Robert Pickton: The Vancouver Missing Women
Streetwalkers are by nature an elusive breed. Many begin as adolescent runaways and never lose the habit of evasion, changing names and addresses so often that investigators have no realistic hope of tracking a specific prostitute for any length of time. When hookers vanish--as opposed to being slain and left in garbage dumpsters or motel rooms, in canals and vacant lots--no one can say with any certainty if they have disappeared by choice or through foul play.
Too often, no one cares.
No pattern was discernible in the early cases. Rebecca Guno, 23, was last seen alive on June 22, 1983, reported missing three days later. Most of Downtown Eastside's vanished women were not so promptly missed. The next "official" victim, 43-year-old Sherry Rail, would not be reported missing until three years after her January 1984 disappearance. Thirty-three-year-old Elaine Auerbach told friends she was moving to Seattle in March 1986 but she never arrived, reported missing in mid-April. Teressa Ann Williams, a 26-year-old Aboriginal, was last seen alive in July 1988, reported missing in March 1989. Fourteen months elapsed between the August 1989 disappearance of 40-year-old mental patient Ingrid Soet and the report to police on October 1, 1990. The first black victim, Kathleen Wattley, was 39 years old when she vanished in June 1992, reported missing on the 29th of that month.
The unknown predator(s) took a three-year vacation before claiming 47-year-old Catherine Gonzales in March 1995, her disappearance reported to authorities on February 9, 1996. The year's second victim, in April, was 32-year-old Catherine Knight, missing seven months before police received the report on November 11. Dorothy Spence, a 36-year-old Aboriginal, vanished four months after Knight, in August 1995, but her disappearance was reported earlier, on October 30. The year's last victim was 23-year-old Diana Melnick, lost in December, reported missing four days after Christmas.
Again the hunt was stalled, this time until October 1996, when 24-year-old Tanya Holyk disappeared (reported on November 3). Olivia Williams rated less concern at age 22, her December 1996 disappearance ignored until July 4, 1997.
Stephanie Lane, the youngest victim so far at age 20, was hospitalized for an episode of drug psychosis on March 10, 1997. Released the following day, she was last seen alive at the Patricia Hotel on Hastings Street. Janet Henry survived a near-miss with serial killer Clifford Olson in the 1980s, drugged but spared by Olson for reasons unknown, yet she wound up in Low Track a decade later and met another predator. Henry was reported missing on June 28, 1997, two days after her last contact with relatives.
August 1997 was the most lethal month to date, three women lost, although police would not learn of those cases for more than a year. Marnie Frey, age 25, was not reported missing until September 4, 1998. Nineteen days later, on September 23, the first missing-person report was filed on 32-year-old Helen Hallmark. Jacqueline Murdock, 28, was not reported missing until October 3, 1998. Detectives still have no idea exactly when or where the women vanished.
The next official victim, 33-year-old Cindy Beck, dropped out of sight in September 1997, but her disappearance was reported on April 30, 1998, four months before the first of August's missing women. Andrea Borhaven's friends recall that she "never had an address" and "just bounced off the walls." She vanished sometime during 1997, they believe, but no one bothered to inform police until May 18, 1999. Thirty-nine-year-old Kerry Koski was popular, by contrast: she disappeared in January 1998 and was reported missing on the 29th of that month.
Four more women would vanish before Vancouver police took an interest in the case. Jacqueline McDonnell, 23, disappeared in mid-January 1998, officially reported missing on February 22, 1999. Inga Hall, age 46 or 47, was last seen alive in February 1993, her disappearance logged with remarkable celerity on March 3. Twenty-nine-year-old Sarah Jane deVries was last seen alive on April 14, 1998, reported missing by friends the same day. She left behind a diary filled with observations on a stunted life, including this: "I think my hate is going to be my destination, my executioner." Sheila Egan, a prostitute since age 15, vanished at 20, in July 1998 (reported on August 5).
As that lethal summer waned, detectives in Vancouver were about to have a nightmare thrust upon them. It continues to the present day, and only time will tell if it will ever be resolved.