Friday, June 30

Date for Robert Pickton's jury trial set for January 2007

Greg Joyce
Canadian Press
Friday, June 30, 2006

NEW WESTMINSTER - The jury trial of accused serial killer Robert Pickton will begin Jan. 8, 2007.

Justice James Williams set the date in B.C. Supreme Court on Friday.

The jury selection process will begin Dec. 9.

Williams said the process will start with a jury pool that could be in the hundreds, which will be broken down into groups before the formal jury selection begins Dec. 11.

The judge said it was important for the accused, the lawyers and the community at large to set a date.

Williams said Pickton has been in custody since his arrest in 2002 and by the time the trial begins will have been in custody for almost five years.

Williams addressed possible concerns by members of the community who he said might believe the case has already taken far too long.

"It's an unusually large and complicated matter,'' he said. "No one is served by a hasty trial.''

Pickton is accused of killing 26 women who vanished from the streets of Vancouver's drug-infested Downtown East Side over several years.

The Crown and defence have been making applications to the court on evidence that will be presented to the jury since January.

Williams said he had hoped all the applications would be done by the end of June with a trial starting in the fall.

"It has taken considerably longer than anticipated,'' Williams said, noting the applications will continue under a publication ban into October.

© Canadian Press 2006

Thursday, June 29

More women's names added to Highway of Tears victim list: report

More women's names added to Highway of Tears victim list: report
By Ryan Jensen
June 29, 2006

More than 30 women may have been murdered along the 724-kilometre Hwy of Tears, according to the Highway of Tears Recommendation Report, released publicly on National Aboriginal Day June 21.

In addition to nine confirmed killed or missing women along Hwy 16, the report has added two more names.

Alberta Williams, 27 years old when she disappeared in 1989 and Monica Ingnas, 15, at the time she went missing on the highway in 1974, were named in the report along with the nine previously-identified Highway of Tears cases.

"There is much community speculation and debate on the number of women that have disappeared along Hwy 16 over a longer 35-year period," the report states. "Many are saying the number of missing women, combined with the number of confirmed murdered women exceeds 30."

A total of 33 recommendations were made in the report, submitted by five Northern B.C. First Nations' groups resulting from the Highway of Tears Symposium held in Prince George on March 30 and 31.

Among the recommendations are: establishing a shuttle bus between Prince George and Prince Rupert, increased RCMP patrols on Highway 16 in the region and increasing recreation and social activity opportunities for all First Nations' youth.

Some of the root causes behind the disappearances and killings were listed as poverty and lack of access to recreation and business services for many of those living in the numerous First Nations communities located near Hwy 16.

Matilda Wilson, mother of Ramona whose remains were found near the Smithers Airport 10 months after she disappeared in June of 1994, said she feels many of the suggestions made in the document will be of benefit.

See REPORT on Page A2

Wilson said strategically-located billboards along the Prince Rupert to Prince George Hwy 16 corridor will go a long way to educate young women about the risks of hitchhiking.

"[Posting billboards] is a very good idea," Wilson said, adding she has been approached by Northern B.C. businesses who have pledged to financially support such an initiative.

Wilson said since she attended the symposium, her communication with the RCMP has improved but must continue.

Knowing the pain and devastation that go along with losing a loved one, victim family services is another area Wilson feels is important to develop.

"It gets pretty heavy sometimes, especially when you have to talk about things like this," she said. "We really do need support groups for the victims' families and that would be one step forward again."

One common theme tying the recommendations together throughout the report was the need for cooperation between all levels of government, victim families and First Nations' organizations.

Solicitor General John Les said his staff, and those from other provincial government ministries will be researching ways they can contribute to bringing this issue to a resolution.

"As we get through the next couple of weeks hopefully we'll be able to start getting some shape around what we can do," Les told The Interior News on Thursday. "I was pleased with the quality of the report, I was pleased at the tone of the report and I think some of the recommendations are certainly food for thought."

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen, who attended the spring symposium, said he will personally go after the federal government for help in making the recommendations? a reality.

"All levels of government have a responsibility to help with prevention and education efforts and I will be pushing hard for meaningful federal assistance," he said.

Meanwhile, investigations into the Highway of Tears cases continue.

RCMP media relations officer Cpl. Tom Seaman said officials are currently reviewing the report and its recommendations to see how they can be part of the solution.

"Our senior management and investigative team are reviewing the report," Seaman said. "We're going to do whatever we possibly can to work together with those involved."

Under the direction of the North District office in Prince George, the RCMP are diligently following up on any information that comes their way, said Seaman.

"The investigations are, of course, very active and ongoing," he said. "I can't get into any of the specifics or details of the progress being made but we continue to receive tips from the public, which is encouraging."

Recently, the police force has stepped up patrols of Hwy 16 and has been educating people on the dangers of hitchhiking, Seaman said.

Ray Michalko, a private investigator working on the cases, said he was called with some promising leads after an appearance on a CBC Radio program show.

"Whenever that happens, I get calls again," he said of the response to his radio interview. "I ended up, that night, getting a couple more leads, one of which I think is really pretty sound. I can foresee another trip there fairly soon to interview some more people."

This past weekend marked the four-year anniversary of the disappearance of Nicole Hoar who was last seen hitchhiking to Smithers.

Pickton trial may begin in January

Lead defence lawyer Peter Ritchie confident that 12 impartial jurors can be found

Lori Culbert
Vancouver Sun
Thursday, June 29, 2006

Canada's largest serial murder trial may begin in January, meaning that some Lower Mainland residents will be attending jury selection hearings instead of going Christmas shopping.

Defence lawyers for Robert (Willy) Pickton, who is accused of killing 26 women plucked from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, suggested in New Westminster Supreme Court Wednesday that jury selection could begin Dec. 11 in preparation for a long trial that may start Jan. 8.

Crown prosecutors backed the defence's proposed schedule, but it will be up to Justice James Williams to rule Friday when the mega-trial will begin.

Details about this jury's selection are not available this early, but Pickton lawyer Adrian Brooks said in court he was confident 12 jurors could be selected between Dec. 11 and Christmas.

Outside court, Pickton's lead defence lawyer, Peter Ritchie, said the judge may have to take "extraordinary strides" during the process to ensure fair and efficient jury selection because the case has received so much media attention.

Typically, in Canada, potential jurors aren't individually questioned by lawyers as they are in the United States, but something like that might have to happen here, Ritchie said.

"Normally a judge will point out [to prospective jurors] the importance of being impartial and allow opportunities for jurors to express their views as to whether they think they could be or not be -- and perhaps in this case even accede to applications from counsel to ask the jurors a few questions," said Ritchie, who remained confident 12 unbiased jurors can be found.

Two months ago, Ritchie said he feared the trial could last two years. However, on Wednesday, he said he hopes the proceedings can be whittled down through pre-trial arguments being heard right now by Williams and through negotiations with the Crown.

For example, he said, there are an estimated 1,000 witnesses listed by the Crown. That doesn't include the number of witnesses who would be called by the defence, which Ritchie wouldn't reveal.

"We need to see if there is some way we can shorten this [witness list] to see if we can make it more manageable," he said. "Two years is not an efficient time estimate. I don't know how a jury could deal with a trial of such a length. I rather doubt that they could."

© The Vancouver Sun 2006

Tuesday, June 27

Eastside victim's relative speaks out

Mother-in-law breaks her silence, calls for answers

Globe and Mail
June 27, 2006

VANCOUVER -- When Patricia Johnson was alive, the government never gave her as much as a penny to help her break her drug habit.

After she was killed, the B.C. government offered $5,000 to her children for counselling because their mother had been murdered.

That's not the way it should be, Ms. Johnson's mother-in-law, Laura Tompkins, said yesterday during an emotional address at the World Peace Forum in Vancouver.

"The forces that created this terrible tragedy can be changed. Something should be done about it," she said.

Ms. Johnson was last seen Feb. 27, 2001, near the intersection of Hastings and Main streets.

"She vanished right off the face of the earth and she was only 24 years old," Ms. Tompkins said.

Ms. Johnson was vulnerable, a woman in the Downtown Eastside who was doing what she had to do to support herself and her drug habit, Ms. Tompkins said.

"She was not proud of what she was doing. But she was a person with a lot of dignity and inner strength. I loved her a lot," she said.

Port Coquitlam farmer Robert Pickton has been charged with the murders of Ms. Johnson and 25 other women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Most of the women were drug addicted and supported their habits through prostitution.

Mr. Pickton's trial is in its fifth month of hearing motions on the admissibility of evidence. A court order prohibits publication of evidence before the material is presented to a jury. Selection of a jury is expected later this year.

Ms. Tompkins said she is pleased that the criminal justice system is dealing with the murders. But she said she is concerned about social justice and the lack of change in the Downtown Eastside.

She said she had been reluctant to speak out publicly, preferring to protect the privacy of the family, and especially of Ms. Johnson's children. But she decided to break her silence to draw attention to the pressing need for change before the publication ban on reporting the evidence is lifted.

"We can talk about social justice and the values our community have without all that other publicity," she said.

"We need to look at the reason these things occur," she asserted, pointing her finger at the lack of government support for drug rehabilitation and authorities' reluctance to investigate complaints about prostitutes who go missing. Foremost, she said, she wants to know why her daughter-in-law was killed.

She believes her daughter-in-law was murdered with the complicity of the entire city of Vancouver, which she said tolerates the conditions in the Downtown Eastside.

"Collectively, it is our responsibility. We let that happen," she said, adding that she is equally concerned about women who have gone missing in Prince George, Edmonton and elsewhere in Canada.

Ms. Tompkins was also worried about the attention that the trial may bring to the victims' families.

Representatives of the government's victims' services branch have warned the families to brace themselves.

"They said, be prepared, it is going to be really, really bad," she said.

© Copyright 2006 Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, June 25

Cold cases: Behnd the 'forgotten' 25

Cold cases: Behind the `forgotten' 25
Jun. 25, 2006. 09:48 AM


"If you want to commit the perfect murder, go out and kill someone
you don't know and shut up about it." — A local detective who, for
obvious reasons, does not want to be named.

They've been called "the forgotten," 25 murdered or missing women
whose names have faded from public consciousness.

Over the past 15 years, a total of 25 women who lived what police
call "high-risk lifestyles" have been slain in the Golden Horseshoe,
an area stretching around Lake Ontario from Niagara Falls to
Toronto. Fourteen of those murders took place in or around the GTA.

Some of the murders were likely the work of serial killers, still
out there prowling for new victims, say police.

Ten of the victims were strangled. One was clubbed to death. Two
were pregnant.

One victim was Darlene MacNeill, a 35-year-old Parkdale prostitute.
Her killer choked her unconscious, then dumped her into Lake
Ontario, drowning her in a nine-year-old cold case.

"Just another police statistic." That's what MacNeill's mother,
Winnie Cornish, says about her daughter's slaying.

"She's forgotten. If she was a judge's daughter, the case would have
been solved by now."

As the MacNeill case and the other Golden Horseshoe murders grow
colder with each passing year, it's unlikely they'll ever get
solved, even with DNA and recent advances in police investigative
techniques, such as PowerCase, a computerized database of violent

"Most homicides are crimes of passion," says one local detective who
requested anonymity. "Hate and love are strong emotions that push
people to do things they would normally be appalled by.

"Homicide investigations are done in concentric circles," starting
with people who have an emotional attachment to the victim, and
working outwards.

"The problem with `high-risk' women is that they meet dozens of men
they don't know every day. That makes the suspect pool enormous. The
cases are wickedly difficult to solve."

In Ontario between 1991 and 2004, only four of every 10 murders of
women in the sex trade were solved.

For all other murders in the province during that time, the
average "clearance rate" was more than double that, a study done for
the Toronto Star by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics at
Statistics Canada shows.

There's another lesser-known problem common to "high-risk"
murders. "Hurting an unarmed woman is not a macho crime, like
beating up some guy in a bar," says another detective. "You aren't
inclined to go around bragging that you roughed up a hooker because
your manhood failed you."

That means fewer tips are phoned in to Crime Stoppers on the murder
of street women than in other slayings.

But excuses are not what the relatives of the victims want to hear.
Often angry and frustrated, they call for the police to put more
resources into the cases.

Police officers bristle at the notion that some murders are more
important than others, with the killing of prostitutes on the bottom
rung of the ladder. "Yes, the trail has gone cold on some of those
slayings," says Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair. "But we still have
officers assigned to each one. No case is ever forgotten."

Police insist they never close the books on a murder, but admit that
in many of the cold cases of street women they need fresh leads if
there's to be any hope of an arrest.

"It's a very difficult chore telling the relatives we have nothing
new on the death of a loved one," says Det. Bob Wilkinson, head of
the three-member cold-case unit with the Toronto police homicide

"It would be nice to say, `I have a positive thing to tell you.' I'd
like to say that, but unless I receive new information I can't
advance (the case) any further."

For the past six months, a task force set up by Niagara Region
police and assisted by officers from the Hamilton and the Halton
forces, has probed five slayings in Niagara Falls, along with three
others in Hamilton. They've made one arrest.

"Investigations like these are very labour-intensive," says Staff
Sgt. Cliff Sexton, the Niagara officer heading up the 12-member task
force, who is hoping to "bring some closure" to some of the

"The summaries alone are up to 500 pages."

The last time Toronto police put together a task force on street
women was nine years ago. Last month, the force formed a squad
called the Special Victims Unit, which focuses on getting child sex
workers off the street. That could include providing assistance to
cold-case detectives probing the unsolved slayings of prostitutes.
But unless there are more solid tips, the cold "high-risk" cases
will remain nothing more than fodder for conversation whenever
police get together, such as at the recent meeting of the "Golden
Horseshoe Homicide Investigators Association," where the cases were

The media run into their own roadblocks. Relatives are typically
reluctant to talk, often angry, or embarrassed, over how reporters
portray the victims, focusing only on the sex trade part of their

Valerie Scott, executive director of Sex Professionals of Canada,
says sex workers live with the constant fear of getting beat up,
robbed or murdered.

She says that the general attitude of the public seems to be that
prostitutes are "non-persons, subhuman" and that killing them is "no
big deal."

But she says there has been a drop in violence against sex workers
because of recent initiatives by the Toronto force, such as
the "Anonymous Bad Date Line," which helps police identify vicious
men, making arrests before that repeated brutality leads to murder.

Anastasia Kuzyk, with the Sex Workers Alliance of Toronto, says
society is apathetic to the fate of sex workers, seeing them
as "disposable" people.

"It's often suggested that nobody misses them, but it's not true.
They're missed."

The last initiative by the Toronto police to focus on the murder of
street women was Project Break Wall, an 11-member task force devoted
to the killing of three prostitutes from Parkdale, all addicted to

Police feared the murders could be the work of a serial killer
because of the similarities in the slayings — all three women had
been choked and their bodies were dumped into the water near a
shoreline break wall south of Lake Shore Blvd. W.

There were no arrests, although police released a composite sketch
of a possible suspect, described as a man in his mid-30s, slim, with
tattooed arms and shoulder-length blond hair.

Across Canada, public pressure has prompted the police to pay more
attention to the murders of fringe women.

For instance, in Vancouver, the disappearance of 50 sex-trade
workers in the 1990s was marked by controversy and allegations that
the police weren't interested in finding out what happened to them.
Initially, the police said that because of their transient
lifestyle, they may have simply left the city and moved elsewhere.
It was only after pressure from family and friends through the media
that a task force was set up. That investigation led to the arrest
of Robert Pickton, a 52-year-old pig farmer who is now before the
courts on 26 counts of first-degree murder.

The disappearance and murder of nine women along a remote stretch of
highway in northern B.C., linking Prince Rupert and Prince George,
and dubbed the "highway of tears," has led to public demands that
the police, the government and the local native bands take action to
end the killings.

In Ontario, police forces were admonished in a 1996 study by Justice
Archie Campbell into what went wrong in the hunt for the killers of
Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy. The judge criticized them for
a "dangerous lack of co-ordination."

One response to that report was PowerCase. It took eight years and
$32 million to develop the computerized database of criminal
occurrences in the province, one that automatically advises the
province's 60 police forces by email of possible links between
criminal cases.

But while PowerCase has been credited with helping to solve current
cases, such as the arrest of a suspect by the Niagara police in two
of the more recent prostitute slayings, entering data from cold
cases is a time-consuming process. Forces, like Toronto's, don't
always have the manpower to do it.

Chief Blair says his force was firmly committed to PowerCase. "All
our current cases are in the system," he says. But what about the
cold cases? "If an older case was tied to a current case, then we
would look at putting it into PowerCase."

That means Toronto's unsolved murders before PowerCase, whose use
became mandatory for police in February 2005, are typically stored
away in banker's boxes.

Although the cases have gone cold, the head of Toronto's cold case
squad is cautiously optimistic there could be some arrests down the

"We have solid directions in two or three cases," says Wilkinson,
declining to offer specifics.

He constantly gets calls from detectives who have worked the cases,
even some who have retired from the force.

"Police officers carry a flag for these murders," he says.

"They know they're unsolved. They don't forget."

The Toronto Star

Saturday, June 24

'Missing' woman tells her story after reuniting with her children

Lana Haight and Neal Hall, Saskatoon Starphoenix and Vancouver Sun
Saskatoon StarPhoenix and Vancouver Sun
Saturday, June 24, 2006

SASKATOON -- Florence Lands says the portrayal of her as a Vancouver prostitute who abandoned her children couldn't be further from the truth.

"It's just beyond me that I would be painted so ugly," said Lands, 45, in an interview shortly before being reunited with her adult children at Saskatoon's airport.

Lands, who lives with her common-law husband in Cochin, northwestern Saskatchewan, was shocked to learn earlier this week that she was among 67 women presumed missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and pictured on the RCMP's missing women's task force poster.

On Friday night, Lands was reunited with her children and her sister after being separated from them for more than 15 years.

"You're so gorgeous," gushed Lands as her children, Michael Lands, 24, Stuart Panko, 22, and Jeannie Panko, 20, walked through the arrival gate.

"I feel like someone's going to pinch me and tell me it was a bad dream. It's not a bad dream, it's a good dream," she laughed while embracing Michael.

Lands's life has taken a significantly different path than that presumed by police, she said.

"I was a chronic alcoholic. I wasn't hooking. I never sold my body to get my drink. I did hang around Skid Road, but I was helping people," she said, adding that she volunteered with several organizations while holding down jobs to support her family.

But in 1987, the single mother of three toddlers had a stroke brought on by her diabetes. She was in hospital for 18 months and believed she wouldn't be able to care for her children. She arranged for a cousin from Ontario to legally adopt the two boys and a girl.

Unknown to Lands, the cousin changed her mind about the adoption and the children were sent to three different foster homes. Thinking that her children had become part of a loving and stable family, Lands decided to wait until each turned 18 before trying to contact them.

When she left Vancouver in 1989, she moved to Winnipeg, where she met her partner and they quit drinking "cold turkey." After living in a few different towns in Saskatchewan, they settled in Cochin.

In 2004, her daughter's social worker reported Lands as missing and last heard from in 1991.

"I never tried to hide from anybody," said Lands, who thought her extended family knew she was living in Saskatchewan.

For the past six years, since her eldest son turned 18, Lands has been sending messages to community centres in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, asking that her children contact her "if they wanted," she said.

It was the second time this month that a woman listed as missing by the missing women task force has been removed from the list after she was located alive and well. Earlier this month, Linda Grant was located by her family living in the U.S. She hadn't contacted her family in B.C. since 1984.

The removal of Lands's name will drop the number of missing women on the poster to 66.

© The Vancouver Sun 2006

Friday, June 23

Woman on poster contacts police, says she's alive

Woman on poster contacts police, says she's alive
Mary Florence Lands called in when she found out she was officially listed as missing

Lori Culbert and Darah Hansen
Vancouver Sun
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

Finding missing woman ends 'emotional rollercoaster,' says son

'We never thought she was dead'

Raina Delisle
The Province
Friday, June 23, 2006

CREDIT: Sam Leung, The Province
Marie Lands and her common-law husband, Brian Rafferty, are happy that her sister, Mary Florence, has been found.

Marie Lands believed her sister, one of 67 women missing from the drug-infested Downtown Eastside, was dead.

Today, Marie is flying with Mary Florence Lands' three children -- all in their early 20s -- to Saskatchewan to be reunited after 15 years.

It turns out Mary Florence is living a simple and peaceful life with her husband in rural Cochin, Sask., about 30 kilometres north of North Battleford.

Marie and her common-law husband, Brian Rafferty, met with The Province yesterday to share their astonishing story.

"It's a miracle. It's truly a miracle," said Marie, who last heard from her sister in 1991, when Mary Florence called from Calgary.

Mary Florence was reported missing in 2004 by her daughter and was added to the RCMP Missing Women's Task Force poster.

"I'm never gonna let her disappear on me again -- it's just too painful," Marie said. "I'm gonna hang on tight."

Mary Florence ended the years of silence with a note posted on a community centre bulletin board.

She had called the Carnegie Centre on Main Street earlier this week and left a message for her sister to get in touch. The sisters used to visit the centre together.

On Wednesday morning, Rafferty picked up the note. "I thought it was a cruel joke, so I called the number right away to check it out."

Mary Florence picked up.

The 42-year-old woman told Global B.C. she was "shocked and bewildered" that her family thought she was dead.

"It must have been absolute torture for them to go through this and think I was dead and died horribly to boot."

Marie thought her sister was among the dozens of victims of alleged serial killer Robert Pickton. She even went to court to see him.

"I heard awful stories of how the victims were tortured. I though my sister was one of them," she said. "I was just crying my eyes out."

Marie said her sister was involved in drugs and alcohol and "did the odd trick" -- prostitution -- but was a good mother.

Mary Florence's three children are Michael Lands, 24, Stuart Panko, 22, and Jeannie Panko, 20. She also has two young grandchildren.

The children were in and out of foster homes throughout their childhood, but had a good relationship with their mother, according to Michael.

He said his mom left town after she lost her visitation rights.

"We never thought she was dead," Michael said last night, speaking on behalf of his siblings.

"It's been an overwhelming emotional rollercoaster."

Michael said he was angry his mom was linked to women missing from the Downtown Eastside. "This has all totally tainted her name."

On June 8, Marie received a letter from the Crime Victim Assistance Program and was granted the maximum $5,000 for pain and suffering related to her sister's supposed death.

"The Missing Women's Task Force identified [Marie's] sister, [Mary Florence], as a victim of homicide," the letter said.

"They just assumed she was dead," Marie said. "I couldn't believe it. I didn't want to believe it. I was praying and crying for her every night."

She wants to know why the task force was unable to locate Mary Florence, since she was not trying to disappear and didn't change her name while living in Saskatchewan.

RCMP Cpl. Tom Seaman of the task force didn't have the answer.

"That's a good question and we'll be looking into that . . . When people disappear from an area and don't want to be found, they can do so fairly easily."

Rafferty said Mary Florence has heart problems and diabetes.

He said she has been unable to work and has been receiving disability cheques from the government.

"I don't understand how the police can say someone is dead, but the same person is cashing government cheques. It's absolutely unacceptable."

Mary Florence Lands is the second woman missing from the Downtown Eastside to surface this month.

Linda Louise Grant, originally from Port Moody, learned she was on the list when she was searching the Internet for information on Robert Pickton on June 5.

She said she didn't know her family had reported her missing when she left the Lower Mainland in 1983 and settled in the U.S.

Pickton has been charged with murdering 26 missing women.

© The Vancouver Province 2006

Report dedicated to deceased

By Arthur Williams
Free Press
June 23, 2006

The Highway of Tears Symposium Recommendations Report contains 33 recommendations to prevent additional women and girls from disappearing along Highway 16, called “The Highway of Tears.”

The report is dedicated to Aielah Saric-Auger, Tamara Chipman, Nicole Hoar, Lana Derrick, Alisha Germaine, Roxanne Thiara, Ramona Wilson, Delphine Nikal and Cicilia Anne Nikal who all were murdered or went missing along the highway between 1989 and 2006.

However the report estimates as many as 30 women may have been murdered or gone missing over the last 35 years.

The report identifies a victim profile and makes recommendations in the areas of victim prevention, emergency planning and team readiness, victim counseling and support, and community development and support.

The victims were young women or girls aged 14 to 25, with the large majority being aboriginal.

The majority of the victims disappeared while hitchhiking along Highway 16 between spring and fall.

Poverty and the remoteness of small aboriginal communities are considered contributing factors to the number of aboriginal women hitchhiking along the highway.

One of the key recommendations in victim prevention is the creation of a shuttle bus service along the 742 km highway to offer young women an alternative to hitchhiking. Other than the Greyhound Bus Line which runs twice daily, there is no public transportation available along the highway.

In addition, RCMP detachments should be given extra resources to patrol the highway and stop to talk with any hitchhiker meeting the victim profile. Victims should be encouraged to take some other form of transportation.

Other recommendations include: expanding Greyhound’s “free ride” program; having public sector workers watch for and report female hitchhikers; creating safe houses and emergency phone booths along the highway; expanding the Rural Crime Watch program to include a “highway watch” program; educating youth through billboards, posters and media campaigns; education programs in schools, aboriginal communities and silviculture companies; improving access to essential services to reduce the need to travel; and involving youth in prevention.

Under emergency planning, the report proposes a Highway of Tears group be organized to create a mutual emergency readiness plan.

The plan would detail timelines for action and list resources throughout communities along the highway.

Aboriginal run and focused counseling services and greater communication by RCMP were identified as areas to improve victim support.

Under community development, the report recommends a Highway of Tears Legacy Fund be established to promote and coordinate local action along the highway.

The full report can be found online at


Wednesday, June 21

2 names added to Highway of Tears missing as report released

CBC.CA News - Full Story :
2 names added to Highway of Tears missing as report released

Last Updated: Jun 21 2006 03:52 PM PDT

The RCMP has officially added the names of two more young women to the list of those who have died or disappeared along Highway 16 in northern B.C., CBC News has learned.

They are Monica Ignas from the Terrace area, who was 15 when she disappeared from the highway in December 1974, and Alberta Williams of Kitwancool, who was 27 of when she went missing in August 1989.

Both were later found murdered.

Police previously confirmed that nine young women — eight of them aboriginal — had gone missing or been murdered on the highway since 1990.

The news comes as First Nations groups issued a report Wednesday that aims to prevent more murders and disappearances along the highway, including several recommendations to try to cut down on "poverty-related travel" by young aboriginal women.

The report is the result of the Highway of Tears Symposium in Prince George earlier this year.

FROM MARCH 30, 2006: Heartbreak shared at Highway of Tears symposium
Its recommendations include a call for the RCMP to officially investigate whether as many as 32 people have gone missing along the 724-kilometre highway between Prince George and Prince Rupert over the years.

The report says poverty and a lack of opportunities make young aboriginal women more vulnerable, and more prone to hitchhiking.

So some of the recommendations call for:

A new shuttle-bus transport service between communities.

An expansion of Greyhound's "free ride" program for people who can't afford to pay.

Police and Greyhound bus drivers to pick up any young women hitchhiking between Prince George and Prince Rupert.

Government employees who drive the highway as part of their work to alert authorities about female hitchhikers.

The report also recommends that a network of safe houses be established.

LINK: Highway of Tears Report (.pdf)
INTERVIEW: B.C. Almanac's Mark Forsythe speaks with Hazelton Mayor Alice Maitland.


Copyright © 2006 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation - All Rights Reserved

Report calls for moves to get female hitchikers off B.C.'s Highway of Tears

Wendy Cox
Canadian Press

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

VANCOUVER (CP) - Young women need some other way of travelling through northern British Columbia than hitchhiking, say aboriginal groups concerned about the murders and disappearances of nine women along the so-called Highway of Tears.

The groups issued a report Wednesday of suggested measures aimed at preventing further disappearances. The report did not make mention of the fears of many in the area - that a serial killer is stalking the 724-kilometre stretch of the Yellowhead Highway between Prince Rupert and Prince George.

The nine women, aged between 14 and 25, disappeared along the highway between 1989 and last February. All but one were aboriginal; most were hitchhiking at the time.

"Young aboriginal women are placing themselves at risk by hitchhiking because they simply have no other transportation options," said the report.

There aren't many services in the small, mostly aboriginal communities along the corridor and residents are often forced to travel to bigger centres for medical services or recreation.

Without a car, the only transportation service is the Greyhound bus or hitchhiking.

The report suggests a shuttle bus be established between each town and city along the corridor. The bus would pick up and drop off young female passengers and would stop and pick up every young women walking or hitchhiking along the highway.

Seven buses would be needed, says the report.

As well, any RCMP highway patrol that comes across a young female hitchhiker should be required to stop and provide the hitchhiker with an information pamphlet about the dangers and a schedule of the shuttle bus.

And Greyhound should be encouraged to expand its "free ride" program and target it to young women who live along the highway.

The current free ride program provides transportation to people who can't afford to pay.

Solicitor General John Les, who attended the March symposium, praised the report for its thoroughness and thoughfulness.

But he said the primary concern is catching whoever is responsible for the deaths.

"Before we address or think about even, the recommendations from this report, one thing that everybody wants. . . more than anything else is to find those who have perpetrated these events to be arrested and brought to justice. That is first and foremost."

NDP Leader Carole James also endorsed the 39-page report.

"We need to address things like shuttle buses so people from small communities, who often have to travel into Prince George for issues to do with court or medical concerns, have an ability to get there safely," said James, who once lived in the Prince George area.

"But it (the report) also talks about the long-term, systemic challenges - the poverty issues, the need to do something about activities for our youth."

The report suggests establishing a series of 22 "safe homes" where young women who find themselves out on the road late at night can go for shelter.

And emergency phone booths should be built along the highway, especially at the stretches where cell phone coverage is limited.

In the event another disappearance occurs, an aboriginal crisis response team should be established.

Finally, the report recommends a better relationship between the RCMP and aboriginal communities caught up in the fear of what's happening along the highway.

The report noted that when symposium organizers contacted police to get a contact list of victims' families in order to invite them to the conference, the list wasn't current.

"The majority of the victims' families that attended the Highway of Tears symposium, all of whom are aboriginal, voiced concerns over the lack of communication from the RCMP."

Earlier this month, police met with the victims' families, partly in response to what they heard at the symposium.

© The Canadian Press 2006

How We See 'Missing Women'

If we care, we must consider them human beings, period.

View full article and comments here

By Yasmin Jiwani
Published: June 21, 2006

There's a war against women in our cities and on our lonely highways. And while the media focus on terrorists and saving Afghan women "over there," the women "over here" are missing and in many cases, murdered. The "missing women's" case refers to women missing from the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver and from numerous parts of British Columbia. A parallel case is occurring in Alberta where again, women have left behind concerned families and friends. The Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) estimates that more than 500 women have gone missing in the last 20 years.

What marks these women, aside from being women, is that many of them are aboriginal, many of them are searching or were searching for a sense of self and a sense of belonging. What also marks these women is that many of them left their homes and their families to work in the Downtown Eastside, or in the case of the Smithers-Houston-Burns Lake corridor, simply hitched a ride on a highway that offers virtually no other form of safe and periodic transportation.

Maggie de Vries, in her compelling book Missing Sarah concerning the disappearance of her sister, Sarah de Vries, from the downtown eastside, recounts the emotional turmoil and troubles Sarah encountered. Brought up a black child in a white family in Vancouver, Sarah was the brunt of considerable racist taunting while in school. Always searching for a sense of self and belonging, she sought and found momentary solace among others like herself who had experienced pain and sorrow as well as fleeting moments of joy and comfort.

Honest look at sex trade

But what about the other women who are also missing? Media depictions consistently strive to portray them as sisters, mothers, daughters all the while underlining their status as sex trade workers, or prostitutes in common parlance; prostitutes who were addicted to drugs and who in attempting to engage in survival sex for food, shelter and drugs, found themselves in an ultra-vulnerable position at the mercy of men who saw them as society's dispossessed and disposable ones.

What's missing in this coverage, and what's missing in a lot of other accounts of these women, is that they are and were human beings. Not just sisters, mothers and daughters. Those are the roles that society venerates and recognizes as being credible, roles that women are most often understood as playing. But these women were primarily human beings and whether they were sisters, daughters or mothers doesn't matter in the long run. They were human. This is a fundamental issue.

Without being recognized first as human beings and then as women and mothers, daughters, wives or sisters, their humanity becomes secondary, and instead roles which are both legitimized and illegitimized as in prostitution and drug-addiction become distinguishing features of their identities. Women's rights are human rights. That's the demand that was voiced so long ago and that gained prominence at the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna.

Sex trade work seems to be the second issue highlighted in much of the discussion about missing women. Here again, the displacement of women's humanity is made possible by their designation as inhabitants of a degenerate zone and as engaging in work that is considered beyond the realms of social acceptability. Yet, there has been little analysis, aside from those who study this issue and those who live in such areas as to how and why such zones exist or why those who are desperate are pushed into inhabiting such sites.

What is 'normal'?

End Legislated Poverty offers a sophisticated argument of how poverty is made to exist -- how it must exist -- in order for the rest of society to continue as it is -- as classed and hierarchical, where few make the most money and the rest make varyingly lesser amounts. Particular groups of people are made more vulnerable to poverty based on their race, class and (dis)ability. How people are defined influences their life-chances, their survival and success in the world. But these definitions or the categories in which people are put into are not always of their own making. More often than not, these categorizations work in the interest of those who make them: those who stand to benefit from them. If we had no poor, we would have no rich -- the distinctions would be useless. Wealth and poverty stand side by side with few bridges linking the two worlds. One makes the other possible.

If we are to apply the same analysis to the sex trade, then it would seem that legitimized sex -- that which occurs in heterosexual relationships, sanctioned by church and state, and supported by middle class values of what constitutes the 'normal' state of affairs within marriage –- remains the hallmark of respectability and acceptability. However, sex that is bought and sold -- outside the bedroom, uncontrolled by the state and unsanctioned by the church -- becomes dangerous. It is stigmatized.

The more visible it is, the more stigmatized it is. The hierarchy within the sex trade reflects this play of visibility and value. The more privatized the sale of sex, the more couched it is by the signifiers of middle classness, as in a private apartment, a telephone number, a permanent location. The more visible the trade is, the more likely that it will be openly denigrated, patrolled, policed and subjected to institutional violence. We all know it exists, but we don't want to be confronted by it. Privatized, the sex trade is out of the public gaze, but in our neighborhoods, we deem it to be intolerable.

Dispossessed and disposable

Yet, violence against women transcends any hierarchy. Whether it is in the massage houses, the escort services or the streets, the violence is there. Just as violence is a reality for women inside and outside heterosexual unions sanctioned by church and state, it is ever-present in lives of girls and young women who fail to show signs of adhering to heterosexual norms or who are somehow categorized as "different." Violence against women is rampant. All the statistics bear this out -- and even if the rates of female homicides are down, the rates of sexual harassment are up. The continuum of violence persists though its manifestations adjust themselves according to what is rendered acceptable and passable.

In thinking through the case of the missing women, what is so striking is how many of these women were themselves fleeing other forms of violence, but that in fleeing, they ended up bearing the brunt of more explicit forms of violence.

Their positions as society's dispossessed and disposable made them vulnerable to other forms of violence. Had it not been for the persistence of their families and friends, would we as members of this society miss them? If a hundred soldiers were to go missing in Afghanistan, would there not be a national outcry? But then again, it's a lot easier to deal with a war 'out there' then it is to deal with the war at home.

The Highway of Tears Symposium Recommendations Report will be released at a press conference in Prince George this afternoon (June 21). To read the report when it is posted, go here.

Yasmin Jiwani is an associate professor at Concordia University.


Back to How We See 'Missing Women'

Thursday, June 15

Remembering Ramona

The Interior News
By Rebecca Aldous
June 15, 2006

Smithers/Interior News Rebecca Aldous/ The Interior News
Saabaya Bazil-Angus, 1, joined Ramona Wilson’s family members and friends who marched to mark the day Wilson was murdered 12 years ago.

Twelve years after 15-year-old Ramona Wilson was murdered, her family marched to where her remains were found to remind people Ramona’s killer is still at large.

In 1995, a year after her disappearance, Ramona’s body was found alongside a horse trail near Smithers Regional Airport, but her mother, Mattie Wilson, said she won’t have closure until the murderer is captured. She said the Wilsons will continue to walk on the weekend of her daughter’s death to keep people aware that the investigation into Ramona’s murder is still open.

“Ramona would have been 28 years old now,” Mattie said.

A somber procession carried balloons and placards with the names of other women that have disappeared along Hwy 16. Mattie said her involvement in continuing to keep attention focused on the missing women has helped to ease the pain of her loss.

“Even if one murder is solved we will be happy,” Mattie said. “Or the remains of a missing loved one is found, we will be happy.”

Mattie still remembers the Monday that Ramona did not return home. When Ramona missed school and work Mattie was instantly concerned. She phoned the police and hoped for the best. That night there were baseball tournaments and graduation dances making it harder for police to pin-point where Ramona was last seen, Mattie said.

“Everything was just going on that night and my daughter went out,” she said. “But these murders, there has to be a stop to this.”

Brenda Wilson, Ramona’s sister, said the murder of her only sister devastated her family. She said the sudden loss of Ramona has not become easier over time.

“It has been 12 years and I still feel like crying,” Brenda said. “I try to be strong for my mum.”

Mattie thanked RCMP for their ongoing efforts in the case. She said she realizes the situation is tough and frustrating for everyone involved but she is positive that one day the culprit will be put to justice and her family will get the closure they need.

Saturday, June 10

Families keep searchng

By Timothy Schafer
Saturday, June 10, 2006

When it happened Herb Muskego couldn’t believe it.

His oldest and only daughter, in her third year in education at the University of Saskatchewan, had gone missing.

When it happened Herb Muskego couldn’t believe it.

His oldest and only daughter, in her third year in education at the University of Saskatchewan, had gone missing.

Daleen Kay Bosse (Muskego) was a mother of one, living in Saskatoon with her husband and was one year away from becoming a teacher, the same occupation Herb and his wife Pauline held on the Onion Lake First Nation reserve.

But one night Daleen dressed up for an evening out in Saskatoon, bade goodbye to her two younger brothers, staying with her while they attended school, and said she would be back later.

That was May 18, 2004, and Daleen has not returned. Herb and his family went to the Saskatoon City Police, hired a private investigator and searched the places she was rumoured to have been, all to no avail.

The Muskego family still searches, offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to her whereabouts.

On Friday, Herb and his family joined nearly 300 other aboriginal people who had lost a relative in similar ways, for the second annual Prince Albert Grand Council Women’s Commission Honouring our Sisters and Brothers memorial walk.

Two years later Herb still searchs for answers and words to describe the loss of his daughter.

“I don’t like to think the worst scenario, that she was picked up and victimized by a sexual predator,” he said. “But that’s a common story with aboriginal women across Canada.”

He looked down at the poster with a picture of his daughter in his hand. “We don’t really know what happened, but it’s been two years now. It’s been too long for her just to be away.”

The first walk was prompted after an Amnesty International report last year on murdered aboriginal women in Saskatchewan noted how little had been done about them, said Shirley Henderson, chairwoman of the PAGC Women’s Commission.

“We said we had to do something to raise awareness. It’s obvious when you look at the number of people that came out there is concern out there.”

The walk has spawned similar walks across the province. On July 15 a walk for Amber Redman will be held in Fort Qu’Appelle, one year to the day since the 19-year-old went missing.

Her mother Gwenda Yuzicappi from the Standing Buffalo Dakota First Nation near Fort Qu’Appelle walked on Friday with hope her oldest daughter was still alive and would return to her someday.

“I believe in these events because they are building public awareness. “I still have a lot of hope and I do believe in my prayers and that she will come home.”

What started as a response to an Amnesty International report in Prince Albert has taken on a Western Canadian appeal.

Walkers came from four western provinces to participate, nearly 300 people in total.
The walk began at 9 a.m. in front of City Hall where people heard from various speakers on various aspects of the issue of missing aboriginal women and men. The walkers made three more stops where they told more stories of aboriginal people who had gone missing and laid flowers at the base of crosses.

Once the PAGC Women’s Commission decided upon the walk in 2005 to raise awareness of missing aboriginal women, the move was ratified by the PAGC chiefs, then by the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and then by the provincial legislature.

After all of that, 2005 became the Year of First Nation and Métis Women. This year the Women’s Commission added missing brothers to the walk.

Four people were commemorated with the walk: Amber Redman (missing: May 4, 2005), Kevin Charles (missing: 1993), Mary Goodfellow (missing: 1993) and Ernestine Kasyon (missing: Dec. 6, 1989).


Prince Albert Daily Herald

Friday, June 9

List of missing B.C. women cut by one after woman found in U.S.

Canadian Press
Friday, June 09, 2006

VANCOUVER (CP) - Police are removing one of the names from the list of missing women in B.C.

The RCMP say they have confirmed that one of the women, Linda Grant, is alive and well and living in the southern U-S.

Grant contacted her family earlier this week after going on the Internet and finding her name on the list.

She disappeared in 1985, saying she moved away when she was 25 after losing custody of two young daughters.

When Grant's name is removed from the list, there will still be 67 missing women.

Robert Pickton is charged with killing 26 women, mostly sex trade workers who disappeared from Vancouver's gritty downtown east side.

© The Canadian Press 2006

Woman who vanished found alive in U.S.

Linda Grant, mother of three little girls, was last seen more than two decades ago. Her Port Moody family thought she had been murdered. Then came a stunning e-mail.

Lori Culbert
Vancouver Sun

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

CREDIT: Peter Battistoni, Vancouver Sun
Dawn Grant broke down in tears when she talked to her mother (pictured 23 years ago) on the phone.

Linda Grant, one of 68 women listed as missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, ended more than 20 years of silence this week, contacting police and her family to tell them she is still alive.

"I didn't even know I was on that list until [Monday]," said Grant, who grew up in Port Moody and left the Lower Mainland in 1983 to begin a new life in the United States.

In a telephone interview Tuesday, Grant said she found out she was listed as missing while she was surfing the Web on Monday to learn more about Robert (Willy) Pickton, the Port Coquitlam pig farmer accused of killing 26 women.

She said an American friend originally from Surrey "was telling me about this Pickton guy. I went on to the computer and there was Pickton. And then I saw myself."

Her photograph was staring back at her from the police poster of 68 women missing from the Downtown Eastside, said Grant, who lives in the southern U.S. and gets little Canadian news.

The slightly out-of-focus picture of the smiling blond woman, taken more than 23 years ago, indicated that Linda Louise Grant was last seen in October 1984.

Although Grant said she had not spoken to anyone in her family since 1984 after fleeing a home she described as troubled, she was startled to see her name on the poster because she wasn't aware she had been reported missing.

And she insisted she doesn't fit the profile of the other women on the list -- denying she has ever worked in the sex trade or done hard drugs.

She said that over the last two days, she has spoken to police officers with the Missing Women Task Force and members of her long-lost family, but noted everyone was skeptical that she was who she claimed to be.

The RCMP has not taken Grant's name off the poster yet, saying a police investigation must be conducted to prove the woman is no longer missing.

"We are trying to confirm that she is alive and well, but we haven't done that yet to our satisfaction," media relations officer Staff Sgt. John Ward said on Tuesday.

Grant turned to an American cold cases website for help on Monday, and the administrator pointed her to a missing women website that Wayne Leng has run since his friend Sarah de Vries disappeared from Vancouver.

Grant's daughter Dawn Grant had posted notices on Leng's website in an effort to find more information about her mother. Linda Grant got her daughter's e-mail address from the website and sent her a message Monday.

"I was cynical. I thought someone was pulling a prank on me," said Dawn Grant, 28, a telemarketer from Surrey who has a young son.

But Linda Grant said she was ready to prove who she was. "Finally Dawn started e-mailing me back and asking me questions that only I would know the answers to," Linda Grant said.

On Monday night, Dawn Grant, her 27-year-old sister Briana, her two aunts, an uncle and her grandfather participated in a teleconference call to Linda Grant to try to determine if the woman was for real.

"She knew the names of everyone in our family, our birthdays, the story of playing pool and the pool ball going through the window. Silly things that only my mother would know," Dawn Grant said.

"My Auntie Sue was very skeptical. She just kept asking questions and questions, and mom had all the answers -- even about her dental work."

Linda Grant said she wanted to answer the queries so her family would believe her. "My sister Susan asked me what colour my bedroom was as a teenager," she said.

Dawn Grant is convinced she has found her mother -- a woman she last saw when she was five or six years old. She has only vague memories of brushing her hair while the two sat together on a couch.

"This is just overwhelming. I'm so happy," Dawn Grant said, weeping Linda Grant broke down in tears on the phone when asked about everything she has missed during her 23-year absence from her daughters and the rest of her family. She said she moved in 1983, when she was 25 years old, to the southern United States -- "the furthest place I could get" -- after losing custody of her two young daughters, Dawn and Brandy.

She claimed she reached out unsuccessfully to one family member in 1984, and then decided to create a new life -- although the decision was a tough one to make.

"I love my kids," she sobbed.

When she left Canada, Linda Grant was pregnant with her third daughter, Briana, whom she gave up for adoption.

(Briana later tracked down a family member -- but not her mother -- and met with her biological family.)

Linda Grant said her life has been a happy one in the U.S., where she had a new family and owned a bar that she has since sold.

"It was so hard, but I got married and I had three more girls, and I thought that was God's way of getting me through it," said Linda Grant, who now works as a bartender.

After discovering her photo on the missing women poster, Linda Grant said she told her husband on Monday night and her three youngest daughters on Tuesday that she had left a life behind in Canada before moving to the U.S.

Dawn Grant said she grew up thinking her mother had abandoned her, but when she read about the serial killer investigation at the Pickton pig farm, she feared her mother was no longer alive.

"I was worried something bad had happened to her," Dawn Grant said.

Pickton is charged with killing 26 of the women on the list of missing, but more than 40 remained unaccounted for. The list had 69 names on it until May 2005, when police announced Tammy Fairbairn had been located in central Canada.

Linda Grant -- who police said was last seen in 1984 but wasn't reported missing until February 1996 -- was officially added to the list in July 2002, but very little was known publicly about her at the time. If she is removed from the list, that will lower the police tally of missing women to 67.

Leng, who runs the missing women website, also started communicating with Linda Grant online Monday and called the Missing Women Task Force to alert police to her claims. Leng is convinced the woman is telling the truth about her identity.

"This just made me so happy because often it's another dead body being found, it's often sad news. To get something so uplifting that somebody has survived -- that is such great news," Leng said.

Dawn Grant said she hopes other families of the missing women can also be reunited with loved ones. She said she would like to see her mother as soon as she can find the money to fly to the southern U.S.

"I've been waiting 23 years for this. I just want to see her," the emotional young woman said.

Linda Grant is also determined to see her oldest children and the rest of her family again.

"We are all going to meet together. I don't know where or when, but we will."

This story can be heard online after 10:30 a.m. today at


One of the postings that Dawn Grant put on the website in an effort to find her mother:

Thursday, May 25, 2006:

"My mom is Linda Louise Grant. She went missing 23 years ago and was last seen a block from the Pickton pig farm. I miss her very much and hope she is still out there some where. When I was a kid I always thought that she just abandoned me and when I heard about the pig farm I was hoping more than ever that she abandoned me.... I used to be mad at her for missing me grow up and for not being there when her first grandchild was born. But now I just hope she is still alive and safe and happy. I feel robbed as I imagine that all the families of the missing women do.... All I know is that I want my mother back and if she is still out there and you have any information about her please e-mail me ... even if you don't think it's important. I just want to know anything about her."

© The Vancouver Sun 2006

Tuesday, June 6

Missing person reward pulled

Hasn’t worked, says family


June 6, 2006

Just weeks before the fourth anniversary of Red Deer tree planter Nicole Hoar's disappearance, her family has withdrawn a $50,000 reward for information in the case.

The reward had been posted by the Hudson's Bay Co., where Nicole's father has been a longtime employee.

"We came to the realization that (the reward) hadn't done what it was supposed to do," Jack Hoar said yesterday.

The family announced in October that they would withdraw the reward on June 3, 2006. Jack said the idea was to spur potential tipsters to come forward.

Although tips came in, none of them have helped explain what happened to his daughter.

Nicole was 25 years old when she vanished June 21, 2002, in B.C., while hitchhiking on Highway 16 from Prince George to Smithers to visit her sister. She had been working in B.C. as a tree planter.

The highway, now known as the Highway of Tears, has been a Bermuda Triangle for hitchhikers.

Nine women have been murdered or are missing since 1990 from communities that dot the largely remote Highway 16 corridor that stretches almost 750 km from Prince George to Prince Rupert.

Nicole is the only non-native woman of the nine.

Jack, who believes his daughter is dead, said he would just like some resolution in the baffling case.

"It's bothersome when you don't have any information," he said, adding he believes a person or group of people are preying on women along the highway and he hopes police can put an end to that.

"I think she happened to be at the wrong spot at the wrong time."

Prince George RCMP Sgt. Paul Strader said investigators are following up on tips as they come in.

Ray Michalko, a Vancouver-based private investigator, has also taken up the search for answers after recently becoming intrigued with the Highway of Tears.

"I'm involved in it and I'm not quitting now," said Michalko, of Valley Pacific Investigations Ltd.

"It's my opinion somebody out there knows something."

Monday, June 5

Police lay second murder charge, seek links in Niagara Falls slayings

Police lay second murder charge, seek more links in Niagara Falls slayings
Canadian Press

June 5, 2006

NIAGARA FALLS -- Police investigating the slayings of five women from "high-risk" lifestyles in southern Ontario laid a second charge of first-degree murder today against a man already accused in the death of one of the victims.

Michael Durant, 33, was charged today in the slaying of 28-year-old Diane Dimitri, one of five women whose remains have been discovered in various locations in the Niagara region over the past decade.

Durant was charged with second-degree murder earlier this year in the death of Cassey Cichocki, 22, an exotic dancer who vanished late last year. Her body was found in January, wrapped in a blanket and dumped in the bush near the Niagara Gorge.

That charge has since been upgraded to first-degree murder, police said.

"I'm pleased with the developments made in this case, but it still doesn't bring my sister back," Dimitri's younger brother, Andrew Kyriacou, said outside the police station where Niagara Falls police held a news conference.

Dimitri's body was discovered in a ditch in rural Welland in August 2003.

The charges come after a task force began looking into the killings of five women -- three prostitutes and two exotic dancers -- who lived so-called high-risk lifestyles tinged with drug use in the Niagara region.

Niagara Region police deputy Chief Donna Moody said police are continuing to investigate whether there is a connection between the slayings, but noted "there is no information that would connect (Durant) to the other three homicides."

And while the task force is narrowly focused on the five victims, police weren't ruling out the possibility that others could emerge during the course of the investigation.

"There could be (more victims). We don't know that and we aren't investigating any other cold cases right now," said Niagara police Staff Sgt. Cliff Sexton.

Police said the new charge against Durant followed a tip from a member of the public during their investigation of the Cichocki slaying in January.

Dimitri's father, Kyri Kyriacou, said he's growing more hopeful that the person responsible for his daughter's death will face justice.

"For the past three years we've had no idea why, no questions answered, and now we have a possibility," he said Monday.

"It's going to be a long struggle," Kyriacou said. "Closure is the important thing."

On behalf of all of the victims, Kyriacou also asked for discretion and sympathy.

"They're all girls who were led down the wrong path," he said. "We don't have the right to judge what they do, since we don't know what they've been through."

Dimitri's four children -- who range in age from 5 to 15 -- are now under his care and he said it has been hard for them to deal with the media coverage of their mother's death.

The other dead women were identified as Dawn Stewart, 32, Nadine Gurczenski, 26, and Margaret Jugaru, 26.

The slayings prompted the creation of the Project Advocate task force to probe more than a dozen attacks on sex-trade workers in the Hamilton-Halton area.

Cichocki, who turned to the streets to fuel a drug problem, was last seen in the early hours of Dec. 4.

Stewart, who was 32 and pregnant, vanished from her home in September 1995. Her skeletal remains, and those of a fetus, were discovered March 31, 1996, in a wooded area in Pelham.

The body of Gurczenski, 27, was discovered May 8, 1999, in a roadside ditch in Vineland.

The body of Jugaru, 26, was discovered in a school parking lot on July 9, 2004.

Monday's developments were just the latest in a series of unrelated deaths involving high-risk victims across Canada.

In British Columbia, accused serial killer Robert Pickton faces 26 counts of first-degree murder related to dozens of women who went missing from Vancouver's notorious Downtown Eastside.

Pickton has been in custody since February 2002.

In Alberta, a police task force dubbed Project Kare has spent more than two years investigating the deaths of dozens of Alberta women, many of them involved in the sex trade.

Thomas George Svekla, 38, of High Level, Alta., was arrested May 9 and charged with second-degree murder in one of those deaths.

Ode to the missing but not forgotten

Lori Culbert
Vancouver Sun

Monday, June 05, 2006

VANCOUVER - The grandfather of a missing woman whom pig farmer Robert (Willy) Pickton has been accused of murdering hopes a powerful song penned by famed poet Susan Musgrave will raise money to help other troubled women.

"It's a gift from Andrea to the missing women," an emotional Jack Cummer said about the song Missing, which Musgrave wrote in memory of his granddaughter Andrea Joesbury.

The song is a collaboration of Musgrave's poignant lyrics, Galiano Island guitarist Brad Prevedoros' haunting music, and the captivating voice of singer Amber Smith.

Proceeds from the sale of the CD ($18.50 out of the $20 price tag) will go to Haven Society, a Nanaimo-based non-profit organization that for 28 years has been helping women and children escape violence and sexual exploitation.

Cummer said the song, and his fundraising effort, are not about what happened to Joesbury, but he hopes it will stop other girls and women from being lured into dangerous lifestyles.

Joesbury is one of 26 sex-trade workers whom Pickton is accused of murdering. Another 40 women remain missing, after vanishing from Vancouver's drug-infested Downtown Eastside since 1978.

And the issue is not Vancouver's alone. Vulnerable women continue to disappear or turn up dead in Edmonton, and on the so-called Highway of Tears between Prince George and Prince Rupert.

"Awareness, that is the key word. This is the future that we're talking about. They keep talking about the Highway of Tears. Why are these kids leaving home? That's the subject that they have to face. Why did Andrea leave home?" Cummer asked.

Joesbury, a beautiful young woman with blond hair and an engaging smile, had a troubled mother and an abusive father. She lived at times with her grandparents, Jack and Laila Cummer, but was searching for something else in her teen years.

"She went to Vancouver because she was looking for love. And she found this guy, and she fell in love with him. She was a young, naive girl -- 16 years old -- not knowing what's going on," Cummer said.

"Eventually she phoned and let me know he was 15 or 20 years older than she was, so it gave her two things: A man she loved and a father figure. But she was put on the streets because he was a drug dealer."

Joesbury kept in touch with her grandparents until June 2001, when all phone calls from the 23-year-old stopped. The next news the Cummers received about their granddaughter was from police, who told them in 2002 that her remains had been found on Pickton's Port Coquitlam farm.

"When Andrea was reported missing, it really shook us up. When they came over and told us that they had found her remains, it devastated me," said Cummer, a retired salesman.

Through a series of mutual contacts, Cummer met Musgrave and asked her to write a poem about the missing women. Her words were so touching that he then asked Prevedoros (whom he had heard perform at a Vancouver Island resort) to put them to music and find a singer.

The result "was far more than what we had anticipated," said Cummer, who hopes the tune will inspire others to reach out to family members in need of help and to purchase a copy of the CD to support Haven Society.

For Musgrave, a prolific and diverse writer who has published 20 books, the song represented her first official foray into composing lyrics.

"It really feels like a tribute. It feels like something honouring those women, giving them a kind of a voice, I guess, of their own, a stance of their own, that's positive. It isn't depressing, it's life-affirming, actually," said Musgrave.

In the background of the song, the names of the more than 60 missing women are chanted.

"With so many names named it becomes so eerie, because you realize how many of them there are. And each person is a real person," Musgrave said. "It just goes on and on. Every time I hear it, I go 'There were just so many. How did it come to be that nobody did anything?' "

Musgrave researched the project by looking for any writing or words left behind by the missing women, and came across the diary entries of Sarah de Vries. She incorporated into the chorus the prophetic words of de Vries, whom Pickton is also charged with murdering: "Will they remember me when I'm gone . . . or will their lives just carry on."

The cover of the CD, which is decorated with forget-me-not flowers and the eyes of several of the missing women, acknowledges the use of de Vries' words in the song.

Musgrave is married to acclaimed author and bank robber Stephen Reid, who is in jail for the botched holdup of a Victoria bank. She said Reid's struggles with heroin has made her more compassionate toward others with drug addictions, which she argues are more about "managing pain" than "having fun."

"You sort of have to know a little bit about how it affects families, and how addiction affects people to be able to talk about it," said Musgrave. "I'm plugged into grief and loneliness and all those things in my own life, in my own way."

When the CD was first produced two years ago, Cummer had intended for it to support a different charity but that didn't work out, he said. It has taken until now for him to settle on Haven House in Nanaimo, close to his Nanoose Bay home, after learning about it through acquaintances.

One thousand CDs have been produced and the proceeds will go to WillowWAI, a two-year-old Haven Society program that has partial local government funding but requires community support to continue.

The program, which has a $300,000 annual budget, offers three houses that women and children can live in for six months if they are homeless due to addictions, violence or sex-trade involvement; it assists homeless families, adults and children to find their own housing; and it provides drug recovery help and other services to develop life skills.

Missing is not the first song written in honour of Vancouver's missing women. More than 80 artists, including some of Canada's top musicians, collaborated on The Streets Where You Live in 2002 to raise money for a drug treatment facility in Vancouver.


To get a copy of Missing:

- On the Internet:

- By phone: (250) 754-0764, payable by Visa or Mastercard

- By Mail:

Elizabeth Hume

c/o Haven Society

PO Box 311

Nanaimo, BC V9R 5L3

(Cheque or money order payable to Haven Society)

- Cost: $20 plus $2 for postage for mail anywhere in Canada

- - -



By Susan Musgrave

Missing's a word that can't begin to describe

the way I miss you more each day;

You left to chase the wind on high

and the rain rained down to stay.

Will they remember me when I'm gone, you said,

when I've kissed goodbye to pain;

Or will their lives just carry on

in the small hours of the rain.

You may be lost in the eyes of the world,

but how can I set you free;

When there's a whole empty world in my aching heart,

you're the missing part of me.

Ruby Anne Hardy, Jacqueline McDonell, Jennie Lynn Furminger,

Sarah de Vries

Heather Bottomley, Andrea Joesbury, Marcella Creison, Dawn Teresa Crey

Elaine Allenbach, Debra Lynne Jones, Angela Arseneault, Lillian O'Dare

Mona Wilson, Michelle Gurney, Cindy Beck, Laura Mah

Sheryl Donahue, Wendy Allen, Julie Young, Teresa Triff


How far from home is "missing"?

In our prayers you're close beside us every


When you left to chase the wind so high,

the rain moved in to stay.

Will they remember me when I'm gone,

you said,

when I've kissed goodbye to pain;

Or will their lives just carry on

in the small hours of the rain.

You may be an orphan in the eyes of the


can we ever love anyone enough?

You'll always have a home in our loving


You're the missing part of us.

Sheila Egan, Rebecca Guno, Angela Jardine, Brenda Ann Wolfe

Georgina Papin, Sherry Irving, Helen Hallmark, Tanya Holyk

Leigh Miner, Inga Hall, Patricia Johnson, Yvonne Boen, Tiffany Drew

Julie Young, Janet Henry, Dorothy Anne Spence, Ingrid Soet, Elaine Dumba, Sherry Lynn Rail

Jacqueline Murdock, Olivia Gale Williams, Catherine Gonzalez, Heather Chinnock


How far from home is "missing"?

In our prayers you're close beside us every


When you left to chase the wind so high,

the rain moved in to stay.

Will they remember me when I'm gone,

you said, when I've kissed goodbye to pain;

Or will their lives just carry on

in the small hours of the rain.

How can we believe in a merciful world

that could never believe in you enough?

Take what strength you need from our

fearless hearts,

You're the missing part of us.

Taressa Williams, Diana Melnick, Kathleen

Dale Wattley, Catherine Maureen Knight

Wendy Crawford, Elsie Sebastien, Marnie Lee Frey, Stephanie Lane

Frances Young, Nancy Clark, Cindy Feliks, Dianne Rock

Kerry Lynn Koski, Sereena Abotsway, Andrea Borhaven, Maria Laliberte

Yvonne Abigosis, Verna Littlechief, Dawn Lynn Cooper, Linda Louise Grant


Missing means you're gone, I can't find you;

My dear one, I'll never hold you again.

You left to chase the wind too high

and the rain can't wash my tears away.

Will they remember me when I'm gone,

you said,

when I've kissed goodbye to pain;

Or will their lives just carry on

in the small hours of the rain.

You may have disappeared in the eyes of the


but when I close my eyes I'll always see

your name, they way you smile, inside my

wishful heart,

The missing part of me.

Ran with fact box "How to order the CD", which has been appended to the end of the story.

© The Vancouver Sun 2006

Sunday, June 4

Report on women missing or slain in northern B.C. ready June 21

Canadian Press
Sunday, June 04, 2006

PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. (CP) - A report resulting from a conference on missing or slain women in northern B.C. will be made public on June 21.

The daylong conference looked at why, for years, women have been dying or disappearing along a remote stretch of highway dubbed the Highway of Tears.

"Due to the sensitive nature of the issues and the parties involved, as well as the continuing RCMP investigations, it is not yet available," Lheidli Tenneh Nation Coun. Rena Zatorski said in a news release.

RCMP, aboriginal groups, family members and politicians took part in the Highway of Tears symposium.

Since 1990, nine women - eight aboriginal - have been slain or are missing from communities that dot the largely remote Highway 16 corridor stretching almost 750 kilometres from Prince George to Prince Rupert.

The Prince George conference heard heartwrenching stories from families who for years have suffered the pain of not knowing what happened to their loved ones.

Some at the conference suggested the number of victims is closer to 35.

The meeting ended with aboriginal leaders vowing to form a Highway of Tears legacy group that will work toward improving emergency readiness and community support skills.

Police, who have yet to make a single arrest, have said they are looking at the possibility a serial killer is on the loose but don't have enough evidence to confirm that scenario.

At 14, Aielah Saric-Auger was the youngest of the victims. Her body was found in February near the highway outside of Prince George.

Also among the missing or dead are Saric-Auger, 14, Tamara Chipman, 22, Lana Derrick, 19, Ramona Wilson, 15, Delphine Nikal, 15, Roxanna Thiara, 15, Aleisha Germaine, 15, and Nicole Hoar, 25. Only Hoar, who has been missing for four years, is non-native.

Monica Ignas was 15 when she disappeared from the highway in December 1974 and 27-year-old Alberta Williams vanished on Aug. 27, 1989.

Cecilia Anne Nikal, a cousin of Delphine Nikal, has also been missing since 1989.

The B.C. government has contributed $50,000 to fund aboriginal-led projects that result from the conference.

"All parties fully anticipate that there will be substantial progress made regarding victim prevention, emergency planning, and counselling and support initiatives for both communities and families," Zatorski said.

© The Canadian Press 2006

Saturday, June 3

Cops not probing Tears tips, PI says

Private detective began looking into murder/disappearance cases during March

Ethan Baron
The Province

Friday, June 02, 2006

Police are failing to follow up on tips in the Highway of Tears case, says a Surrey private eye investigating the northern B.C. murders and disappearances.

Nine women and girls have vanished along 750 kilometres of Highway 16 between Prince George and Prince Rupert since 1990. Five were found dead. All but one of the nine are native.

Private detective Ray Michalko of Surrey began probing the case himself in March and travelled north after putting ads in local papers seeking information.

One man told him he called Terrace RCMP four years ago with a tip about a vehicle matching a description of one associated with missing tree-planter Nicole Hoar, 25, who vanished near Prince George in 2002.

"He saw the car, called the RCMP and was told by the Terrace RCMP that it wasn't their file," Michalko said. "He was told to call Prince George." When he called the number he was given, the man got an answering service twice and left messages, but never heard back, Michalko said.

A woman who found a broken tree-planter's shovel east of Terrace had her call to the RCMP "dismissed outright" by a civilian employee who took her call, Michalko said. When Michalko visited Terrace this year, he photographed the shovel and showed the picture to Hoar's parents, who told him it wasn't hers.

"It could've as easily been [Hoar's] shovel as not," he said.

Michalko, who served nine years as a Mountie in Manitoba and North Vancouver, believes the RCMP should create a Highway of Tears task force and select an officer in every community to take tips directly.

B.C. RCMP Cpl. Tom Seaman said all tips are taken seriously and followed up.

"Whether you use the term 'task force' or 'team of investigators,' we have a strong team of investigators working full time on these files," Seaman said.

Terrace RCMP Staff-Sgt. Eric Stubbs said civilian employees generally refer tips to the major-crimes officers in Prince George, who lead the investigation, but there may be communication problems between tipsters and those employees.

© The Vancouver Province 2006

Thursday, June 1

B.C.'s Missing Women: Sarah's Story

B.C.'s Missing Women: Sarah's Story
Later this year the man accused of being Canada’s worst serial killer is expected to go on trial in British Columbia. Robert Pickton is accused of killing 22 women and disposing of their remains at his pig farm in Port Coquitlam. The victims were on a long list of women who began disappearing 20 years ago, most of them from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside neighbourhood. We look at the tragic life of one of these women, Sarah De Vries, and at her family’s desperate search for justice.

Slain sex-trade workers remembered

Mike Sadava, CanWest News Service
Friday, May 19, 2006

EDMONTON - Fighting back tears, Theresa Innes's family looked on at a memorial service honouring her and other sex-trade workers who've been victims of violence.
Innes, whose body was found earlier this month near Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., was the 25th prostitute found slain in the Edmonton area since 1975. The body of another woman, whose identity has not been released, was found this week.

Cpl. Wayne Oakes said officers need to further investigative before they could comment on whether the 38-year-old woman was involved in the sex trade. The case remains in the hands of Project Kare, the RCMP task force investigating 84 cases of missing or dead men and women involved in high-risk lifestyles, including the killing of 13 female prostitutes since 1988.

A serial killer is responsible for more than one of those homicides, RCMP have said.
About 200 people gathered Thursday to remember the slain women and to try to raise awareness.

Innes's family has so far mourned privately, but they spoke publicly for the first time after the 45-minute service.

Her mother, Beverly Innes, said it meant a lot to her that so many people came and shared the truth that Innes was somebody's daughter and not simply a prostitute.
''She was a sweet giving person; she helped others; she was a good mother, a good daughter,'' she said. ''She didn't deserve to go because she always trying to help others.''

Innes is survived by two children, David, 12 and Michael, 18.

Her brother, Mike, and her common-law husband, Chad Quigley, who lived with her for 11 years, said street drugs had everything to do with her downfall.

''There would have been no Theresa the prostitute if it wasn't for crack cocaine,'' said Mike Innes.

Quigley said the first six years of their relationship were truly happy - until the drugs took over.

In January 2005, he found out she was turning to prostitution to support her drug habit.

''She approached me and asked me if it was all right. It was definitely not all right,'' he said.

''She was way more than a prostitute. My wife disappeared on me years ago. She sort of vanished away. I did everything I could to reassure her that she was a decent person and didn't have to resort to this, and that I was there to help her out.''
But she lost contact with him out of a combination of shame about what she was doing and pride preventing her from getting help, he said.

The two met in Nanaimo, B.C., and Quigley, who himself is a recovering drug addict, found her so bubbly and full of life that he instantly fell in love with her.

It's believed that Innes was killed in High Level, Alta., where she was apparently working in the sex trade, and her body stuffed in a hockey bag and brought more than 700 kilometres south to Fort Saskatchewan, 45 kilometres northeast of Edmonton, where her body was found May 7.

Thomas George Svekla has been charged in relation to Innes's death with second-degree murder and interfering with a dead body.

Beverly Innes urged any woman on the streets to contact their parents, ''so they know whether you're alive or dead.'
Two other mothers of slain prostitutes - Delia Quinney, the mother of Rachel Quinney, and Kathy King, mother of Cara King - were also at the service organized by the Prostitution Awareness and Action Foundation of Edmonton.

King recalled the words of Margaret Trudeau, who after the death of her son Michel in an avalanche, said she heard her son's voice saying he was no longer in the lake, but everywhere.

''We too can hear the voice of our women,'' she said.

''We are no longer in the ditch, or in the alley or the field or the trunk of a car. We are not even on the street corners. We are now present in sun that shines, in the stars that twinkle in the sky, in the wind and the rain and snow that falls upon earth E Let the memories of our short lives do some good, so that others can enjoy the peace and freedom we were denied.''