Tuesday, July 23

Human remains near Indus indentified as missing sex trade worker


RCMP have announced that human remains found near the hamlet of Indus on May 13 have been positively identified as those of Maria Rosa Ciciolla, who was reported missing in November 2006.

Photograph by: Photo courtesy Strathmore RCMP, Handout

Human remains discovered on a farm near Indus — a hamlet southeast of Calgary — in May have been identified as a sex trade worker missing from one of the city’s most notorious strolls since 2006.

Maria Rosa Ciciolla vanished after getting into a car on the corner of 19th Avenue and 44th Street S.E. on July 20, 2006.

The 35-year-old mother had come to Calgary from her Montreal home in 1997 seeking a fresh start, says a Calgary police detective, who remembers Ciciolla well.

“I saw her almost on a daily basis, I quite liked her. I had a soft spot for her,” said Det. Jeff Anderson, then a District 4 constable tasked with patrolling the stroll.

Ciciolla battled with addictions, Anderson said.

“She was super vibrant, and although she led kind of a rough lifestyle, you could tell she had a kind heart. She came from a good family; she always talked about her family,” he said.

The Calgary police missing persons case has now officially been taken over by the RCMP serious crimes unit, which may be investigating foul play.

“She was exposed to violence at times. We don’t know at this point what really happened, how she met with her end. There’s always the possibility at the back of your mind there may have been some violence,” said Johnson.

“I honestly think some day this will be finalized.”

Ciciolla’s family remains in Montreal, and her son recently turned 18.

The family was notified of the discovery and identification of Ciciolla’s remains, closing a sad chapter.

“It’s the first part of closure for them. They can say goodbye properly. They didn’t give up hope that she would be found. Along the years, they came to a hard realization that she might not ever walk through the door again. They were very tenacious,” Anderson said. “It kept me wanting to move forward as well.”

Anderson recalls that Ciciolla, who was fluent in English and French, also spoke Italian. Standing five feet tall and weighing barely 95 pounds, the tiny dark-haired woman stood out from her counterparts on the streets.

“She was educated and smart and witty. We had our roles we were playing, but there was mutual respect,” said Johnson.

“I don’t think anybody who ran into her would ever forget her.”

Now police are hoping the latest developments will bring new information forward in the case.

“After seven years, it’s not going to be easy at all. It’s difficult — even when you have them (remains) when they first happen, they’re difficult,” said Johnson.

“She was very outgoing and well-known by police and to the people in the area, we’re hoping to learn more.”

The bones, scattered underneath a towering caragana shrub, were discovered May 13 when someone was clearing unused farmland in the hamlet.

The remote farmland property, located off Range Road 275 on Township Road 232 north of Indus, hasn’t been used by the elderly owner in years.

Neighbours said the deserted property is a magnet for transients, and serves as a secluded dumping ground.

Now RCMP investigators are sifting through 184 exhibits taken from the scene, and are starting to re-interview witnesses and friends from years ago.

“When they spoke to people it was part of a missing persons investigation. Now we’re looking at it as human remains,” said Strathmore RCMP Const. Norm Mercier.

In the early years after Ciciolla was first reported missing, Anderson made a point of investigating the case, even though he was promoted out of his old job.

“I tried to work on it on the side of my desk. It’s frustrating at times. You come to a lot of dead ends and closed doors. But the family’s what keeps you going.”

Anyone with information about Ciciolla’s whereabouts or activities leading up to her disappearance is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-TIPS (8477).


© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

Tuesday, July 16

Another family of Pickton victim sues RCMP, Vancouver police


Michelle Pineault and George Lane listen during a March, 2012 press conference asking the provincial government to extend the Missing Women’s Inquiry. Their daughter Stephanie Lane was one of Robert Pickton’s murder victims.

Photograph by: Ward Perrin, PNG

The line up of family members suing serial killer Robert Pickton and police for failing to investigate the reports of missing women is growing longer.

The son of Stephanie Lane has filed a separate lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court alleging that the Vancouver police and the RCMP negligently contributed to Lane’s death and her son’s suffering.

Lane went missing in early 1997, just over eight months after her son — whose name is withheld — was born.

The DNA of the 20-year-old Metis woman was discovered on Pickton’s farm five years later.

The lawsuit claims both the Vancouver Police Department and the RCMP were aware a serial killer was attacking sex workers in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, but failed to investigate.

The children of four other women whose remains were found on Pickton’s farm launched separate lawsuits in May.

None of the allegations contained in the lawsuits have been proven in court.

© Copyright (c)

Sunday, July 14

Attorney General says she is eager to act on Missing Women Inquiry recommendations

Marcella Bernardo |

More than a year after BC’s Missing Women Inquiry wrapped up, several of the 65 recommendations made by commissioner Wally Oppal have yet to be addressed by the provincial government.

Attorney General Suzanne Anton says she's been reading through the final report tabled in December and she's eager to act on it.

"I'm determined to move forward as quickly as we can on implementation of the recommendations from the Commission. There are some that are done and there are many, many of them underway, particularly ones involving policing, involving response to missing women reports and so on."

Anton, who's only had the job a few weeks, says she personally supports Oppal's push for regionalized policing, but she's not about to impose it on municipalities expressing a wish to keep their own police forces.

NDP demand shuttle on Highway of Tears

JULY 12, 2013

The NDP are calling on the provincial government to create a shuttle service along Highway 16 to make it safer for people travelling in northern B.C.

During question period in the legislature Thursday, NDP MLA Jennifer Rice cited the 2006 Highway of Tears Symposium and last year's Missing Women Inquiry report, both of which called for safer transportation options along a 700-kilometre stretch of Highway 16 between Prince George and Prince Rupert.

Rice pointed to service cuts by Greyhound this year, resulting in less service along the highway made infamous for the high number of women who have gone missing or been found murdered along its route.

In January, the Passenger Transportation Board approved changes that would see the minimum number of weekly Greyhound trips from Prince George to Prince Rupert reduced from 22 to 14. The bus company cited business reasons for requesting the reduced schedule.

"Seven years have passed since the recommendation was first made, and we've gone backwards, not forwards," Rice asked. "When will the communities along Highway 16 get this shuttle?"

Justice Minister Suzanne Anton replied that work is ongoing to ensure the highway is safe.

"The Transportation Ministry is working to identify considerations and solutions to enhance safety for travellers along Highway 16 because there are many women missing on that highway and unaccounted for," Anton said. "That's a terrible, terrible situation."

According to the RCMP's Project E-Pana, since 1969 there have been 18 cases of women who have gone missing or have been murdered within a mile of Highways 16, 97 and 5.

Missing Women Commission of Inquiry


Monday, July 8

Dismiss Pickton lawsuit against Crown prosecutors, says B.C.

Pickton victims' families allege Crown failed to warn women
The Canadian Press
Posted: Jul 5, 2013 5:11 PM PT

mw poster

The B.C. government says it can't be sued over the Crown prosecutor's decision to stay attempted murder charges against Robert Pickton in 1998 — four years before the remains of dozens of women were found on the serial killer's farm.

The families of four women whose remains or DNA were found on Pickton's property filed a lawsuit in May targeting the provincial and federal governments, the City of Vancouver, Pickton's siblings and Pickton himself.

The provincial government has filed an application in B.C.Supreme Court asking that the allegations targeting B.C.'s criminal justice branch be removed from the statements of claim.

The lawsuits allege, among other things, that prosecutors were negligent when they decided not to put Pickton on trial for attempted murder in early 1998. The lawsuits also claim the Crown should have warned sex workers in Vancouver about Pickton in light of the attempted murder charge.

But the B.C. government's notices of application say Crown lawyers are immune from most claims of negligence, unless there is clear evidence of "deliberate and malicious" conduct.

"The notice of civil claim in this case includes no pleading of malice on the part of the Crown counsel involved," says one of four notices filed with the court last week.

"This is clearly not a claim of malicious prosecution. It is therefore plain and obvious that it has no reasonable chance of success."

The notices also argue Crown prosecutors don't have a duty to warn the public.

Attempted murder charges stayed

In March 1997, Pickton and a sex worker became entangled in a violent confrontation at his property in Port Coquitlam, B.C.

The sex worker, whose name remains covered by a publication ban, had a set of handcuffs locked on one of her wrists -- the key to which was later found in Pickton's pocket.

Days before Pickton was set to stand trial, a Crown prosecutor decided not to go ahead. Crown counsel Randi Connor told a public inquiry last year that she believed the sex worker's drug use meant she wasn't in a condition to testify.

Between January 1998, when the charges against Pickton were stayed, and his arrest in February 2002, 19 women disappeared and were later connected to Pickton's farm.

Also after Pickton's arrest in 2002, forensic investigators found the DNA of three missing women on evidence they seized from the 1997 attack, including clothing and a condom package.

Families allege police botch up

The lawsuits involve the daughters and sons of Dianne Rock, Sarah de Vries, Cynthia Feliks and Yvonne Boen.

The statements of claim allege the Vancouver police and the RCMP botched their respective investigations into missing sex workers from the Downtown Eastside and failed to warn women in the neighbourhood that a serial killer was likely at work.

Boen's and Feliks' children also allege they were harmed by the insensitive manner in which they were informed of their mothers' deaths.

Pickton was eventually convicted of six counts of second-degree murder.

When Pickton lost his appeals for those convictions, charges related to the murders of 20 other women, including Rock, de Vries and Feliks, were stayed by the Crown. Boen is among six women whose remains or DNA were found on the Pickton property but for which no charges were ever laid.

The statements of claim contain allegations that haven't been tested in court.

None of the defendants have filed statements of defence, and the province's recent notice of application makes no mention of any of the other allegations in the families' lawsuits.

© The Canadian Press, 2013
The Canadian Press

Friday, July 5

Strip club’s sign refers to young women as ‘fresh meat’ in neighbourhood where Pickton once preyed


A sign advertises "Fresh Meat" on amateur night at the No. 5 Orange strip bar.

Photograph by: Dan Fumano, The Province

A new sign outside of one of Vancouver’s few remaining strip clubs refers to young women as “fresh meat” and isn’t sitting well with some in the neighbourhood.

This week, the No. 5 Orange strip club at Main and Powell Street changed its sign to promote an upcoming amateur night. The sign reads “Fresh Meat — Amateurs July 10.”

“I was walking by the sign this morning on the way to work, and it actually did strike me as quite offensive. I saw it, and it just made me feel kind of gross,” said Jessica St. Jean, a sexual health educator.

Denise Roldan works across the street from the club as a legal secretary at the Vancouver Provincial Court. She said she has nothing against strip clubs in general. “To each their own,” she said, “but that sign goes a little too far.”

No one from No. 5 Orange management was immediately available for comment.

The “fresh meat” reference represents an attitude that one academic says is problematic, but not necessarily surprising. Margaret Jackson, director of FREDA, the Feminist Research Education Development and Action Centre at Simon Fraser University said, “I’m not surprised, because that is one of the issues that we’re concerned about, that is the objectification of women, that tends to demean and degrade. Being thought of as ‘fresh meat’ can’t be surely thought of as being an appropriate way to refer to young women.”

For some, the thought of equating young women with meat products hit too close to home in a neighbourhood where memories of Robert Pickton’s horrific crimes still loom large for many.

“I think that definitely the Pickton trials are still pretty fresh in everybody’s minds here,” said Aviva Finkelstein. “So they should have thought of that, or been a bit more sensitive to that.”

Not everyone had a problem with the sign. Dan Manarovici, a court interpreter, said he thought it was amusing and not offensive. But he said that his wife would probably disagree.

“I think we would not agree on it,” he said. “Probably, I would sleep on the balcony tonight.”

The No. 5 Orange has been a fixture of the neighbourhood for decades, while almost all the rest of the city’s strip clubs closed down. According to the No. 5’s website, the club’s stage has been graced by dancers such as Courtney Love, Italian member of parliament Ilona Staller and Kimberly Conrad, ex-wife of Hugh Hefner.



© Copyright (c) The Province

Wednesday, July 3

She’s no stranger to crime scenes

TORONTO — Tracy Rogers doesn't read true crime.

As one of Canada's lead forensic anthropologists, it's one of her cardinal rules.

The Dundas mother of two has consulted on some of Canada's most gruesome murder cases, including the notorious 2002 search of serial killer Robert Pickton's British Columbia pig farm and, most recently, the Tim Bosma mystery.

You can see Rogers' yellow Volkswagen Beetle in photos from the Waterloo Region farm where Bosma's charred remains were recovered back in May. The farm is owned by Dellen Millard, accused in Bosma's killing.

"Yes, that's my car," the 47-year-old admitted, but that's as much as she'll say.

"I can't talk about the case," she says firmly, sitting in her University of Toronto Mississauga office where — when she's not looking for human remains — she teaches.

But like everyone else in Canada, she admits that the Bosma case hit close to home.

Tim Bosma — a 32-year-old Ancaster dad — went missing on May 6 after taking two men for a test drive in a pickup truck he was trying to sell online. Police say he was killed that same night, his body taken to a farm near Roseville and burned beyond recognition.

Two men — Millard, 27, of Etobicoke and 25-year-old Mark Smich of Oakville — have been charged with first-degree murder.

Unlike the Pickton case, Bosma went missing just a short drive from Rogers' own home.

"You don't like to think of those kinds of things happening at home … but I think the reason the Bosma case hit so hard was that could have been anyone. It's not even so much proximity to home, just the nature of the case itself," she said.

Rogers speaks more freely about her time working on the Pickton case — one of her first after completing her PhD at Simon Fraser University in 2000 (and a postdoctorate degree at McMaster University in 2001).

Rogers spent a full summer at the Pickton farm in 2002, and made multiple flights out after she returned to teach at U of T in the fall.

"There were 69 women that were thought to be associated with that case, so we were potentially looking for 69 people. There were two scenes that had to be completely examined; one that was 14 acres and one that was 16 acres. And because we didn't know how he disposed of the bodies … everything had to be searched. They ended up deciding we would excavate that property completely until we know there was nothing left below … a certain level," she said.

How can she leave a scene like that and be confident that nothing was missed?

She shows me a spread of small bones laid out on a counter in the forensic anthropology lab at the university, where she teaches her students to distinguish between bones.

Most are from animals, some are from human, and some are, in fact, not bones at all; they are sticks or shards of rock that could easily be mistaken for bone.

Most of these came from the search for Shirley Treadwell late last year, she says. The Stoney Creek woman was believed to have died in 2009 at age 62, and police allege she was buried by her niece who continued to collect her social assistance cheques.

"You asked me before, do I ever leave a scene wondering if we found it all? In this case, we found all these tiny pieces … if she was there, we should have found her," she says, touching a small piece of human skull.

Police have said Treadwell's body was likely carried off by animals from a shallow grave and her remains have not been recovered.

Rogers first became interested in anthropology during her undergraduate studies at McMaster University. She loved the historic aspects of the discipline, but she wanted to put her skills to more practical use. And she wanted to help people.

As a forensic anthropologist, there's nothing she can do for the victims. They are gone by the time she is called in. But she works for their families, their loved ones, to help bring closure and justice.

"I actually don't watch any of the interviews with family or anything like that because I don't want to be swayed … I actually don't even watch the news at all," she says.

"One thing I found very early on is, it does bother me to see it on the news, to hear it from the family … I don't like to hear about people's tragedies."

It's her job to find the stories behind the bones.

Even when police describe remains as "beyond recognition," Rogers says there is still much that can be determined from even small pieces of bone.

Even a burned body — she has encountered several — is not the same as the remains you would receive from a commercial crematorium, which are processed into a clean ash.

"Medical records, dental records, those are the type of things that help us identify people … I mean, 'beyond recognition' could mean your facial features are no longer visible, your fingerprints are no longer visible," she said.

As a forensic anthropologist, there are many things she can determine just from bones — age, sex (in fact Rogers has developed a technique for identifying gender from the distal humerus bone, or the upper elbow), ancestry. In short, much more than meets the eye.

In Canada, there are only a handful of forensic anthropologists, she says — and only one that consults full time. They are underutilized, she says, but she feels that the more they work with police and different agencies, the more they will continue to be called in.

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