Vancouver The names of eight prostitutes with ties to Vancouver's notorious Downtown Eastside neighbourhood and a drug or alcohol addiction have been added to the list of women whose disappearance is under investigation by a high-priority RCMP task force.
The women, who vanished between 1993 and 2000, were identified during a methodical review of more than 220 missing-persons cases in British Columbia, the northwest United States and across Canada, Corporal Catherine Galliford, spokeswoman for the RCMP task force, announced at a news conference yesterday.
The list of missing women has now grown to 69. A poster with their photos and the dates they were last seen was posted on the RCMP website and distributed across the city.
Many of the women on the poster appear healthy and are smiling; others appear downcast and worn out. Almost all were in their 20s when they were last seen.
One of the women included on yesterday's list, Cara Ellis, was linked to the case of pig farmer Robert Pickton, who has been charged with murdering women from the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood.
Police have found the DNA of 30 women with ties to the Downtown Eastside, including Ms. Ellis, on Mr. Pickton's farm in the Vancouver suburb of Port Coquitlam.
Mr. Pickton, 54, has been charged with the murder of 15 women. Crown prosecutors have indicated they intend to charge him with the deaths of seven more women when the trial begins next spring. The identities of three women whose DNA was found on the Pickton property remain unknown.
In the Downtown Eastside, news of new names was greeted with a mixture of hope and fear.
“There's always hope when they announce more names, hope that the police finally have some answers,” said Edna Brass, a board member of the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre.
However, the announcement also creates a chill. Many people fear someone is out there, preying on people in the neighbourhood, Ms. Brass said.
“It's horrendous. The list keeps growing. No one knows how many are missing,” she said.
Ms. Brass also said the expansion of the list is a reminder that women continue to disappear.
People from different parts of the country regularly come to the neighbourhood to put up posters for their missing family members, she said.
The women included on the list were Sharon Abraham, who would now be 39; Sherry Baker, who would be 35; Tammy Fairbairn, who would be 33; Gloria Fedyshyn, who would be 42; Mary Lands, who would be 41; Tania Petersen, who would be 34; and Sharon Ward, who would be 37.
The names were added to the list after the RCMP had exhausted all options for further investigation. “Once a name is put on the list, we have exhausted all our avenues for finding them,” said Sergeant Sheila Sullivan of the Vancouver Police.
The RCMP had some success during their review, she said. Police located 88 women during the extensive review of 220 missing women on the list.
Cpl. Galliford also said the police have not ruled out the possibility that a serial killer is in the neighbourhood.
“We certainly do not have information that all the women on the list are linked to the Port Coquitlam farm,” she said.
“So it's very important for us to keep a very broad perspective on what could have happened to the women. We are not in a position today to eliminate any possibilities.”