B.C. escort deaths prompt criticism of police
Sex-trade worker advocate says public should have been warned earlier
The death of an escort in New Westminster, B.C., more than two weeks ago was not made public until another escort was found dead in the same apartment complex because there was evidence to suggest the first woman's death was a suicide, RCMP said Tuesday.
The body of Jill Lyons, 45, was found in her apartment suite in the 200 block of 11th Street on Aug. 12.
With blood on the carpet and the walls of Lyons's apartment, police say evidence initially pointed to a suicide, giving them no reason to warn the public.
"As police officers, we are morally, ethically and legally responsible to balance the protection of the public and the integrity of the investigation," Sgt. Jennifer Pound said in a press release on Tuesday.
"In cases where suicide is a possibility, there is a particular emphasis on the protection of information in order to be empathetic and understanding to the sensitive issues that surround some of our cases."
Pound said homicide investigators took over the case after police were called to the same apartment complex on Sunday where they found another online escort, Karen Nabors, 48, dead in her suite.
'While police have deemed the deaths suspicious, they have not said if the women were specifically targeted or if their deaths are linked.
But an advocate for members of the sex trade in Vancouver said police need to do more to protect women.
Kate Gibson, executive director of the WISH Drop-In Centre Society for sex-trade workers, said police waited too long to send out a warning.
"I think two, two weeks apart, is extremely alarming. I think the New West police department and IHIT really needs to step up and get public about this," she said.
"In Vancouver, we've already seen this happen. Not stepping up, not dealing with this. And could they have prevented a second death? Maybe they could have."
Gibson said she hopes police will be able to provide a description of a suspect soon.
The autopsy on Nabors is scheduled for today and toxicology results are pending for both women.
Police are warning sex workers to be vigilant and take extra precautions.
Friend devastated by deaths
Meanwhile, a man who lives in the same New Westminster apartment building where the two women were found dead says he's worried about safety in the building.
Martin Piasta said he knew both women and even adopted Lyons's dog after her death. On Monday, he spoke to CBC News about his neighbour.
"She was such a kind person, and someone took away one of our best friends," he said, his voice cracking as he wiped away tears.
Piasta said police originally told friends Lyons's death was an accident. He said Nabors was suspicious.
On Sunday, Nabors's family came to her apartment looking for her, Piasta said.
"When they got here, they went to her apartment and they found there was something wrong. All we heard was screams when they went in."
Piasta said there are no security cameras in the building.
"If we just had security cameras, we might have been able to see who was going in and out of the building …," he said.
'Our little angel who lost her way'
Jill Lyons grew up on Saltspring Island. Her family declined an interview, but told the CBC, "We loved her very much. She was our little angel who lost her way.'"
Police say both women were involved in the high-risk business of the sex trade. They posted ads online and invited clients to their apartments.
Tanya Martin said she knew both women and says Lyons was brutally sexually assaulted seven months ago.
"The guy went in the room with her and then pulled out a big knife and tied her up," said Martin.
Martin says Lyons was left hog-tied and had to call 911 using her nose and tongue. The sexual assault sent her to hospital.
"She told me she was going to stop right there. That would be the end of it."
But Martin said Lyons kept working as a prostitute.
"I don't know why. It was the warning of her life. She went back to it."