Sunday, August 30

Police search dry well as B.C. missing women's case expands

Police in British Columbia began to examine a well in a central part of the province Saturday, as they searched for evidence in the disappearance of an Alberta woman who vanished seven years ago on the so-called Highway of Tears.

RCMP have confirmed they are looking for the remains of Nicole Hoar, 25, of Red Deer, Alta., on a two-hectare rural lot in the small lumber town of Isle Pierre, about 50 kilometres northwest of Prince George.

"The police are digging at Chug's old place because of what I told them," says Cindy Mortimer. "I said, ‘You better look down the well. He poured diesel fuel down there and lit it on fire.' "

Mortimer, 46, was referring to a well on the Pinewood Road property previously owned by Leland Switzer, known to most in the tiny sawmill town of Isle Pierre simply as "Chug."

Switzer is currently in prison for shooting his brother Irwin dead in 2002, just two days after Hoar, who was hitchhiking, went missing from a gas station on the outskirts of Prince George.

Hoar is one of 18 women to have vanished on the route from Prince George to Prince Rupert, a bleak ribbon of pavement bordered by shrivelled black, red and grey pine trees, standing like matchsticks.

Late in the day, RCMP announced they are looking for a man who may have information in connection with Hoar. The unknown male may have information that may assist in the investigation, they said.

In a release, police said the description of the man 2002 was as follows: Caucasian male, described to be in his mid-fifties, black shoulder length hair, very skinny face, sunken eyes, scruffy appearance, thin glasses, was a smoker and had a pronounced jagged scar on the left side of his neck.

Area residents said they aren't surprised the RCMP is digging up Switzer's former property — only surprised it's taken this long to happen. Some say they sense a number of families in the bundle of unsolved cases are about to get closure. "And I'll be able to sleep better at night," Mortimer said.

Mortimer and another Switzer neighbour, Wally Anderson, 68, claimed they've been giving tips to Prince George RCMP Sgt. Judy Thomas since Switzer went to jail.

Anderson says he sniffed the diesel in Switzer's well years ago.

On Saturday, Anderson went back to the place where he believes he discovered a woman's remains in November 2008.

He alleged Switzer had bragged to Mortimer about killing his brother on the day it was done, and at the same time, suggested that Mortimer look in a side-road junk heap near Isle Pierre, under an appliance.

Anderson stood on the spot, where locals throw trash and butcher moose, and pointed to the spot where he walked through a light snow and turned over a fridge, finding a bag of bones. He says when he took the bones to police, they didn't take him seriously.

"I never drive by a deep freezer without checking," he said.

Cynthia and James Andal, who live on the property which backs onto the former Switzer property, say Switzer terrorized and threatened everyone in Isle Pierre, even scaring off a young couple on the next door lot with a shotgun.

"Chug was a nasty piece of work," Cynthia said. "He wasn't physically imposing; he just had a weird look. He was crazy."

James Andal says eight years ago, Switzer walked up to the family's laneway and started a conversation that almost ended in a fight. "He said, ‘Why did you phone the police on me?' I had to just walk away."

"We worried about our children," Cynthia added. "It's disturbing to think you could have been there when something was happening."

The Andals say stories about Switzer were common. Mortimer said he was married to a tough, pretty woman named Karen, and children were removed from their home by authorities.

Saturday, a 15-member search-and-rescue team and a geoscientist using ground-penetrating radar identified additional areas for excavation.

In the morning, police searched the four-metre dry well mentioned by Mortimer, and around noon they seized a crumpled yellow pickup truck for forensic examination, located up a steep 500-metre rock road at a dump on Crown land matching the description given by Mortimer.

At 2:30 p.m. local time, a team of dogs trained in locating human remains arrived on site from Alberta.

All of the missing or deceased women, except Hoar were First Nations women; 13 are confirmed homicides and five are still considered missing.

A man who works at the Isle Pierre sawmill said Switzer had done some welding there, and liked to "spout off stories."

"I heard a lot of crazy s—," the man, who did not want to be named, said. "After he went to jail, women stopped disappearing."

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Friday, August 28

Murder and racism along the Highway of Tears

With the news that RCMP were searching a property near Prince George for the remains of Nicole Hoar, there was in that grisly development in the Highway of Tears investigation something that remained unsaid.

Hoar was an anomaly. She was white.

Of the nine females originally listed by the RCMP as missing along Highway 16 — a list, in retrospect, that now seems laughably small — Hoar was the sole Caucasian, an Alberta girl who was working as a tree planter in the Prince George area. She was also, at 25, the eldest of the nine.

The other eight were aboriginal.

Of those eight, four were 15.

When the RCMP expanded the investigation’s area of interest (reacting, perhaps, to the insistence in the aboriginal community that many more women were missing), the force began looking at similar cases as far afield as Alberta and far northern B.C. Another nine names were added to the list in October 2007, bringing the total to 18.

Aileah Saric-Auger, a high school student from Prince George, became the youngest victim on the revised list, and the most recent. Aileah was 14, and had gone missing in February 2006. Her body was found eight days later in a ditch along Highway 16.

The revised list also expanded the investigation’s time span. The oldest case now went all the way back to 1969 — Gloria Moody, found dead in Williams Lake. Forty years would seem to test the limit of “cold case,” in that the chances of some kind of resolution are now positively frigid. It is this growing distance between crime and the possibility of punishment that is not only a source of frustration for the aboriginal community, but evidence to that community of systemic racism.

In the database of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, there are 520 “known” cases of native women going missing or being murdered, and half of those cases have happened since 2000.

B.C. has the distinction of leading all provinces by a wide margin, with 137.

These murders and disappearances have been going on for decades, however, including in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, and critics have charged that investigations into them lapsed because of meagre police resources or, worse, the disinterest of society at large to pursue them. Put more bluntly, racism.

“When I reported my sister missing,” said Lucy Glaim, of Smithers, who was once the youth justice worker for the Wet’sewet’en Unlocking Aboriginal Justice program, “[the RCMP officer] just said something like, ‘She’s just found a party or something, so give her a couple of days.’”

Those couple of days turned into an eternity: Glaim’s sister, Delphine Nikal, disappeared on the morning of June 14, 1990, while hitchhiking from Smithers to a friend’s house in nearby Telkwa. She was never seen again. Glaim had reported her missing the following morning. Delphine was 16.

Glaim’s niece, Cicilia Anne Nikal, had also disappeared a year earlier, and was last seen in Smithers near Highway 16. But her name was not included on the list of 18 because RCMP maintain she was reported missing in Vancouver.

That scenario was contradicted in the 2006 report that came out of the Highway of Tears Symposium in Prince George. The symposium came about because the case file had reached such a critical mass of numbers that it could no longer be ignored. Police, government and media were forced to take notice. It was in that report that Cicilia Anne’s name was included, and that she was “last seen in Smithers near Highway 16.”

There was also this remarkable paragraph in the report’s preamble:

“There is much community speculation and debate on the exact number of women that have disappeared along Highway 16. . . . Many are saying the number of missing women, combined with the number of confirmed murdered women, exceeds 30.”

It then goes on to say that “the exact number of missing women has yet to be determined.”

The exact number? More than 30? The unintended dispassion of those passages screams out at the reader. If there was the possibility of 30 or more women going missing in, say, Dunbar, there wouldn’t be a polite “debate” about numbers. There wouldn’t be a symposium 40 years down the road. There would be immediate wholesale alarm.

Some 33 recommendations came out of that report, some of which have been implemented and some not. A key one — the creation of a shuttle bus service between communities along the highway to remove the need for poor aboriginal women to resort to hitchhiking — has not been realized. Hitchhiking remains common. But one recommendation that did see fruition was the creation of a coordinator for the Highway to Tears program. The coordinator was to act as a liaison between police, affected families and government.

Mavis Erickson, of the Carrier Sekani Family Services in Prince George, is the present coordinator. She is concentrating her efforts, she said, on getting the provincial government to hold an inquiry into the investigations. She has a meeting with Attorney-General Mike de Jong in October.

“It’s been 40 years, and we haven’t had an arrest,” Erickson said. “Many times, we talk to families of women who have been murdered or who have gone missing, and they don’t know what’s going in on the investigations.

“Hopefully, [an inquiry] will answer some questions.”, 604-605-2905

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Featuring candid interviews with victims, witnesses, and perpetrators of human trafficking in Canada Avenue Zero weaves a spellbinding portrait of a dark and sinister trade flourishing in the shadows of the law.

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Thursday, August 13

Ryerson student reminds us of the women who have died in Vancouver as a result of violence, sexism and poverty

Ryerson student reminds us of the women who have died in Vancouver as a result of violence, sexism and poverty.

By Amanda Perri

HEATHER GAGRIELLE CHINNOCK, Tanya Marlo Holyk, Sherry Irving, Sarah de Vries. Recognize the names? If not their names, then perhaps their faces?

Not likely. Undoubtedly, however, if you came face to face with Sarah de Vries, for example, you would be taken aback by her beauty. A young, exceptionally beautiful girl with a lot of pain, suffering, and a life lived in vain.

Sarah de Vries is only one of the 65 women featured in “Remember Their Names” a multimedia video and art installation showcased at Trinity Square Video. The creator, Janis Cole, an award winning Canadian filmmaker, writer, and artist created the exhibit to tribute the victims of Robert Pickton, the monster behind Canada’s worst serial killing case. Surely you recognize his name.

Vancouver’s Downtown East Side, also referred to as the “Low Track,” is the poorest area in all of Canada. Famous for being frequented by prostitutes and drug addicts, there exists high rates of STDs, kidnappings, rape, and death. According to
Sarah de Vries herself, once you arrive you only have three options; going to jail, ending up dead, or becoming a lifer.

It is in this area where women as young as eleven years old come to escape, abusive families, drug problems or psychological disorders. A need to escape is what ties the women in Cole’s exhibit together. They all ventured to the Downtown East Side looking for a place to belong and to find some degree of happiness. Unfortunately for the vast majority of these women, it was drugs that they turned to. Isn’t a place to belong and happiness what we are all looking for? Regardless of tormented pasts? That is what Cole and I discussed as I visited her exhibit, which is open from July 4 till August 8 at Trinity Square Video on Richmond St. W. The cases of missing women, which is marked by negligent action from to police, is what inspired Cole to create this exhibit.

“These were women with families, children, and people that loved them. These were also women that made some bad choices and had problems. I have problems too. Just because I have problems doesn’t mean you can kill me. Doesn’t mean that I can go missing and no body care”

This is exactly how it seemed when the first woman was reported missing in the mid-1980s. Since then, women were reported missing more and more frequently, with numbers rising at unprecedented speeds. However, police were slow to respond to the reports of missing women and please from their families. Many of them were dismissed by police as being probably overdose victims, women who escaped to find other places to attract business, women who were hardly important enough to search for with any degree of adequate consideration. The women who went missing, so it seemed, were just a collective body of “drug users and sex-trade workers.” Not people. Not people with families, friends, thoughts, feelings or emotions. These were, seemingly, not people who deserved the help they needed. These were people who society at large was comfortable restricting to Vancouver’s Downtown East Side and ignored.

Cole noticed this attitude and it was what inspired her to pay tribute to these women. She ventured to create a space where their faces could be seen, names, and voices heard. Not once in the whole exhibit do you hear the infamous Robert Pickton’s name whose sensational story to this day overshadows the faces of these women. Cole aspired to create a scene where the women would be remembered for what they were: women whose troubled lives went unnoticed or uncared for until the advent of their brutal slaughter.

The scene is dark, and somewhat eerie. You enter through black curtains and you immediately feel like something is not right. Cole, who has more than 30 years of experience as an artist, was able to create a feeling in her exhibit—one that lingers with you well after you have left. There are missing posters in one corner that Cole collected of some of the women, all of which feature a brief description of their appearance by “a known drug-user and sex-trade worker.” Cole suggests that these descriptions were not adequately representing these women as individuals and aiding in the lack of progress made in their search.

Cole spent years researching the backgrounds of many of the women. She has spoken to and in fact, remained in touch with several of their families and friends, all of whom “loved them and cared for them.” Through her research on the women, Cole strived to bring to light the lives of these women aside from their line of work and habits. Through one of the victims, Sarah de Vries, Cole is able to reveal the very humanity of all the women presented.

Sarah de Vries went missing from the downtown area when she was 29 years old, but left home when she was only ten. Through Cole’s hard work, she was able to get in contact with one of Sarah’s good friends. He let her use her journals, which she left behind before her disappearance, and he collected for the exhibit. In them, Sarah reveals her ‘brainstorms,” “thoughts” and “feelings.” I had the privilege of reading them and learning of what a remarkably compassionate, brave, and talented woman she really was behind the labels placed on her. Wonderful qualities that was undoubtedly evident not just in Sarah, not just in the 65 women who went missing, but all the women who frequent the downtown area who need the recognition as people and not, in Sarah’s own words, “expendable Hastings street junkies, and slum.”

Cole’s work emphasizes their humanity and reveals that they were much, much more. If only the police and the society at large realized this at the time they went missing.
Will you remember their names?

For more information on Sarah, the other 64 women and information on the case against Robert Pickton, visit:

Janis Cole is the winner of several prestigious awards for her work in filmmaking, script writing, and more including Toronto Arts Award for Media, Theatrical Producers Achievement Award, plus several Gemini nominations. She created Remember Their Names as her final project to conclude her Master of Fine Art in Documentary Media at Ryerson. Currently, she writes for several Canadian publications and teaches at Ontario College of Art and Design. Her work is powerful, inspirational, and moving.

Her advice to young, Canadian artists: “Realize that becoming an artist is a process, just like anything else. You won’t become an overnight success, so set marks and plan goals for yourself… set a two year mark and a five year mark. In between those times you need to make work, work with people and work with yourself.
When you reach the first mark, ask yourself, did I grow from this, or did I burn out?”

Ryerson Free Press

Sunday, August 9

Is a trucker responsible for missing women on Highway of Tears?

By Keith Bonnell, Canwest News Service
August 9, 2009 3:05 PM

Police investigating the disappearance of missing and murdered women across this country are being urged to take a long, hard look at the trucking industry, following an FBI investigation that has linked serial killings to long-haul truck drivers in the U.S.

It's a call that Angela Marie MacDougall is taking across Western Canada — and one that's being echoed by an international expert on serial killers.

MacDougall is the executive director of Battered Women's Support Services in British Columbia, and she has been touring the Prairie provinces for the last two weeks, speaking with women's support groups, sex-trade workers and relatives left shattered by the disappearance of their loved ones.

She's trying to form a coalition to bring forward a report this fall on the disappearance of women in Canada. Some have placed the national numbers in the hundreds.

"There is a sickness within our society that grinds down the lives of aboriginal women," said MacDougall.

It's a problem that has plagued the Prairies, with advocacy groups saying the streets in cities such as Winnipeg are no longer safe — as others question whether serial killers are to blame.

B.C. police have the Missing Women's Task Force; Alberta police have the Project Kare task force; and Mounties in Manitoba announced last week they will review decades' worth of cold cases where the victims were women, looking for any possible links.

On her tour, MacDougall is taking with her a report released earlier this year by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, explaining the work done in the U.S. to link truck drivers to serial killings.

Analysts have compiled a list of more than 520 homicide victims who have been found along or near highways in more than 40 states, as well as a list of 200 potential suspects.

"The suspects are predominantly long-haul truck drivers," the FBI said this spring in its report publicizing the Highway Serial Killings initiative.

It said the victims, many of them drug addicts and prostitutes, are often picked up at truck stops, sexually assaulted, murdered, then dumped along a highway.

So far, 10 suspects believed to be responsible for 30 killings are in custody, the FBI said.

The FBI uses a massive database for violent crimes. A unit of 23 analysts goes through the system, looking for links among crimes that have been submitted by state investigators.

Last year, the FBI took the program online, making it available to law-enforcement agencies across the U.S. But participation is still voluntary, so much of the agency's work is convincing police forces across the country to use the program.

FBI unit chief Michael Harrigan said there's no systemic problem with the trucking industry.

"It's an honourable profession," he told Canwest News Service. "These are a very, very small minority of individuals."

Still, MacDougall said the report should serve as a wake-up call in Canada, a country where there are roughly half a million licensed truckers on the road.

Thoughts immediately come to mind of the so-called Highway of Tears, a 700-kilometre stretch of road that runs between Prince George and Prince Rupert, B.C.

RCMP say 18 women are missing from the area, while Amnesty International attributes 32 missing persons cases to the area, all women, most of them aboriginal.

"A truck driver can pick up a woman in one state and take them to another state and dump them," MacDougall said, adding the FBI report shows predators could find the industry's working conditions ideal for committing their crimes.

If long-haul truck drivers are behind any of the missing-women cases, it would instantly reframe the issue as a Canada-wide problem, rather than a province-by-province phenomenon.

"It's our intention to encourage law enforcement, and encourage the (trucking) industry to take some responsibility for ensuring women's safety," she said.

"We're also talking about women who got away from long-haul truck drivers," MacDougall said, adding she knows of eight B.C. women who she said have been attacked, but escaped.

The RCMP in Manitoba have said there is no evidence to support the theory that the province's unsolved homicides are linked, let alone that truckers are behind any of them.

The RCMP also analyze violent crimes with the help of a database

The VICLAS database, or Violent Crime Linkage System, is meant to help officers search for possible serial criminals — including killers.

"All law-enforcement agencies in Canada contribute to this VICLAS," said Sgt. Line Karpish.

"Right now, we have no reasons to believe that our homicides are linked to other cases," she said, adding: "I'm not going to get into the specific occupations of those that could be travelling criminals."

But, if they haven't already, Canadian police should at least consider a link between long-haul truck drivers and the disappearance of women, said Steven Egger, an associate professor of criminology at the University of Houston-Clear Lake.

"It's something they should look at," said Egger, author of The Killers Among Us, a exploration of serial murder, who consulted with the Alberta task force on missing women.

"It's something they might want to check with the FBI and check if it has any fit with what they're looking at," Egger said, adding it was very possible the force has already considered such a scenario.

The group that represents the trucking industry in Canada said it hadn't heard of the FBI report.

"Like any population, could there be a serial killer (among) truck drivers? Sure," said Doug Switzer, a spokesman for the Canadian Trucking Alliance. "Who am I to argue with the FBI?"

But he stressed that, just because there could be killers among the ranks of Canada's truck drivers, it doesn't mean there's anything wrong with the industry itself.

"It's not that truck drivers are by nature serial killers," said Switzer. "Serial killers are dysfunctional people. . . . There's something very wrong with them that makes them serial killers."

He said he wasn't aware of his organization being approached about potential serial killers by police.

"There's no particular efforts that are made within the trucking industry to look for serial killers," he said.

The Manitoba RCMP's decision to review cold cases stretching back to the 1960s has raised speculation that one or more serial killers could be responsible.

But MacDougall, who has spent two decades working with abused women, including sex-trade workers, said the truth may be something less sensational, far more prevalent, and just as dark.

"We like to think that there's some abhorrent individual who's out there killing women," she said. "It's much harder for us as a society to understand that hatred of women . . . is deeply entrenched in our society.

"There are men who seek out young aboriginal women to beat and rape and pay them."

© Copyright (c) The Province
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Tuesday, August 4

Manitoba RCMP probe opens door to serial killer theory

By Keith Bonnell, Canwest News Service
August 4, 2009 5:01 PM

Is there a serial killer stalking women in Manitoba?

Bernadette Smith thinks so.

Her sister, Claudette Osborne, vanished a year ago after walking out of a Winnipeg hotel.

The sex-trade worker had never gone three days without talking to family members. Her disappearance left behind four children; the youngest was just two weeks old.

"I believe it's true that there's somebody out there preying on those women, that they believe, because of their lifestyle, that nobody cares and that they won't be missed," Smith said. "But it's not true."

The RCMP said there's no currently no evidence to support the theory that a serial killer is responsible for the dozens of missing and murdered women in Manitoba — but they've now opened the door to the possibility.

The force has announced it will be reviewing unsolved homicides where the victim was a woman. At least one of the cases stretches back to the 1960s.

It's a response to public pressure and follows meetings between the RCMP, residents and provincial Justice Minister Dave Chomiak.

The Manitoba RCMP's five-person historical case unit will be looking for any possible links, any new evidence, or any instances where modern methods, including DNA comparisons, could heat up a cold case.

"If there are any links among (the cases), obviously we will follow up on that," RCMP spokeswoman Sgt. Line Karpish said.

While the RCMP insists there's no reason to suspect a serial killer, a leading expert in the field say it's very possible, especially since many of the victims are believed to be women in the sex trade — a favourite target of those who repeatedly kill strangers.

Dr. Steven Egger is an associate professor of criminology at the University of Houston-Clear Lake and the author of The Killers Among Us, a look into serial murder and its investigation.

"Police frequently don't see a pattern," he said, citing a "myopic view" among officers and commanders.

He said there a reluctance to dedicate the resources to looking at possible serial killings, as well as concerns over jurisdictional issues with other police forces.

Prostitutes are among the most common victims of serial killers, Egger said, calling slain sex-trade workers "the less dead."

"People just don't give a damn about prostitutes," he said.

Egger consulted with Project Kare, the Edmonton-based police task force looking into the disappearance of women in Alberta.

"The thing that struck me about Edmonton," he said, "is you've got a lot of places you can dump bodies outside the urban areas."

The same could be said of other Prairie cities, such as Winnipeg, he said.

The RCMP review will focus only on homicides, which means if there's no body — and foul play is only suspected — the case won't be reviewed.

The RCMP don't police the city of Winnipeg, meaning cases inside the city won't necessarily fall under the mandate of the review.

Both those limitations concern Smith, who said she wants a full police task force — with input from aboriginal community groups — dedicated to the missing women.

Nahanni Fontaine agrees.

The director of justice for Manitoba's Southern Chiefs Organization, Fontaine said she doesn't care who's killing aboriginal women in Manitoba — she just wants the disappearances to stop.

"They keep trying to reassure us that there's not a serial killer," Fontaine said of police.

"Personally I don't care," she said. "If it's not one or two really smart psychotic killers that are getting away with it, that means there's 20 murderers that are getting away with it who are on the street right now."

Her organization has long called for a task force into the disappearances, similar to Project Kare in Alberta.

She said among those often labelled "sex-trade workers" are young girls who are being forced to work the streets.

"Contrary to the way these particular women are portrayed as prostitutes or sex trade workers or just the lowest of the low, they're not," she said. "They're somebody's mother; they're somebody's daughter."

No one needs to tell that to the family members of the missing and dead.

Smith said her sister's now two-year-old son has a toy truck with his mother's picture in it.

"He pushes that thing around and talks to his mom," Smith said.

The boy's father recently tried to replace the worn picture and the boy didn't react well.

"He had a crying fit," Smith said.

"It's a roller-coaster every day," she said. "You don't know if today is the day she's going to be found.

"It's like you're living in a nightmare you just want to wake up from."

© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service
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Sunday, August 2

RCMP to review unsolved killings

Female victims focus of investigation

By: Matt Preprost
Winnipeg Free Press

2/08/2009 1:00 AM

Manitoba RCMP are cracking open decades of unsolved homicides where women were the victims, a spokeswoman said Saturday.

The investigation comes after public concern by victims' families as well as community groups who wonder whether or not those homicides are linked and if a serial killer could be at work.

"We're going to review every historical homicide that involved women as a victim," RCMP spokeswoman Sgt. Line Karpish said.

That means starting at square one all over again, Karpish said.

"We're going to go through every single piece of paper, every bit of evidence and every single photograph to make sure all our Ts are crossed and all our Is are dotted. If any gap is identified, we will take action."

Karpish said police decided to review the files, some of them dating back to the 1960s, after meetings with members of the community and Justice Minister Dave Chomiak.

"(It) is largely driven by our desire to ensure to the public that they are safe, and that we are doing our job when missing people are reported (or) when foul play is suspected," Karpish said.

Karpish stressed a separate task force isn't being created and RCMP will use existing resources, including four officers and one criminal analyst from its historical case unit to scour through decades of files. Homicides are classified as historical after five years, Karpish said.

The investigation is expected to take several months.

"It's a very daunting task," Karpish added. "Every (case) is unique -- some have more to work with, some have less," Karpish said.

"We don't catalogue homicides by sex or by race. So we need to figure out which of those files are subject to review. It's a process we must go through."

The team will use the RCMP's violent crime linkage analysis system (VCLAS), Karpish said. VCLAS will allow investigators to mine for possible connections between the unsolved homicides, not just in Manitoba, but across the country.

"We're going to make sure that everything that should be on there is on there," Karpish said.

The public would be notified if this latest review yields any new or important information on unsolved homicides involving women, Karpish said.

"If there are any links to any of these homicides where we feel public safety is at issue we will notify the public immediately," Karpish said.

In Manitoba, advocacy groups have said there may be at least 75 unsolved cases of missing and murdered woman.

The Winnipeg Police Service's website lists 28 unsolved murders of women, including Noreen Taylor, 32, who was found lying on Ham Street near Lagimodiere Boulevard in August 2001. Taylor, a known prostitute, was partially nude and suffered massive head injuries consistent with being pushed from, jumping out of, or falling from a speeding vehicle, police said.

Taylor's mother, Sylvia Aerssens, said the new investigation is the right move by police investigators.

"The good Lord works in many ways," Aerssens said. "Maybe it's His way of saying something should be done. It would be nice to have something solved."

Justice Minister Dave Chomiak first told the Free Press last month that the RCMP and Winnipeg Police were dusting off the old cases. The news came shortly after 17-year-old Cherisse Houle was found dead, face down in a ditch, and Chomiak himself wondered if a serial killer could be responsible.

"I have been convinced by police that the evidence does not point to that," Chomiak said at the time.

Former Vancouver police officer turned serial-killer profiler Kim Rossmo told the Free Press that it wouldn't surprise him if a serial killer was at work in Winnipeg.

"It would be shocking to think that in a city the size of Winnipeg, that you wouldn't have one or more serial killers preying on prostitutes over a 30-year period," Rossmo said.

-- With files from the Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 2, 2009 A4

© 2009 Winnipeg Free Press. All Rights Reserved.