ish Columbia's Missing Women's Task Force has found the remains of nine more women, hinting that more discoveries are yet to come in a case that grows grimmer by the month.
"It's certainly too early for us to speculate with regard to how high this number will go," RCMP Corporal Catherine Galliford told reporters yesterday at a news briefing. But she added, "Believe it or not, we're still somewhat at the early stages of our investigation."
Of the nine women's remains found, police said six were discovered at the suburban Vancouver farm of Robert Pickton, in jail and charged with 15 counts of first-degree murder. The remains of one of the women found are of Dawn Crey, missing since December, 2000.
Ms. Crey's older brother Ernie made frequent appearances at Mr. Pickton's preliminary hearing last year and became an unofficial spokesman for the relatives of the dead women.
Mr. Crey said he, too, expects the remains of more women will be found. "It's overwhelming. It's sad. But I'm not surprised. When will this all end? Not any time soon."
The discoveries bring the number of dead in the case to 31.
In a surprising twist, police said yesterday that they also found the remains of three unidentified women. "We currently have three unidentified female DNA profiles that are of significant interest to investigators," said Vancouver Police Constable Sheila Sullivan, another spokeswoman for the task force. "We believe that these DNA profiles belong to women who are missing but not yet reported missing to police."
Police would not elaborate on the condition or nature of the unidentified women's remains, and they would not say where they were found. "We're not in a position to go into any detail with regard to where our evidence is being found," Cpl. Galliford said.
The arrest of Mr. Pickton in early 2002 touched off a massive, year-and-a-half-long forensic search at his farm in Port Coquitlam, about a 40-minute drive east of Vancouver. Last summer, police also searched a site further east of the farm, near Mission, in B.C.'s Fraser Valley.
Police ended their search of the farm in November but collected thousands of exhibits that await analysis at the Mounties' forensic lab in Vancouver.
The identified women are Yvonne Boen, Andrea Borhaven, Wendy Crawford, Ms. Crey, Cara Ellis and Kerry Koski.
The nine new discoveries reveal the growing scope of the missing-women investigation. Three years ago, the task force was simply reviewing the disappearances of about two dozen women. Today, it's the second-largest murder investigation in Canadian history, behind the Air-India probe.
Ms. Koski's brother-in-law said the family suspected Kerry's remains would be found at the farm. "You always hope that she's not because of the way things are, but the family thought she was there," Terry Hughes said.
"It's very upsetting." Mr. Hughes added. "Today, it's as if something had happened yesterday to Kerry, to the family."
Although Mr. Pickton was arrested and jailed two years ago, police are still learning of women who vanished. All but one of the six identified victims formed part of a list of 61 women who police say vanished since the late 1980s.
These women lived in Vancouver's seedy Downtown Eastside, were drug addicts and worked as prostitutes. But one , Cara Louise Ellis, was listed in the fall as potentially missing. Yesterday, police said Ms. Ellis is among the dead.
In December, prosecutors said they intend to lay seven more charges against Mr. Pickton before his trial begins -- expected in 2005 -- to bring the total to 22 counts.
A spokesman for the B.C. Crown office, Geoffrey Gaul, said it is premature to say whether these new findings will result in even more charges against Mr. Pickton.
Mr. Gaul said that at this stage, it is up to police to forward a report of their new findings to the Crown office.