Pickton victim's remains forgotten by coroner, family says

The family of Cara Ellis, a victim of serial killer Robert Pickton, is accusing a former senior coroner of misplacing some of her remains, CBC News has learned.

Cara Ellis's family say they did not receive her complete remains until this year

Cara Ellis's family say they didn't get all her remains till now 2:58

The family of Cara Ellis, a victim of serial killer Robert Pickton, is accusing a former senior coroner of misplacing some of her remains, CBC News has learned.

Ellis, 25, went missing in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside in 1998. In 2004, her DNA was found on Robert Pickton's pig farm; she was one of the many women brutally murdered by Canada's most prolific serial killer.

In 2010, the B.C. Coroners Service gave the Ellis family what it claimed were her only remains — an urn containing a strange green substance, supposedly leftover after DNA testing.

Lori-Ann Ellis can now lay her sister-in-law Cara to rest, 15 years after she went missing. (CBC)

But her sister-in-law, Lori-Ann Ellis, knew from researching police files that much more of Cara had been recovered.

After three years of pushing the service, she has finally been given a box full of overlooked remains.

"I was so angry that this could be screwed up so bad," said Ellis. "I think it's sad that I have to go through this again. It's not fair."

Ellis blames former Vancouver Metro senior coroner, Owen Court, who was in charge of the victims' remains, for missing the nine vials containing crushed bone, including fragments of Cara's ribs.

She also accuses Court of telling her not to look inside the original, near-empty urn, because it contained contaminated material.

'Utmost degree of integrity'

In an email to CBC News, Court verified he met with Ellis in Burnaby in 2010 when the Coroners Service provided the urn containing the original remains to her.

But, he denied Ellis's other claims, saying he "did not facilitate the placement of these remains in an urn for repatriation to Ms. Ellis; this was handled by another coroner."

Owen Court served lead coroner during the Pickton investigation and trial. (Peace Arch News)

He added that there was never any discussion of potential health hazards posed by the contents of the urn and said he had no knowledge of any vials recently being returned to Ellis from the Coroners Service.

"At no point during my communications with Ms. Ellis was there any discussion of additional remains," said Court.

"I, and every other member of the Coroners Service management team at the time, handled every aspect of this sensitive and tragic case with the utmost degree of integrity, professionalism and compassion."

Ellis disagrees and thinks Court should be found fully responsible for the alleged mishandling.

"He said this [urn] is all that was found of Cara and had he read the complete report, he would have realized that this [box]...is actually all there is of Cara."

Previous claim of mishandling

Ellis's allegations are only the latest claims of mishandling of remains in the high-profile case.

The family of Marnie Frey, killed by Pickton in 1997, allege her remains were also mishandled.

In September, CBC News revealed the family of another victim, Marnie Frey, alleged her bones were returned to them, smashed and mishandled.

CBC News has since learned the RCMP Serious Crime Unit is now investigating. But Ellis wants answers too, as she finally prepares to lay Cara to rest.

"I'm so glad I'm able to bring her home, because she deserves to be home with people who love her."


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