she claims to be.
"We are quite positive that it is her, and that she is alive and well," Seaman said.
Lands was last seen by family in 1991, but was not reported missing to the Vancouver police until 2004. After reviewing her case, the Missing Women Task Force officially added the native woman to its poster in October 2004. Her younger sister, Marie Louise Lands, told Global Television Thursday that she believed her older sister was dead. The two lost contact in 1991 when the elder sister, who suffered bouts of alcoholism and lost custody of her children, left the Downtown Eastside.
Earlier this week, however, after years of silence, Marie Louise found a note with a contact number from her sister tacked to a bulletin board in the Carnegie Centre on East Hastings. The sisters talked by telephone Wednesday morning for the first time since their separation.
"I'm happy. I'm really happy," Marie Louise said. "I was jumping for joy, saying, 'Oh my God. Oh my God. She's alive. She's alive.' I was crying my eyes out. I'm going to hug her so much, I don't want to ever let her go again."
Seaman had no information about why Lands left B.C. or why she was not in contact with her family for so many years.
He said police will review the file to determine how she was able to remain officially missing, in light of her claims that she made no efforts to hide.
The addition of Lands' name, and those of seven others, to the roster of people who were believed to have vanished from Vancouver's drug-infested Downtown Eastside brought the number of missing women to 69 by late 2004.
However, Tammy Fairbairn surfaced last year, and earlier this month, The Sun reported that Linda Grant was living in the U.S. and had no idea she had been reported missing. The removal of Lands' name will drop the number of missing women on the poster to 66.
Wayne Leng, who launched a popular website dedicated to the missing women after his friend Sarah de Vries vanished in 1998, often gets electronic postings from friends or relatives of those on the poster. But he could not recall ever hearing from anyone connected with Lands.
However, Leng, who has become an advocate for the missing women, said he was thrilled to hear about Lands.
"It's great news," he said from his home in California.
De Vries is one of 26 women from the poster whom Port Coquitlam pig farmer Robert (Willy) Pickton is accused of murdering. His pre-trial hearings started in January in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster.
© The Vancouver Sun 2006
Updated: January 01, 2007