Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Sex-Trade Worker's Journal Shows Police Indifferent to Beaten, Half-Naked Woman: Inquiry Hears Police Indifferent to Victim

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Sex-Trade Worker's Journal Shows Police Indifferent to Beaten, Half-Naked Woman: Inquiry Hears Police Indifferent to Victim

Article excerpt

VANCOUVER - Police missed a "precious moment" to gain the trust of a half-naked and badly beaten sex-trade worker who walked into their Vancouver-area office, choosing instead to ridicule the woman whose remains were later found on serial killer Robert Pickton's farm, the woman's sister told an inquiry Monday.

Sarah de Vries was turned back out on to the street to hitchhike to her Downtown Eastside home after the attack that prompted her to seek help from the police, her sister, author Maggie de Vries, told the inquiry into police handling of the Pickton case.

De Vries said the undated incident was recorded in Sarah's journal sometime before she vanished in 1998 and became one of the 20 women on the list of charges dropped against Pickton.

Maggie de Vries has read her younger sister's journals and wrote a book about her sister, but she kept Sarah's traumatic encounter --first with a "bad date" and then with police -- to herself until now.

De Vries did not specify what police did to ridicule her sister.

She told the inquiry Sarah described being picked up by a customer in the Downtown Eastside, being taken to a remote location east of Vancouver in Port Moody and then being badly beaten.

Sarah made it to a police station, de Vries said, but officers there turned her out without even offering the half-naked woman a blanket.

"It was that moment when she was in dire distress. (It) was the one opportunity perhaps in her whole life that police had to respond in a helpful manner to her," she told Commissioner Wally Oppal.

Maggie said police could have demonstrated to her they were there to help, but she was further victimized.

"Instead, they humiliated her, they sent her back out to experience more violence and they sent a very clear message to her that this wasn't a good idea."

She said the officers badly misused the precious moment, cementing the distrust those in the Vancouver's Downtown Eastside had against police.

"You were better off to go straight to the highway and stick out your thumb," Maggie said of her sister's journal entry.

The inquiry has heard other sex-trade workers in the area where women were disappearing had information about Pickton, but didn't share it with police.

"I think that had the police taken advantage of all of those moments and built that trust in those relationships, that information might have been more forthcoming," Maggie said.

"That could have led to Robert Pickton being arrested earlier and that could mean that there'd be women still living and breathing in the world today who are now dead."

Maggie's testimony comes on the same day RCMP in Burnaby, B.C., say they caught a suspected serial sex offender working the Downtown Eastside. Police went out of their way to indicate they wouldn't let history repeat itself by not taking attacks on sex-trade workers in the area seriously. …

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