Wednesday, December 9

‘A parent’s worst nightmare’: Edmonton police seeking help in 11-year case of missing woman

By Slav Kornik

Web Producer  Global News

maggie burke_1

EDMONTON – It’s been 11 years since 21-year-old Maggie Burke vanished from downtown Edmonton.

Police believe foul play was involved in her disappearance, and hope speaking publicly about the cold case will generate tips more than a decade later.

“I’m doing this because my family needs answers,”Maggie’s mother Marie Burke said Wednesday.

“She loved her family and she loved her daughter and she would have never just taken off,” Marie added.

“Something happened to her.”

Maggie was last seen in the area of 95 Street and 118 Avenue, where she had worked in the sex trade. However, police believe the 21-year-old was meeting a friend at the time of her disappearance.

Crime Stoppers put up a billboard with Maggie’s photo this week in the hopes someone will come forward with information.

“Someone, somewhere, must have information about Maggie’s disappearance,” Sgt. Neil Zurawell, with EPS Missing Persons Unit, said.

“We want that key piece of information, that little nugget of information, that will really progress the investigation and help us find some real answers.”

READ MORE: RCMP #MMIW campaign aims to bring home Canada’s missing Aboriginal women

Maggie is described as aboriginal, 5’7″, 125 lbs, brown eyes, with brown hair that had red streaks in it at the time. She also had a marijuana leaf tattoo on her left arm.

Her mother, in speaking publicly for the first time, pleaded for help.

“Please help us find Maggie. She is missed and she is loved.”

Anyone with information about her disappearance is asked to contact Edmonton police at 780-423-4567 or anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or online.

With files from Vinesh Pratap, Global News

Sunday, September 27

Vancouver removes ‘treasured’ memorials for three of serial killer Robert Pickton’s victims


memorial stones

VANCOUVER — A brother of one of the women murdered by Robert Pickton says he’s shocked and upset after the City of Vancouver removed plaques honouring three of the killer’s victims.

Bronze plaques bearing the names of Georgina Papin, Brenda Wolfe and Marnie Frey were installed in a sidewalk in the city’s Downtown Eastside in 2012.

George Papin travels to Vancouver once or twice a month to lay tobacco and say a prayer at his sister’s plaque. But about two weeks ago, he discovered it was gone.

“I treasured the memorial as it was a part of me, just like my sister,” he said. “And now they take this away.”

The memorials were part of an unfinished project called “The Living Stones,” which was originally set to lay 62 plaques at the last known locations of missing and murdered women.

The city took over the project in 2013 after the non-profit group that launched it dissolved. Just four plaques had been laid.

A city spokesman said Saturday that staff had been working to “resolve issues” around the project. He said its founders originally indicated it had been endorsed by all the families and the Downtown Eastside community.

“Unfortunately, we later discovered that there was not consensus from the community or from the women’s families regarding this project,” Jason Watson said in a statement.

“Given the lack of consensus, it was determined in spring 2015 that the few plaques that were installed would be removed and no additional ones would be installed.”

He said the city is working to obtain contact details for the families to see if they want the plaques sent to them, adding the non-profit previously refused to provide that information.

Papin, who lives in Pemberton, said city officials had not contacted him. The other women’s families could not immediately be reached, but a woman who identified herself as Wolfe’s daughter Angel said on Facebook that the city had been in touch and was planning to send families the plaques.

Frey’s father Rick was quoted in the Vancouver Sun in 2013 as saying that he didn’t want the plaque in the ground with “people walking over it and spitting on” it.

Pickton is serving a life sentence for the second-degree murders of six women. Twenty other charges against him were not proceeded with — including in the death of Cara Ellis.

A Living Stone plaque laid in another location in Vancouver’s downtown core that honoured Ellis has not yet been removed.

Sean Faludi, the project’s founder, strongly denied the city’s allegations. He said he provided permission letters from all but one of the families and had never refused to hand over contact details.

Faludi said he only learned on Saturday that the stones had been removed.

“What astounds me is the callousness of the way these stones have been treated,” he said. “It’s rather heartbreaking to know that a project that was associated with my name is kind of brushed under the trash can.”

© Copyright (c)

Brother of Pickton victim shocked after Vancouver removes memorials - The Globe and Mail

Brother of Pickton victim shocked after Vancouver removes memorials - The Globe and Mail:

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Friday, July 3

Citizen sleuths are tracking killers and cracking cold cases.


May 01, 2015

By Alannah O'Neill Photography Getty
ELLE Magazine Canada

Tam Bui is looking for leads. The Toronto-based homicide detective has released a series of clues over Twitter, hoping to crowdsource a lucky tip that will help him solve the 2012 murder of Mike Pimentel, who was stabbed on New Year’s Eve in Liberty Village. “We had a lot of good information,” he says. “We had clothing descriptions, stills from a seized video, items that were dropped.” But, three years later, the trail had run cold. It wasn’t until Bui started listening to Serial, the behemoth podcast about the 1999 murder of high-school student Hae Min Lee and the man who was convicted of killing her, Adnan Syed, that inspiration struck: He would use its mega-success to solicit engagement from the public and track down Pimentel’s murderer.
Appealing to social media might seem like an unusual method to solve a crime, but, in fact, it’s part of a growing trend where citizen sleuths are cracking cases over the Internet. In 2012, when Luka Magnotta released a video depicting the brutal murder and dismemberment of student Lin Jun, he was found by a group of animal-rights activists. Magnotta had been on their radar for months, after they discovered a video he’d posted online of himself killing kittens. This past March, HBO’s documentary miniseries The Jinx, about real-estate magnate Robert Durst’s alleged connection to three deaths (including that of his wife in 1982), led to an arrest after Durst, unbeknownst to him, was recorded saying “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.” Current arrests aside, this isn’t a new movement at all; civilians have been attempting to solve famous mysteries for decades, from who kidnapped the Lindbergh baby to the identity of Jack the Ripper.
However, the ability to compile and disseminate information and evidence from central hubs online has been a game changer for both citizens and law enforcement alike.
Civilian detectives congregate on sites like Reddit, Canada’s Missing, the Doe Network and the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. They pore over missing-person reports, forensic exams and facial reconstructions. “There was nothing distinguishing about the people I talked to,” says Deborah Halber, author of The Skeleton Crew: How Amateur Sleuths Are Solving America’s Coldest Cases. “Some were old, some young. They came from all over the country. I spoke to a few people who had solved six or more cold cases.” Halber says most aspiring gumshoes have altruistic motives – they want to help families figure out what happened to their loved ones – while others simply enjoy solving puzzles. “For the most part, people seemed to stumble onto cases,” she adds. “The more you research, the more you feel like you know the person. And you do whatever you can.”
It seems as if citizen sleuths emerge out of civic duty when they feel justice hasn’t been served. That was certainly a motivating factor for Alexandria Goddard, a blogger who found incriminating tweets and videos that pictured teen boys sexually assaulting an underage girl in Steubenville, Ohio. Goddard made screen shots before the tweets were deleted, forcing officials to eventually press charges.
It was law enforcement’s in­action that motivated Wayne Leng. When his friend, 29-year-old Sarah de Vries, disappeared from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside neighbourhood in 1998, Leng, a mechanic by trade, feared the worst. “Women had been going missing, but there wasn’t much in the news about it,” he says. His repeated calls to the police fell on deaf ears. “The women were sex workers and drug addicted, and the standard line was ‘They’re transient; they have moved on to other locations.’”

Leng started
launched a 1-800 number to solicit tips and was eventually contacted by a man with information about his employer, a pig farmer named Robert “Willie” Pickton. “I turned it over to the police, but I didn’t think much of it,” says Leng. That is, until Pickton was arrested – four years later – and charged with the murders of 26 women.

It’s not a surprise that police would brush off this type of information from well-meaning tipsters. “In some cases, when law enforcement were starting to get all these calls, they were under­standably asking ‘What’s going on here?’” says Halber. “Then the mys­teries started getting solved.” That’s when she noticed a shift in attitudes. “I spoke with detectives who were grateful for the help. One in Phoenix said that there were cases he never would have been able to solve without the Doe Network.”
Back in Toronto, Detective Bui says that using Twitter (@DetBuiHomicide) to solve his homicide case is the ultimate act of transparency. “It’s a work account,” he says. “It’s being monitored by my command structure and anyone else who wants to see it. Defence attorneys, people on other cases—there’s no hiding; it’s Twitter.” With the NYE murder still under investigation, Bui remains mum on the case’s progress.
But not all Internet investigations pan out – this was proven (with disastrous consequences) by the manhunt that occurred after bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon in 2013. The FBI released pictures of suspects online, and the community on Reddit wrongfully accused 22-year-old Sunil Tripathi of involvement. Within hours, news vans were camped outside his house and outlets like Buzzfeed and Gawker had posted his picture on their home pages. He took his own life soon after. Once Tripathi was found dead, a dozen or so editorials popped up that debated the ethics of crime fighting via laptop and decried online mob mentality.
While the initial pull may be that all-too- human need to help at any cost, sometimes the thrill of solving a mystery blinds many to the real-life consequences of digging through someone’s past and making accusations. As Serial played out each week, becoming a genuine pop-culture phenomenon, a few took to the Internet to question our fascination with murder on a spectator level. Jay, a star witness in the case, told The Intercept in an exclusive interview: “We have young kids, and we used to let them walk to school. Now we don’t, because we don’t know if someone from the Internet is going to harass them.”
With online investigations, there’s no formal system in place to protect people’s rights from damaging speculation. And attaching accusations to someone’s name, so that it’s picked up on a routine Google search, can impact his or her life profoundly. But, for those whose loved ones have disappeared without a trace, finding some sense of resolve is important.
For all the backlash that Serial received, it sparked an international debate about a case no one was talking about and generated enough interest to launch a formal appeals process for Syed. As for Leng, finding the truth has finally given him a sense of peace. “Not a day goes by that I don’t think of Sarah,” says Leng. “But it does give some measure of closure.”

The Skeleton Crew: How Amateur Sleuths Are Solving America's Coldest Cases

Wednesday, January 28

Victim’s mother calls for new Pickton trial | Vancouver 24 hrs

Victim’s mother calls for new Pickton trial | Vancouver 24 hrs:

The mother of a woman whose DNA and bones were found on Robert Pickton’s property says her daughter’s remains should result in another murder charge for the convicted serial killer.
In January 1997, Michele Pineault’s daughter Stephanie Lane disappeared. It would be many years later when her family learned some of her skeletal remains were found on Pickton’s farm.
Pickton was first charged with killing 26 women, but was later convicted of six murders. Twenty charges were stayed and an additional six cases, including Lane’s, never resulted in charges.
In 2003, Pineault was told her daughter’s DNA, from bodily fluid, was found on the Pickton farm in a deep freezer, and if more of her daughter’s remains were found, Pickton would face a murder charge.
But it wasn’t until last August when the BC Coroners Service informed Pineault they had Lane’s partial skeletal remains, which had been kept in storage. The RCMP had them until 2010, when it was then turned over to the coroner’s office. Last September, the remains were handed over to Pineault.
“I was told that they found two pieces of my daughter’s vertebrae on the farm,” she said. “It remained in a storage locker, and the only explanation was — none.
“The only thing they could say was, ‘It was an oversight.’”
Pineault is calling on the B.C. Coroners Service to re-examine the remains to confirm the identity of the bones, for the police and Crown prosecutors to reopen the case and charge Pickton with her daughter’s death.
“I want justice for my daughter and grandson who’s lived his entire life without a mother,” she said. “He’ll be 19 in April. He was eight months old when she was missing.”
In the past, Crown prosecutors said there’s no plans to put Pickton back on trial as he’s already serving a maximum sentence.
Grand Chief Steward Phillip, Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said it’s a “reflection on the colossal failure of the (Wally) Oppal Missing Women’s Inquiry.”
“(This) is further evidence of the need for a national inquiry to address all the dimensions of this ongoing national disgrace,” he said. “We’re absolutely appalled at the BC Coroners Service callous way of describing this as merely an ‘oversight.’”
However, the coroners service said Lane’s remains were fully identified as part of the original police investigation, and does not represent new evidence.
“The sole issue is the unfortunate delay in returning the remains to the family of Ms. Lane, following completion of the criminal proceedings against Mr. Pickton,” the statement read.
The coroners service said it cannot explain the delay as the staff members involved no longer work for the organization.

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Tuesday, January 6

Fallout from Pickton case leads to better support for vulnerable victims

Policy change encourages more witnesses, victims to testify in court


In an artist’s rendering, Gina Houston, left, was the Crown’s first star witness in the trial of serial killer Robert Pickton, right.


There will be more support for vulnerable victims and witnesses at criminal trials under new provincial rules that respond to recommendations from the 2012 Missing Women Commission of Inquiry.

One of the key recommendations from the hefty inquiry report, written by former attorney general Wally Oppal, was for B.C.’s criminal justice system to be less alienating, especially for women who work in the sex trade.

Oppal heard from dozens of witnesses at the inquiry, called to examine the police investigation into Vancouver’s missing women and the prosecution of serial killer Robert (Willie) Pickton in 2007.

More than two years after the release of his report, which made 65 recommendations for change, the criminal justice branch announced policy changes Tuesday designed to encourage more vulnerable people to participate in trials.

“Crown Counsel should keep in mind that vulnerable victims and witnesses may be particularly subject to pressure, intimidation, and interference,” the new policy acknowledges.

Vulnerability can be influenced by a person’s job, ethnicity, sexual orientation, mental health, substance use, language, legal status, poverty and history of abuse, the new policy states.

The attorney general now promises prosecutors, dealing with vulnerable people, will:

• be assigned early to files, have specialized training, provide regular updates, try to get early trial dates, and stay with the case from start to finish;

• pursue publication bans, protective orders and accommodations such as testifying by video or behind a screen when applicable;

• work with vulnerable people’s social supports to try to overcome their reluctance to testify;

• ask for warrants that protect the vulnerable victims/witnesses when an accused is released.

In an interview, Oppal said the changes are necessary because the justice system is very adversarial, with one side challenging the testimony of the other.

“I think all of us in the system need to be more sensitive to victims,” said Oppal, a former B.C. Appeal Court justice. “If the system is going to have any credibility then it has to take into account the effects of the crime on the victim, and particularly the effects on vulnerable women.”

Oppal noted in his report that a vulnerable person’s evidence should not be devalued, as it was in the case of an important Pickton witness — a drug-addicted sex-trade worker — who the Crown dismissed as too unstable.

Many vulnerable women are reluctant to testify, often due to fear for their safety, but some of these new changes will help, said Kate Gibson, executive director of WISH, a Vancouver drop-in centre for sex-trade workers.

“It is hard to keep going back (to the prosecutor’s office) and meeting somebody new every time, but what this focuses on is keeping the file with the same Crown counsel from the beginning,” she said.

“And it is important to have Crown counsel with experience in the area of vulnerable people, and a view of the world that is compassionate.”

Gibson wished, though, that the new policy was more specific about protecting women engaged in the sex trade, as they work in a “criminalized environment.”

Indeed, a lawyer who testified at the inquiry said Crown policy should address “the unique vulnerability of sex-trade workers and the inordinate incidence of violence directed toward them.”

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