(Audio Version Available Upon Request)
Introduction to show begins)
ERIC MEADOWS (WCAN co-host): Glad you could join us here on October 17th, this Tuesday evening, for Missing Pieces. Another episode, which is hosted by Todd Matthews, founder of the www.LFGRC.org.
I want to welcome Todd to the studio tonight, how are you Todd?
TODD MATTHEWS (Host - Missing Pieces): I'm doing really good Eric.
ERIC: That's really great, I hear you have a guest with you tonight.
TODD: Got a guy that I have known for a long time now, about 7 years now. Wayne Leng from www.MissingPeople.net . I don't know if I can think of anything to talk to Wayne about, as if we don't spend hours and hours on the phone. (laughter) Welcome Wayne!
WAYNE LENG (Guest): Than you very much Todd.
TODD: I have been looking forward to this. We have both been through a lot of these interviews.
ERIC: Excellent, excellent. Wayne...I want to welcome you to tonight's show, it's quite a pleasure having you here.
WAYNE: Thank you Eric.
ERIC: So what is your specialty?
WAYNE: I had a friend disappear back in 1998, a very close friend. I got involved in trying to find out what had happened to her. At that particular time, women were going missing in Vancouver, British Columbia.
TODD: Only to find out there was a serial killer.
WAYNE: That's right, over time we have found there were 69 missing women, who disappeared from the Downtown East Side of Vancouver. We believed that they had met with foul play.
TODD: How long have you been involved in this....when was the beginning?
WAYNE: It actually started in April of 1998 when Sarah de Vries disappeared on the 13th. So that was when I started to search for her from that time on.
TODD: I am reading from the first poster of the missing women, in the notes that Wayne provided. In July of 1999, there were 31 women listed as missing at the time. A $100,000 reward was offered....America's Most Wanted was there. There are quite a few more women added to the list since then.
WAYNE: That's right, America's Most Wanted came to Vancouver to film an episode, I'd been working to try and get them to come there. Eventually they said there was enough information and that they would come to Vancouver to cover the missing women's case. At that particular time in July of 1999 there was a $100,000 reward posted, there was also the poster with the information.
As time went on, more and more women went missing...all the way up to the present 69 women.
TODD: 69 ...and they' re still looking?
WAYNE: They not looking at this time (for remains) but the investigation is continuing, while the court case goes on. The trial will start in January of 2007, and the investigation will continue.
TODD: Wayne and I have talked about this case for about 8 years now. I remember back to the days before we knew what we know now about this case, and the ongoing trial being prepared at this point in time.
WAYNE: That's right Todd.
TODD: Now...where were the remains of these women found actually?
WAYNE: They were found on a pig farm that belonged to the Pickton Family. Robert Pickton, the man being charged with first degree murder on 26 of these cases. The farm is just inside of Port Coquitlam (British Columbia)...about a 20 minute to half hour drive outside of Downtown Vancouver, East Side.
TODD: Wow. The name Pickton, when was the first time you heard that name?
WAYNE: That name came up in 1998 after Sarah had disappeared, after myself and Sarah's sister Maggie had placed a poster up for a reward and an 800 number. The name come from a fellow name of Bill Hiscox, who work for Robert Pickton. Bill called me and said he knew of a pig farmer and that I should see what he had on his farm. He commented that he was a really strange character that had women's identification and clothes and that something was going on there that needed to be looked into.
TODD: What did you do with that information?
WAYNE: I had recorded the conversation with him and gave it to the Vancouver Investigation's lead officer. And I never heard any more about it after that.
TODD: That was the end of that...but it did come up again a little later.
WAYNE: Yes it did.
TODD: After how many more women went missing?
WAYNE: That actual tape did surface on the news in 2002 after Pickton's arrest on February 22, 2002.
TODD: This guy (Pickton) covered a lot of ground, we really do not know how far back this goes?
WAYNE: Well, the missing women disappearances go back as far as 1978 (according to the Vancouver Police & RCMP Joint task force.) But in 1991 advocates in the Downtown East Side were pushing for a tougher investigation. Then in 1995 four women disappeared from the East Side, and again in 1996 another 4 women disappeared. In 1997 there were 11 to 13 women disappeared in that year. Then in 1998 there were 10, and Sarah was among that 10. There have been some updates on these numbers.
TODD: That's a lot of people (women) over a long period of time.
WAYNE: Yes, right, and it continued on. In 1999, in what they called a cooling off period... there were only 3 disappearances. But in 2000 one other woman, (Dawn Crey) was reported missing and then in 2001 another 8 women disappeared.
TODD: Another thing...he only picked on prostitutes...
WAYNE: That's right, women who were drug addicted and involved in prostitution. (from the Downtown Eastside.)
TODD: I think...because they were an easy victim.
WAYNE: Yes, I think that was the case...
TODD: I have used this term before...if they were "soccer mom's" or other people in society, do you think there would have been faster reaction?
WAYNE: Absolutely, there's no question that would have been the case. There were reports coming into the Vancouver police department about a lot of the women going missing. The reports for the most part weren't being taken seriously; they were coming in from people who knew these women, family members and friends. They were just pushed away (from filing a missing person's report) and basically told that these women were drug addicts and probably moved away, transients if you will.
TODD: So you think it is possible that the police didn't follow up because they thought that they were possibly missing of their own free will - or just staying out of the way of police?
WAYNE: Or just moved on to another jurisdiction, thought of as transients, they really didn't know back then. But there was really no effort to find out what happened. You didn't read about it much in the news. It wasn't until 1997 when the first story came out, a small story about a person by the name of Janet Henry that went missing in the Downtown Eastside. Then nothing until 1998 when Sarah went missing when Lindsay Kines, a reporter with the Vancouver Sun came out with an article called "Missing On The Mean Streets" and that is what really threw the whole thing into the spotlight.
TODD: It's a huge story now.
TODD: I'm thinking that there are a lot of people in the United States that still haven't heard of this.
WAYNE: Exactly, but it has been on NBC's Dateline, and also featured on America's Most Wanted three times. It's been on CNN and other productions, internationally. But the thing is that there is a publication ban on due to the trial, and, that is the reason why you aren't seeing or hearing much about it now.
TODD: During the trial.
WAYNE: It's all over Canada....massive there.
WAYNE: Exactly that is the first book that ever came out about the missing women. There were 29, then 31 missing women. Trevor Greene wrote that book, and at that time, nobody knew what had happened. There were some theories floating around...that the women had gone off (lured) on to ships at the Port of Vancouver, the possibility that they were dumped at sea. I never bought into that, because, knowing Sarah, she would not have done something like that, she would not have gone far away from Vancouver, least of all not have gotten on a ship. Sarah was tied to Vancouver's eastside, her home, her friends and her community.
TODD: Now the name Robert Pickton came up during the research for the book (Bad Date), but not included in the book. I remember that because you made a gift of this book to me.
WAYNE: That's right and another thing is that when I first heard about Pickton, back in 1998, I never took it too seriously. It was just one of those things, another tip...so, all I did was turn over the tape to the Vancouver Police Department. It wasn't really actually until shortly before the case broke in February of 2002, that I got a call from a family member, Lynn Frey . She said, "You know that guy that they are going to charge with the murders...its' Pickton...remember Pickton?" Pickton's name had come up as a possibility previously during our search at around the same time as the tip from Bill Hiscox.
I said, "What...Pickton? That's the guy!" Then my mind flashed back to 1998 when I made the tape (of Hiscox). So we really didn't know how close we were back then.
TODD: Right on top of him...
WAYNE: Yes it is.
TODD: That's a good book....
WAYNE: That's right. It starts from Sarah's childhood, when she was adopted and through her life and disappearance on the downtown eastside. She was of mixed race, Native (American) mixed with African American, Mexican...adopted into a Caucasian family. She grew up with some prejudice and a lot of problems, ending up eventually on the Downtown Eastside, and disappeared from there. It's the story of a vibrant caring young lady who was a champion of the underdog, but who became addicted to drugs and involved in prostitution. But through all of that she never lost her belief in people...and it was and is a tragic loss.
TODD: Now these books and publications...this is when we are actually seeing these people, rather than as prostitutes, more as PEOPLE. More humanized you are seeing their backgrounds, some of their family members...a lot more information.
WAYNE: Yeah, she's still working on that book and it probably won't come out until after the trial is over. That will be a very comprehensive book, covering the whole story, right from the very beginning and to the end of the trial and it's aftermath.
TODD: She's one of the best known investigative journalists...
WAYNE: One of foremost investigative journalist in Canada.
TODD: She's really worked hard, I know she's following every step of the trial I'm sure.
WAYNE: That's from an author here in Los Angeles. He wrote a book, a paperback (Killer's on the Loose) that covered about 9 different cases, and the Vancouver Missing case is one of them. "The Case of the Missing Sex Trade Workers."
TODD: Now why all of a sudden were people so interested? There are all of the books coming out now, but I remember a day when you had a hard time getting people to talk to you about this case.
WAYNE: I think what it is...is that so many women were going missing and they, the VPD could no longer turn a blind eye to it. And it was our push for major media to come into it that really threw it into the spotlight. The local authorities, the Vancouver Police, could no longer push it away. So they had no choice but to look into it. I know when America's Most Wanted came into Vancouver, they told me they were going on the "serial killer aspect," even though the Vancouver Police had said they didn't believe a serial killer was responsible for these disappearances.
TODD: But they were wrong.
WAYNE: They were definitely wrong. One of their own, Inspector Kim Rossmo, a geographic profiler, actually in 1999 wanted to issue a press release. Specifically saying that it was very possible that a serial killer was operating in the Downtown East Side, but the Vancouver Police dismissed it and it was never issued.
TODD: Do you think this release would have saved lives?
WAYNE: It is possible, but who knows for sure. Because when a person is involved heavily into drugs, it takes their minds off of what possibly could happen. They don't think about it, otherwise they would not be able to work the streets. (Drugs helped to deaden that fear.)
TODD: So the women knew there was a predator, among themselves?
WAYNE: Oh sure - they did. A lot of them knew, a lot of them had either heard about or had contact with Pickton. We didn't know before but we are finding out now that he was well known in the downtown eastside.
TODD: How many women have been identified at the farm now?
WAYNE: Twenty-six, and a Jane Doe, so 27 now...that we know of to date.
TODD: So it is going to be difficult to build a profile for this Jane Doe so that we can identify her. Pretty much just DNA findings. I know you gave me a number before of how many DNA test samples were taken at the farm?
WAYNE: Something like 200,000 DNA samples had been taken from that farm. They excavated some 378,000 cubic yards of soil, and at one time 103 anthropologists and about a dozen forensic experts working, as well as 100 investigators.
TODD: Wow, making up for lost time??
WAYNE: They have 35,000 pages of evidence on this case.
TODD: I wish there was something we could do for that Jane Doe. Pretty much now you have a silhouette of a woman and a question mark (on your site)
WAYNE: Right, he was originally charged with that one making 27 charges. Then they dropped that one (the Jane Doe) and he is now only charged with 26 in first degree.
TODD: But if a DNA match could be made for this person?
WAYNE: If a DNA match (an identification) could be made for this person....I don't know if they would include it or not again at this point. They have broken up the trial - instead of trying him on all 26 at the same time they have broken it up into 2 parts. The first trial is going to be on the 6 charges, in which the evidence is different than in the last 20. The first trial is expected to take at least a year. If it had of been the whole 26, I think they were looking at about 2 years for a trial. And that would have been too long for a jury to sit.
TODD: A person would die a natural death waiting for a trial to be over, I know it has to be terrible for the families. I know what you have been through in the length of time that I have known you.
WAYNE: Yes it has been very difficult for families. Ongoing since their daughters disappeared many years ago, and even since the case became prominent in 1998. All of the media and the pressures have been difficult for everybody. The findings on the farm, the horror stories that have come out of there, yes it's been horrible.
TODD: Now, you know some of the family members? You know quite a few of them.
WAYNE: Yeah, at one time or another, I've been in touch with approximately 35 of them.
TODD: Now, were a lot of those people surprised to find what had happened to their loved one?
WAYNE: Yeah, I guess in a lot of cases, yeah. Most everybody was shocked by the Pickton Farm.
When we found out in 2002 we finally had an answer. I moved away from Vancouver in 2000 because nothing was happening on the case. There wasn't any new evidence that we knew of, it was just like the case had basically gone cold. I came down here to California, and it wasn't really until February 2002 that all of a sudden it took off again, with massive changes. Also the task force increased too, it became a joint task force between the Vancouver Police and the RCMP.
TODD: Did that improve the situation?
WAYNE: Absolutely, because the RCMP agreed to review the case because the Vancouver Police had not gotten very far and needed it to be reviewed to see if they could shed any light on it. When they stepped into it, that's when things really started to come together.
TODD: The RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) is like the FBI?
WAYNE: Yes, basically they are like Canada's national police force. You have the city police like the Vancouver Police. Also in this case, the Pickton case, the problem was the fact that the women disappeared form the Downtown East Side of Vancouver, which is Vancouver Police jurisdiction in the city, and the Pickton Farm is in Port Coquitlam, RCMP jurisdiction.
TODD: Do you think this was just too much for the Vancouver PD... just too big?
WAYNE: I just don't know, it's difficult to say. We are asking for a public inquiry when the trial is over because we need to find out what happened. Certainly I believe there was a dereliction of duty, these woman just "did not count" in a lot of ways with a many of the police, the VPD. I am not saying all of the Vancouver police, but certainly there were a number of them there that obviously did not pay attention to it.
TODD: Now you have a huge web-site at www.MissingPeople.net, there's tons of information on this web-site. There is still some missing women that they're thinking they might find on the farm.
WAYNE: Well, yeah because they're still going through DNA samples through that evidence that was taken from the farm. I don't know how long that's going to last, but the search of the farm is over.
TODD: There are still family members out there that have missing loved ones.
WAYNE: Oh, absolutely. They have twenty-six, actually twenty-seven accounted for, that Pickton was initially charged with murdering and just recently they identified through DNA another woman from Victoria, British Columbia which would make it 28. So that leaves out of 69 missing women, 41 still unaccounted for.
TODD: We got some good news back in the summer. Wayne and I both got an e-mail from a lady that was suspected to have been caught up in this and turns out was alive and well, that was a good moment.
WAYNE: Yeah, she was on the Missing Women poster and she had disappeared many years ago, and somebody had mentioned her name or something like that. She had signed the guestbook at our website and her daughter also had signed it, looking for her long lost mother. She had actually gone into the cold cases group because she found out that she was on the poster, and so actually, you Todd met her on the Cold Cases group and contacted me, and then we got the ball rolling and started trying to have her taken off the list.
TODD: I don't think she wanted to come forward at first.
WAYNE: No, she didn't. When I came home, after you had told me about it, I gave her a call and talked to her. I knew for sure at that point that she was who she said she was. I immediately called a member of the task force and said to him, "look, I have somebody here who I know for certain is the person she says she is and who is on the missing women list and she's not dead. She's not missing."
TODD: There's always that doubt when you hear from somebody like that, I've heard these stories before. Somebody has a tip, some information that turns out not to be exactly what you think. It totally catches you off guard. You were pretty much the authority on this case, and I knew she had to talk to you as soon as possible, because I knew she didn't seem like she just wanted more than to have her name taken off of it initially, and didn't really want to get caught up in the whole thing.
WAYNE: That's right, her name is Linda Grant, and when I talked to her that night she was very emotional, pondering all of the things that this was going to bring to light. First there was her family, who she hadn't seen in all these years and believed she was dead and many other things she had to deal with. So, she was really overwhelmed, but at the same time, she wanted her name off the list, and she wanted her family to know that she was alive.
TODD: And Linda Grant has interviewed with the media now and in the archives we will include the link to some of her information, for those that are interested.
TODD: How do we know that the serial killer didn't venture into the United States and leave bodies in another location?
WAYNE: Well, what we have is a suspected serial killer, Robert Pickton, and he's innocent until proven otherwise, but in all likelihood it looks like he was mostly confined to the Vancouver area. The Vancouver police, the task force themselves, I know consulted with the Green River Killer task force. And also in another case, that had happened in Poughkeepsie, the Kendall Francois case, where 9 women that had been involved in prostitution and addicted to drugs had disappeared without a trace. That's the one that I had tied the Vancouver case to when Sarah and the other women had disappeared. I said, there's got to be a serial killer involved, and just because these women's bodies are not showing up does not mean a serial killer has not gotten them. Look at the case in Poughkeepsie, where 9 women vanished without a trace. All involved in prostitution and addicted to drugs. It was a case that had some major parallels with Vancouver's missing women.
TODD: Now, this is a lot of work for one man, for one killer.
WAYNE: Yeah, and at this particular time, we don't know if there are going to be other charges laid or not. I mean, if you look at the number of women who disappeared and how many he is suspected of killing, probably the majority, I mean there is nothing we know for certain, but it's what most people believe, that someone else had to be involved. Yeah, over the course of that many years though if you look at, going back to 1987, that's a lot. That's a whole lot, and of course it increased, it increased in 1999, it increased in 1998, 1997, you know you have a lot...almost one a month there.
TODD: So there's a media blackout on the case now during the trial.
WAYNE: Yeah, there's a publication ban, and that's so a jury pool does not get tainted with all of the evidence. After all there must be a fair trial...regardless of what a lot of us believe.
TODD: One thing that bothered me for years, and I know it bothered you as well...was that the public face of these ladies, even before we knew what had happened to them...was mug shots.
TODD: I really felt that was so tragic, so Wayne and I came up with a plan. We had Project EDAN's forensic artists work as sketch artists. Like a sketch you might have drawn at a carnival. They took the mug shot, and created sketches to make the women look as what they might have been. I gave the artists the direction to give the sketches of the ladies a Mona Lisa smile, make them look pleasant. A lot of people were hoping to build memorials to these ladies, it was heart breaking to see the mug shot images, when that wasn't their real face. The mug shots were the faces of women marked by drugs and a very difficult life.
WAYNE: Right, and that project came out in the Vancouver Sun in their Observer section. It was a great article about a really beautiful tribute to these women and their families.
TODD: I think most people received it really well.
WAYNE: Yes...they did. For the most part it went over really well. We use the phrase "missing women" in Vancouver, we don't say prostitutes...we say missing women. Because that is what they were, first and foremost they were human beings.
TODD: But it is so easy to put them in that category.
WAYNE: Well, we do tend to label people, it makes it easy for us if we can put a label on someone then we can deny everything else that they really are as human beings...we can say they are this and that and they are not worthy of anything. We can negate all that they were as mother's, daughter's, family members & friends and also that they cared and they suffered tremendously.
TODD: That does not lessen the crime by any means.
WAYNE: No it doesn't, many of these women got involved in survival sex for a number of reasons. But a lot of them came from families that were having problems themselves...and they ended up out on the streets. Many of their paths to the downtown eastside can be seen as starting in the family.
WAYNE: No it doesn't, many of these women got involved in survival sex for a number of reasons. But a lot of them came from families that were having problems themselves...and they ended up out on the streets.
TODD: And we have seen that in some of the studies now because of this event. We have been able to go back and maybe have a better understanding of what happened, and maybe how we can fix (prevent) it. What are some of the ways you think that we can possibly do...prevention is obviously needed.
WAYNE: Yes, prevention is first and foremost obviously, and that has to start in the family, because that is the starting point...the family. There's not a lot you can do once they are out on the streets like in the Downtown Eastside and already addicted. Obviously there are not enough resources in Vancouver, not enough beds for detox. When somebody comes in for detox they are obviously read at that point when they come in. Often they are told, "Sorry, we are not going to have a bed available for 2 weeks, a month or whatever." By that time, you've lost them.
TODD: There is a lot of violence against prostitutes, the missing women, and currently today they are subject to violence at any point in time.
WAYNE: Absolutely, because they are looked at as lowlifes by a lot of people. It is hard to get people away from that kind of label. I have talked to people down here in California, friends and co-workers, and even when I have told them some of the stories of these women...it could have been their daughter, this person was a human being, this person was a child, somebody's daughter, somebody's friend, somebody's wife, a little girl at one time and they still dismiss them as throwaways.
TODD: Certainly your work and getting to work with you has changed my own point of view. I think it was something I didn't really look at before. Wayne took me to Skid Row when I visited with him in Los Angeles for a couple of days last summer. And it was tragic to see that (Skid Row).
Skid Row has one of the nation's largest concentrations of homeless people, in part because it has a cluster of shelters and services to help them.
WAYNE: Absolutely, people sleeping and living in boxes, a lot of drug addiction, prostitution, so many really down and out people...really horrible.
TODD: A disposable society.
WAYNE: Yes, disposable society...that is the way they are looked at.
TODD: Eric, you have had an earful of this overwhelming situation.
ERIC: Yes...Wayne I do have several questions. Since Pickton has been apprehended, have the killings diminished?
WAYNE: They have stopped for the most part. There have been a few disappearances, but nothing on the scale of 1997, 1998 and in 2001.
ERIC: Have they developed or establish a motive as to why he was killing?
WAYNE: Not as far as I myself know, I know there are people looking into it still, but nobody can say for certain. It could have been his life, growing up as a child. He (Pickton) is definitely a strange character...no question about that. People that knew him say that he is indeed a very strange person. But who knows why he did what he did, if in fact he is guilty.
ERIC: The next question is toward the Vancouver PD. I am going to assume they knew they had a killer in the midst, right there in the city. Regardless of whether or not the ladies were prostitutes or drug addicted, they knew they had a mass murdered right there in their midst....and they elected within themselves snot to do anything? Is this why there is this outcry for an inquiry?
TODD: There wasn't actually any proof of murder initially.
WAYNE: That's the problem, because none of these women turned up anywhere, there were no bodies found anywhere...nothing. So it was easy for them because the Vancouver PD had not had any experience with something like this, a lot of them thought that these women were just going on to other places. But all of us that knew them, friends and family, knew that these women would not be taking off from Vancouver, simply because they were tied to the Downtown East Side. Even though they were addicted to drugs and involved in prostitution, the eastside was there comfort zone and most of all their community. There's just no way they would have taken off from there. I knew that about Sarah, there was no doubt in my mind when she disappeared...I knew something had happened. But the Vancouver PD basically refused to do much about it until a lot of pressure was put on by a number of friends, families, activists and the media.
ERIC: So did they pick up the ball and start doing something after the RCMP got involved?
WAYNE: What happened first was that a task force was started, what they called a "working group" and it was started early on before the RCMP got involved when there were about 22 missing women. They were under a lot of pressure to start this task force, this working group. It started with about 9 officers involved. Eventually what happened was that the working group sort of fizzled, dropping down to 6 officers and then down to 4 officers...something like that. Then there was a huge change that took place, evidentially more information came in and it was upped to about 30 or so officers and after that the joint missing women task force, with the RCMP, Vancouver Police came about. Then they had moved forward and this made a real difference in the case. Finally they were getting somewhere.
ERIC: You mentioned a Kim Rossmo, is he still investigating on the case?
WAYNE: No, Detective Inspector Kim Rossmo left the Vancouver Police Department. He is the one who developed the geographic profile system. He is now at Texas State University well known expert in geographic profiling. He now teaches and consults on cases here in the USA.
ERIC: Your still in touch with him...maybe we can get him on the air too at some point.
WAYNE: Yes, absolutely.
ERIC: Killers among us...almost hard to believe, Maybe it is because we have had so much exposure today. More technology to get more information out over the air. But to know we have these predators amongst us...I am beginning to believe that it is maybe making up more than 10% of the population. We just have way too many people out there missing.
WAYNE: Right, one of the things during this whole investigation, the police came out with is that we have 600 plus potential suspects that could have done something like this in Vancouver.
TODD: That's scary...that's just in Vancouver!
WAYNE: Right, just in the Vancouver area.
ERIC: Let me ask you, did you retain the recording that you took of the laborer that was working on the pig farm?
WAYNE: I do have it and the media has a copy of the recording. It was printed in the Vancouver Province newspaper, the whole excerpt.
ERIC: We sure would like to have you back to hear that at some point. I think our listeners need to hear something like that. It might light a fire under somebody that knows something...possible in other cases. Often it just takes hearing someone come forward to move people into doing the right thing.
TODD: I'd like to see more of the Linda Grant type situation....
WAYNE: There was one other case where a woman came forward, her name was Mary Lands. She had been living back east for many years and now has been taken off the list (of potential victims) as well.
ERIC: When a person ends up on the list as a missing person, and are indeed alive...do they leave for one reason or another, or are they have just overlooked? How is it they end up on this list and are still alive?
WAYNE: In what I have read on Mary Land's case it seems she was wanting and needing to get away. She had problems in Vancouver and basically wanted to disappear, to move on. But actually if the Vancouver PD had really been looking, they would have found her as her name was with the Ministry of Human Resources. They could have found her name up and located her. That's the puzzle, as to why she ended up on the list for so long. A real puzzle because there was accessible information out there about her, in plaint sight. If they had have been looking in the databases...they would have found out that she was alive.
ERIC: You said earlier that the Pickton pig farm fell under the jurisdiction of the RCMP. Are they still in that location investigating...is this an ongoing thing?
WAYNE: Not any more, the search on the Pickton pig farm is finished...the house has been demolished, and there is nothing more going on there.
ERIC: So there are no Private Investigators still going out there?
WAYNE: No. Everything has been bulldozed over.
TODD: The DNA (found there) is still being reviewed?
WAYNE: Absolutely, they still have a lot of DNA testing and it is still part of the ongoing investigation into the case. This is kind of unusual... because usually when you go to trial you have that sort of thing wrapped up, but not in this case, because it is such a large investigation. There are just so many DNA samples. The review, the ongoing DNA testing is why they were about to move the 27th woman forward, because they found her DNA out on the farm.
ERIC: Usually when you have a case like this that draws so much public attention, and once the media has gotten involved, is a case like this used to enhance and profile other cases that are ongoing? Maybe the way that they have gone to discover different evidence, are they using these same techniques now to maybe investigate other cases that are going on in other cities?
WAYNE: Yes...I think so because we have got cases across Canada, one of them the Edmonton case . A lot of the women in this case were involved in prostitution and drugs and have vanished or been murdered.
And yet another case in British Columbia called the Highway of Tears where a number of women have disappeared, but not involved in the sex trade.
Also there is a case going on in Niagara Falls and Saskatchewan areas. So, yes, definitely, Todd and I, and a number of other people sort of link together on these cases and stay current with any new information that comes in. We relate and tie them together to see if there are patterns, similarities etc. There is in Edmonton, Alberta a task force on the disappearances and murders in Edmonton. I know that they have looked at the Vancouver case, and they did not want to duplicate the failures that happened in the Vancouver missing women case, the (early mistakes). They have taken a proactive approach, or so it appears that they did.
ERIC: On the western end of Canada, a lot of that area is in fact rural country?
WAYNE: Yes it is. There are a number of smaller cities throughout British Columbia and up north as well. Vancouver is the city, a very large city on the Pacific Ocean, just 100 miles north of Seattle, above the US/Canadian border.
ERIC: It is hard to believe that many people can go missing for so long...
WAYNE: And nobody say anything. The thing is, the media was not even paying attention to it either, one had to push. And the police weren't saying anything or asking the media for exposure in the missing cases. They just weren't doing any of that. You know it is, like Todd has said, if it were some body in another (more affluent) area like the west end, it would have been on the news immediately.
TODD: Can you imagine this happening inside the United States?
WAYNE: What is so strange about this is that the Vancouver police department is (physically located) right in the Downtown Eastside. As one family member said, these women disappeared on the doorsteps of the Vancouver PD.
ERIC: So, basically the love ones of those missing actually made the outcry.
WAYNE: it actually started out very slowly. I had not heard too much about it, the disappearances, but Sarah had told me that women were going missing. And she wrote about it in her journals, but I really did not know to what extent and you really did not read about these women it in the news, until she disappeared and I went searching for her and went after media attention. Then I managed to meet another family member on the Downtown East Side who was looking for their missing loved one. Then we started to come together that way because we found out about more and more women disappearing. There were really just a handful of us that pushed, maybe 6 of us altogether. Maggie de Vries, myself, Deborah Jardine , Valerie Hughes , Kathleen McClelland and only a few others that were being very vocal about it. Not a lot of the other families came in, at least in the early days and I can understand why because, it's difficult with the stigma of prostitution and drug addiction. In many cases family members were estranged from their missing loved ones, and in such horrible circumstances as these, not everybody can do that, can speak out.
WAYNE: Oh...it was 2003.
TODD: I remember this time and I almost hate to even ask you these questions because I remember that it was so painful for you. But I know how well you know how important this is to get the information out. Can you go back to that day that you found out about Sarah? How did you find out (that her DNA had been found)?
WAYNE: Maggie, her sister phoned me here in California, to inform me that Sarah's DNA had been found. She said that it wasn't to be released in the media yet, so I should keep it under my hat for the time being. I was at work and it really overwhelmed me...but at the same time there was some relief, because there was nothing up until that point. No information that she had ever been out there or anything, and I had feared we would never have an answer.
TODD: It was finally over...to some degree.
WAYNE: Yes over to some degree it was finally over. It put Sarah at the Pickton farm...and then the other question would be how she got out there. Because she was at my place, had come to pick up some clothes, have something to eat and then she was going out to work on the Streets. She said she would call in a few days but she never did and 8 days later, I had not seen or heard from her. So I took a trek down to the Eastside and talked to a few people who knew her quite well, friends of hers, and they said they had not seen her either, and in fact they were quite worried about her. So I told them that I would go and put in a missing persons report, because it was not like her to be missing for 8 days and not tell anyone...she just was not that kind of person. BUT, I was prevented from putting in a missing person report because I was not family. So I called her sister, Maggie and told her that Sarah had vanished and told her that she needed to put in a missing persons report and so that was done. We did not know what time she had disappeared or where from, but in my search for her on the Downtown Eastside, about a month later, I found someone that had been with Sarah the night she vanished and she told me what had happened. They had both gone out to work that night in the early morning hours of April 14th1998, with Sarah on one corner of the street, and her friend on the other corner at East Hastings and Princess Avenue. The other young lady who had been with her got picked up first, got in the car with a guy, they could not agree on a price and she came back and was dropped off at that same corner and by then Sarah was gone, and has not been seen since. In the span of about 1 minute, Sarah de Vries had vanished.
TODD: Prostitution is legal in Vancouver, right?
WAYNE: Prostitution is legal...but...solicitation is illegal, an offence. It is an offence to solicit any person in a public place for the purpose of prostitution.
ERIC: How long has it been this way?
WAYNE: I'm not sure when that law changed, I think in the 1980's, but I'm not sure.
ERIC: So prostitution is legal and solicitation is illegal?
WAYNE: Yes, for the purpose of prostitution, which is not, and so that is what you are charged with, solicitation of any person in a public place for the purpose of prostitution.
TODD: Do you think this made this type of killing easy?
WAYNE: Yes...well what made it easy was that fact when Expo came to Vancouver. A lot of the women used to work in the West End, where all the apartments are, very densely populated, but after that they were pushed out of the West End and into the dark areas of the downtown Eastside, which made it much easier for these women to disappear...and to meet with violence. That's the way it still is to this day.
TODD: The fact that it's the solicitation that is illegal, that is what takes place in the dark corners.
WAYNE: Sure, absolutely it is. We talk about red light districts and things like bawdy houses, and there have been people who have tried to have them in Vancouver, but even if you agree or disagree with having a brothel, we have to be concerned with the safety of the women (and community). There safety must be paramount.
TODD: Now, if prostitution were outlawed there, would it make a safer society in that area? How would that affect the drug abuse and additions?
WAYNE: No, I don't think that it would make too much of a difference, the police tend to look the other way. The downtown eastside is poverty ridden. It the one area that is known as the poorest postal code in all of Canada.
TODD: And if you had such an addition, how could you support it? (without prostitution)
WAYNE: That's the only way you can support it, these women were into survival sex.
TODD: I know you tried to get Sarah out of this world, out of that society.
WAYNE: Yes, and her own family and friends tried very hard.
TODD: So it wasn't a lack of her wanting to get out?
WAYNE: No, but she just wasn't able to make that leap...she had a lot of issues. Detox....the only time she went into detox was when she ended up going to jail for about 6 months. It looked like she was going to be OK when she got out, and she was not planning to go back to that life and she asked her mother to pick her up from jail, but she took off a day early and went back to the Eastside and back into the drugs again, back into that lifestyle.
TODD: Looks like this killer picked the most vulnerable part of society that he could possibly pick. To me that feels even more evil because he was seeking the most vulnerable person that could possibly be found.
TODD: Now what is happening today? There are good things happening, a new awareness. Some outreach programs that have formed because of this crime. I know you are working on the board of directors and various other roles in a lot of different things going on up there. some very positive things. What are some of these things?
WAYNE: Well, I am on the board of the Missing Women's Legacy Society, which hasn't moved forward too much lately, there are some problems with funding. I was also on the board of directors of a place called Grandma's House which was a drop in center on the Eastside, but that has since collapsed. There are a number of people in Vancouver in various organizations trying to do what they can for these women, but it is very difficult. To mention a few of them, one is PACE (Prostitution, Alternatives, Career, Counseling & Education Society), another is called PEERS (Prostitution Empowerment Education Resource Society), doing what they can, and there's WISH Drop-In Center. But there's just not enough resources and there seems to be a lack of will. Where is the money going to come from? Sometimes it's one organization against another...so it is very difficult.
TODD: They compete for the funding
WAYNE: Yeah, their turf, very difficult and lots of issues. They should work together for the common good of these women on the streets.
TODD: There have been a lot of memorials...
WAYNE: Yeah, a lot of memorials. Every Valentine's day there's the Missing Women's Memorial March. It is a march down through the Eastside and there are stops where women have met their deaths, placing roses, flowers and cards to remember them and there are also some CD's that have come out a song called "Missing". It's a music CD inspired by Jack Cummer, the grandfather of Andrea Joesbury, one of the murdered women. It's a beautiful piece, written by Susan Musgrave and sung by Amber Smith that is being sold to support an organization for women that have met with violence.
TODD: Even cases beyond this particular case...
WAYNE: Absolutely, it's for all women.
TODD: This case has helped with the public awareness for the missing as a whole too. I know that for a fact as you have had a lot of people that have come to you for help, and you have been able to refer them to others that can help. That has happened quite a bit.
Have you ever had a funeral, I know there have been memorials, but was there ever a funeral for Sarah?
WAYNE: No, to date there hasn't been anything. I think at some point, and it may be when the trial is over, there will be a funeral back east in Ontario. That is what her mother, Pat de Vries has said.
TODD: Do you think there will be an actual grave?
WAYNE: Yes, there will be a grave. Some of her things will be placed inside. Maybe some of her journals, she has a number of them. That's the way "Missing Sarah" was written, through her journals. She left behind a number of journals about her life on the Downtown East Side, and that's what made that book such a warm memorial about a wonderful young lady.
TODD: Now a lot of people are in a fever to write a book about this case, even before it fleshed out completely. But you know so much about this case and I would hope that one day that we will see Wayne Leng write his own book about this case.
WAYNE: Well, you and I have talked about that before and I have talked about it with others. But for me, that is a difficult thing, it would be my and Sarah's story...but I am not at that point where I think I can do that. I know I need to write something on it and I do have a lot I want to say, I really do. And what I have to say you won't see anywhere in the media or any in any pieces already out.
TODD: I have a few thousand e-mails that we have shared between each other. We have shared many.
WAYNE: Yes we have.
TODD: A lot of time the conversations got really dark, then the other times...we always try to close the conversations on a positive note about the progress made and what we can do to foster more progress.
ERIC: Wayne, I have one more question to ask. It is good that there are memorial for the remembrance of these missing women. But I want to turn back toward the Vancouver PD. What have they done to provide protection, not only for the women that are soliciting, but what have they done to improve things? Are they doing anything more than before they got a kick in the butt to go out and do something about this?
WAYNE: Well I am sure they are doing some things. They are not things that I can pick out myself. I know that they patrol more often, and they have more officers in the downtown eastside and now take missing person reports more seriously. They do have a liaison in the Downtown Eastside, in fact they had a very good one down there. His name is Constable Dave Dixon, and he deserves a lot of credit, because he knew a lot of the women who disappeared. He would go to court with them, he would give them his pager number and they could call him anytime if they were in trouble. Dave is a very caring person and someone who made a huge difference in the Downtown Eastside. He was down there for 21 years as a member of the Vancouver PD. He is the guy that I went to when Sarah disappeared as he knew her quite well. I went to him when I was having trouble trying to get her name into the press, to tell somebody that she was missing...and nobody was interested. He gave me the name of Lindsay Kines at Vancouver Sun who was actually working on the story. Also he gave me the name of the TV reporter/producer Della Rosen and so I went and saw both of them. I took Sarah's street journals along with photographs with me. Sarah became the focal point of the piece that Lindsay Kines wrote in "Missing on the Mean Streets.". So, (Constable Dave Dickson) of the VPD was the one person who believed that there was something serious going on in the Downtown East Side with women disappearing. I remember going down and talking with him that day. It was after I and family members had sent out a letter to the Mayor, Police Chief, the Attorney General and the media asking for a $100,000 reward, and a task force. He (Dave) had just gotten his copy in the mail when I met up with him on Downtown Eastside during a walk. He was with another Vancouver police officer and he introduced me. He said this is Wayne, a friend of Sarah de Vries who has disappeared from the eastside and he's been down here looking for her. The office stated, well nothing really serious has happened, maybe moved on to other areas and that is when Dave said, "no, something serious has happened to these women." That sort of said what mind set that most of the Vancouver PD had at that time. They believed that these women had just taken off, but not Constable Dickson, he knew something serious had happened, and that it they most likely were murdered.
TODD: We always saw them as victims, not as criminals. A lot of (police) saw them as criminals.
TODD: A lot (police) saw them as criminals.
ERIC: Wayne are you in contact with Vancouver PD today? I mean...what is their mind set today, has it changed?
WAYNE: Well, I stay in touch as much as I can with Kim Rossmo via e-mail and I have been in contact with Const Dave Dickson, but he is no longer with Vancouver PD. I'm in touch with a member of the Task Force working on Sarah's file. In fact they made a trip down here a couple of years ago. They brought a lot of CD's down and wanted me to go through a lot of the items found at the farm to see if I recognized any of them. They showed me mug shots and issued a subpoena to appear as a possible witness at the preliminary hearing.
ERIC: Every week we do this show and it never ceases to amaze me what we are really facing. You would think that living in a civilized world today, in the free world that we live in and it's just so hard to believe that there is so much being done against people. I'm looking at missing children, it's just so much, makes for a full plate at the end of the day.
WAYNE: One of the sad things about trying to get attention when a loved one goes missing is this fact - we all notice it through the case down here like that of Chandra Levy. It seems that it's only certain people that get this kind of attention. They are most often beautiful and come from a good family, and yet when someone disappears that comes from a different kind of lifestyle, for whatever reason, it's more difficult maybe if they are not very attractive, it's so hard to get that attention for them. And that is just not right. It says a lot about what we value in this society. We are judgmental..
ERIC: No, it isn't.
TODD: The part of society that nobody wanted to look at.
WAYNE: Right. That's the problem and it is a real problem in our society, we seem to care less for these people that are really in deep trouble, very troubled people.
ERIC: Wayne, what do you think it would take, not just in Canada but throughout the United States, to raise the consciousness of the people? I was listening to a report today about the homeless in America who are considered as a disposable portion of society. What will it take?
TODD: That is a good question, because I don't have any answers to that...because we are trying everything we can now. Obviously education, you have to first get people to see a person as a person. It's easy to say "don't judge", because we all judge. We look at somebody on the street and we automatically judge them. You see somebody down on the street and they might be drunk, or begging for money. But we don't know what put that man there...we have no clue. Yet we will draw conclusions about it, "he doesn't want to work" or this, that and the other. It just comes down to education, and where does this education start? It starts in the families.
TODD: Family values.
WAYNE: There are no easy answers as we have seen, this has been going on since 1998, a number of years. Still you know...people lose interest, they see all the stories and just lose interest. Wondering why all the focus and at times they could only care less. The thing is that this is really going to come into prominence all over the world starting in January 2007 when the Pickton trial begins. International media have been following the case (and upcoming trial). But they are not allowed to speak out about it, they have to keep quite because of the ban and so if and when the media ban is lifted, you'll hear about it everywhere in America. The evidence of what happened to these women on this farm is so horrific, it will just boggle the mind. The Green River Killer case in Seattle will pale in comparison...once the facts come out in this case.
TODD: We'll definitely have to have you back.
WAYNE: And Todd knows.
TODD: There are a lot of things we have talked about in this case that we have not been able to speak about out loud. Even here today we could do 6 or more episodes and not get it all out.
WAYNE: Right...and then there are the things we know and cannot say. Things, that just cannot be said at this time.
TODD: Overwhelming isn't it?
ERIC: It really is, it really is....what is the total of women that went missing during this time?
WAYNE: There were 3 posters that came out altogether. The first poster out in 1999, when John Walsh, with America's Most Wanted was in Vancouver, that one had 31 women listed. A few years later, another poster came out adding another 18 women to the list. The third poster came out on October 6th, 2004, they added more women. This 3rd poster, still the current poster, came out with a total of 69 women. TODD: Of course I'll remain in touch with Wayne. We will definitely have him back and we have another facet of Canada in the spot light next week. Holly's Fight For Justice.
ERIC: I have to say this show generates a lot of e-mails. Usually after the shows we get flooded. Is it having an effect? I'd like to see some results come from it, and in time I think it will happen. Wayne it has been a pleasure having you. Todd, as always you come up with a really heart felt show. One that really pulls at ones heart strings of emotion. It brings one to a conscious level of awareness.
Gentlemen, I am going to bid you a good night. Todd, we will be looking forward to having you again next week.
TODD: I'll be here, good night.
WAYNE: Good night and thanks for having me.
If you have any information on these cases
Please use click this link below:
Call: Missing Women Tip Line at: