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Demonstrators protest police silence
More than a dozen women and one man staged a silent demonstration in front of the New Westminster police headquarters on Columbia Street on Wednesday.
Their sombre quiet echoed how little they've heard from the department since two women, Jill Lyons and Karen Nabors, who worked in the sex trade, were discovered dead in their apartments in the same 11th Street building less than two weeks apart in August, said Summer Rain, of the Vancouver Rape Relief and Shelter, who organized the protest.
After an initial flurry of publicity around the case and cautionary statements from police, there's been no further word on the progress of the investigation. Autopsy results on both women were inconclusive and police are continuing to treat the deaths as suspicious.
That's not good enough for Rain and the protestors who gathered in the warm late-summer sunshine.
"We waited for the next step," said Rain of her group's decision to publicly display their frustration.
"Just because they lived a high risk lifestyle doesn't eliminate the fact that they were most likely killed by someone. Police need to focus on the who, what, why and how."
"We take all reports of violence against women very seriously," said Staff-sergeant Paul Hyland in a statement. "The dedicated men and women police officers of the NWPD are committed to ensuring these types of offenses are vigorously investigated."
Rain said police characterization of the women as "engaging in a high risk lifestyle" minimized the value of those women's lives and the urgency to warn the community that a killer may be on the loose.
That point was especially sharp for Trisha Baptie, who saw many of her friends in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside head off to Robert "Willie" Pickton's farm in Port Coquitlam and never come back. Pickton was convicted in 2007 of the second-degree murder of six women, and charges in the deaths of 20 others were stayed. Many of those women were prostitutes.
The irony that she was standing only blocks away from the courthouse where Pickton was tried and convicted wasn't lost on Baptie, who addressed the gathering in a quivering voice.
"We're tired of being blamed for the violence being perpetrated against women," said Baptie.
She said had the public been warned after Lyons' body was discovered on Aug. 12, the second victim might have been spared.
"We feel it's poor form to not let the public know after the first woman was killed," said Baptie. "That perpetuates the violence against women."