Almost every day I ride the bus through the Downtown East Side where the missing women used to live and ply their trade on those desolate mean streets. I remember a time when I was a twelve-year old when I used to go down to that now infamous corner every weekend to the Carnegie Centre public library and museum. And later, when I was a teenager, fresh out of high school working as a copy-runner for the newspaper. I used to walk through there nearly every day, often going on errands to the police department. Those were the days when I wanted to be a crime reporter.
Now that area is so run-down and dangerous it is heartbreaking to see what is going on there. Buildings have been allowed to become run down to the point where they are uninhabitable, the homeless crowd the streets: cast aways, drug addicts, street people of all kinds. It's a blight on the city.
But what is being done to solve the problem? The BC Government just proposed $365 million for emergency shelters, rent supports and housing up to the year 2010 when the Olympics is going to be held here. They've also increased the income assistance by $50 a month.
Sounds good on paper, but the facts are "shelters" are just that. They are not 'homes'. And the extra $50 awarded to welfare recipients to cover expenses hardly covers what rentals are these days. This totals their monthly income to $375 a month plus support increases of $235. Total $610. for an employable person. Rents are at least $420 a month (and that's for a roach and bed-bug ridden room in a downtown east side hotel). That doesn't account for food, bus fares and daily living costs. And now the downtown low-cost hotels are evicting tenants so they can 'renovate' and raise the rents higher in order to cash in on the influx of people expected during the Olympics. This leaves an even more serious lack of affordable housing for the DTES residents creating more homelessness, more despair, more women like those who went missing, cast out onto the streets vulnerable to those who prey on them.
BACK ON THE PIG FARM:
The trial of the pig farmer continued this week with more disturbing evidence. The jury was warned about the troubling evidence and so in writing it, I will try to report it with as much tact as possible, without the graphic details.
The police officer who cried on the stand last week had good reason to shed some tears, as we all should over this hideous crime. When she investigated two garbage pails tucked away behind a wall and the pigpen, they were found to contain two halves of a human skull plus a hand and foot identified as belonging to victim Mona Wilson. There were also buckets containing animal remains. Pickton had bragged to an undercover cop that he disposed of bodies the same way as he did the pig remains ...by sending them to the rendering plant. (**alarms went out when, early in the investigation, police visited the rendering plant the Picktons did business with.) There were also freezers in the slaughterhouse containing butchered pigs.
The following day's testimony included reports of the police finding more inhalers and other papers belonging to Sereena Abotsway, a variety of saws, blades, knives, a nail gun and cartridges. There was also evidence (personal belongings ) found at the "Piggy Palace" nightclub the brothers operated on the property, and in parked cars, and near the house occupied by Mr Pig Man's brother as well as on some other property belonging to the brothers. They also found sex toys hidden under a mattress and in the closet of the brother’s bedroom.
More gruesome evidence was found in freezers.
Can it get much worse?
A CSI expert who was working at the scene made some very disturbing discoveries in two buckets in a freezer which contained the remains of Andrea Joesbury and Seerena Abotsway. The hand bone of Georgina Papin was found under the ground in the pigpen and Brenda Wolfe’s jawbone was found in a trough outside the slaughterhouse.
These remains all belonged to six of the twenty six women Pickton is charged with murdering. Because the electricity had failed on the farm, the detective had looked into the freezers where they found the thawed remains in a state of decomposition.
The detective related his findings to an unsolved case in Mission several years before where a half a skull had been found, sawed vertically just the same as those found in the freezer and pails on Pickton’s farm. The skull’s DNA matched that of a heel and rib bone found on the farm. So far this woman is unidentified.
The findings (there were many more) were so overwhelming the CSI expert ordered a massive search of the farm, hiring a small army of archaeology and anthropology students who manned conveyor belts looking for unusual items in the sifted soil.
The farm was divided into 216 grids, each measuring 20 sq. miles which were excavated to retrieve 383,000 cubic meters of soil during the search, which continued for more than 20 months. It became the largest crime scene investigation in Canadian history.