Robert Pickton: The Vancouver Missing Women
Dead or Alive?
Four more prostitutes vanished from Downtown Eastside while the task force was compiling data, in the last three months of 1998. Julie Young, age 31, was last seen alive in October, finally reported missing on June 1, 1999. Angela Jardine, a 28-year-old addict with the mental capacity of a 10-year-old child, had been working Low Track's streets for eight years when she vanished in November 1998, her disappearance reported on December 6. Michelle Gurney, age 30, dropped out of sight in December, reported missing three days before Christmas. Twenty-year-old Marcella Creison got out of jail on December 27, 1998, but never returned to the apartment where her mother and boyfriend were preparing a belated Christmas dinner. Police learned of her disappearance on January 11, 1999.
Not every woman on the missing list was gone forever, though. Between September 1999 and March 2002, five of the lost were found, dead or alive, and thus were deleted from the roster of presumed kidnap victims.
The first to vanish had been Patricia Gay Perkins, 22 years old when she abandoned Low Track and a 1-year-old son in an effort to save her own life. An incredible 18 years elapsed before she was reported missing to police, in 1996. Another three years passed before she saw her name on a published list of Vancouver's missing hookers, on December 15, 1999, and telephoned from Ontario to tell police she was alive, drug-free and living well.
Another survivor, also discovered in December 1999, was 50-year-old Rose Ann Jensen. She had dropped out of sight in October 1991 and was reported missing a short time later, added to the official missing roster when Vancouver's task force organized in 1998. Police found her alive in Toronto while scanning a national health-care database. Vancouver Constable Anne Drennan told reporters that Jensen had left Downtown Eastside "for personal reasons. It doesn't appear she knew she was being looked for."
Relatives of Linda Jean Coombes twice reported her missing, in August 1994 and again in April 1999. Unknown to her family or police, Linda had died of a heroin overdose on February 15, 1994, her body delivered to Vancouver's morgue without identification. Her mother viewed a photo of the "Jane Doe" corpse in 1995 but could not recognize her own child, wasted by narcotics, malnutrition and disease. Identification was finally made in September 1999, via comparison of DNA material submitted by the family, and another name was removed from the official victims list.
A similar solution removed Karen Anne Smith from the roster. Reported missing on April 27, 1999, she had in fact died on February 13, 1999, at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton. The cause of death was listed as heart failure related to hepatitis C. Once again, DNA contributed to the belated identification.
Another Low Track prostitute, 24-year-old Anne Wolsey, was reported missing by her mother on January 1, 1997, though the actual date of her disappearance was anyone's guess. Five years later, in March 2002, Wolsey's father called from Montreal to tell police his daughter was alive and well. Estranged from his ex-wife by a bitter divorce, Wolsey's father--like Anne herself--had been unaware of the police report filed in Vancouver until a suspect's arrest renewed media interest in the case.
Five out of 54 deleted from the list of vanished women, but their slots never remained empty for long. There were always new victims, it seemed, but where had they gone?