Vancouver, BC - In the late 1980's, prostitutes in Vancouver, British Columbia started disappearing. Prostitutes in Vancouver, BC, where close to 50 women have vanished told authorities they saw Gary Ridgway cruising for sex. A search of his home turned up a map of BC area and he reportedly told friends and coworkers they often visited BC in their RV.
"Certainly there are some indicators that he was in British Columbia, but I can't be specific because I just don't know yet," said Det. Jim McKnight. "It's going to take time and I can't tell you how long it's going to take. There are just a lot of reading and analyzing that has to happen. Certainly, there's DNA evidence up in Canada, but it's too early to tell what I'm going to be doing with it," McKnight said.
For Americans, the Washington State border city of Vancouver allows a greater degree of anonymity in the pursuit of paid sex. Prostitution is illegal in Vancouver, yet tolerated. Men who arrested go to "Johns" school for first offense, and then the arrest is expunged on attendance. Subsequent penalties are light.
12-10-01, a team of Canadian detectives from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Vancouver, BC, police came to Seattle for a meeting today with Green River investigators. The team includes a forensic biologist and crime analyst hoping to learn if Ridgway traveled to British Columbia and if there's evidence that might connect him to the unsolved disappearances of 40 prostitutes there. King County authorities did find a map of BC when they searched Ridgway's property.
US law may not allow Vancouver authorities to access his DNA profile until Ridgway is convicted. It could take years, to tie Ridgway to Vancouver murders, or eliminate him as a suspect. "And I feel for our families and they want answers. And I want them to know that we do care and we're down here trying to get answers for them," McKnight said.
Before police can compare DNA samples, they must find out if the same type of DNA tests were used. Different types of tests don't produce comparable results. "As soon as we know what test they used, we'll know what we have to do," said Paul McCarl, the lead detective in the Canadian homicides.
60 British Columbia prostitutes were murdered in the last 2 decades, 40 remain unsolved.
Detectives theorized the killer lived in the area, or knew the area as a logger, fisherman, hunter or through the nearby work release program.
RCMP and the Vancouver Police Department, bulletin boards are covered with photos of missing women who disappeared from the city's gritty Downtown Eastside between 1983 and August 2001. Some were last seen 2 years before they were reported missing.
They have no bodies, no crime scenes, no suspects and no proof that any of they met with foul play.
Police want to hear from anyone who knows if these women are still alive.
Some believe one man couldn't be responsible for all of the disappearances. It will be difficult to link disappearances to Ridgway considering the lack of evidence.
A recent PACE survey of 183 sex-trade workers found that more than half reported being robbed and physically assaulted and nearly half had been forced to have sex against their will while working on the street; one-third said someone has tried to kill them.
"They frequented the Downtown Eastside. They were addicted to a substance, whether it be drugs or alcohol. And the majority of them were in the sex trade business. That's one of the common denominators, the fact that the majority of our missing women were in the sex trade business.'' Royal Canadian Mounted Police Constable Danielle Efford
A task force of 16 RCMP and Vancouver city police officers are investigating the disappearances women apparently missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, some since 1984. Police are considering adding 18 more women to the list of those who have disappeared in the last two decades, bringing the total to 45.
The joint police task force took over after criticism that Vancouver city police failed to act because of the women's background.
RCMP had a prime suspect, a local roofer with a history of rapes but DNA tests cleared him.
Investigators from a task force in Vancouver are planning a trip to Seattle to discuss Ridgway's arrest.
Efford said police have yet to look at Ridgway as do not yet have information that Ridgway was in British Columbia. Since Ridgway's arrest, Canadian authorities are waiting for critical data. They are checking with customs agents, waiting for credit card receipts from King County investigators to see if Ridgway was in Canada when the women disappeared.
Canadian police say deaths bear similarities with the Green River victims but despite the similarities, McCarl, is skeptical about a connection. "Some of the physical evidence (in the Green River killings) is not consistent with the three dead prostitutes from Vancouver. I'm not really optimistic."
Police said they need more funding for their investigation. Police have looked through thousands of files and have 600 to 1,000 suspects in missing women's cases. Recently officers reviewed reports of 485 missing women in British Columbia to find 18 with the same profile.
Outside of Vancouver there are hundreds of thousands of acres of rugged forest land.
In 1995, the bodies of Tracy Olajide, 30, Tammy Lee Pipe, 24, and Victoria Younker, 35, were found dumped near remote logging roads in the heavily wooded Fraser Valley. All women were sexually assaulted, asphyxiated and left naked.
They were drug addicts who worked downtown Vancouver, BC In August and September 1995, the bodies of Olajide, and Pipe, were discovered less than 5 miles apart in Agassiz, B C within a 3 week period.
In October 1995, a hunter found the body of Younker, near Mission, BC.
Mary Lidguerre, 30, a Vancouver prostitute disappeared in 1995. Her skeletal remains were found in 1997 in a wooded area in North Vancouver.
250 sex-trade workers drop in WISH each week to warm-up up, shower, watch TV, nap or take a literacy class. Anxiety is high over the long string of missing prostitutes dating back to 1983.
Copyright Kari Sable 1994-2011