Pickton victim's remains mishandled, family says

The parents of a victim of serial killer Robert Pickton is accusing the B.C. Coroners Service of mishandling their daughter's remains and lying about it for years, CBC News has learned.

Chief coroner says crematorium now under investigation

Marnie Frey's family allege her remains were mishandled by the B.C. Coroners Service 2:49

The parents of a victim of serial killer Robert Pickton is accusing the B.C. Coroners Service of mishandling their daughter's remains and lying about it for years, CBC News has learned.

Marnie Frey was one of the six women Pickton was convicted of murdering on his suburban Vancouver pig farm. His 2007 trial had been told he killed the 24-year-old heroin addict and sex-trade worker in 1997.

A section of Frey’s jawbone was the only part of her body recovered from the farm. 

Her parents were told the bone was cremated, even though it is a violation of the Funeral Services Act to take such action without permission of the family.

"My daughter went through enough," said her father, Rick Frey. "Our daughter's remains were not handled with any kind of dignity."

But the family was in for another shock. In 2010, when they took what they believed were Frey’s ashes to a funeral home, the parents were told that what they had retrieved from the coroners service was crushed human bone.

'Not cremated'

Funeral director Chris Dorrington examined the contents.

"There were what appeared to be bone fragments. They did not appear to be cremated," Dorrington told CBC News. "It looked like they had been hit with a hammer or some crude method so that they would be able to be placed into that [urn]."

Lynn and Rick Frey say they've been repeatedly lied to by the B.C. Coroners Service. (CBC)

Dorrington said that offering an indignity to a human body is an offence under section 182 of the Criminal Code.

But the coroner still insisted Frey’s remains had been cremated, the family said.

A forensic anthropologist who examined the jawbone fragments for Pickton's trial confirmed they had not been through the cremation process.

"This put the icing on the cake," Rick Frey said. "It bothers me to think that my daughter was put on the table and maybe banged around with a hammer."

'Just dumped into the urn'

Frey’s stepmother, Lynn Frey, said they were shocked to get the news.

"She was just dumped into the urn with her bones. Where's the empathy there?"

Part of Marnie Frey's jawbone was found on Pickton's Port Coquitlam, B.C., farm. (CBC)

Dorrington said the coroners service’s actions were a series of missteps.

"The regulations were not followed at any stage of the game," he said.

Rick Frey said the family only recently received the documents needed to bury the remains legally.

"I am not going to go and have her buried, or whatever, until I have the answers," he said.

Funeral director Sandy Poelvoorde agrees.

"We need to answer these questions for this family," Poelvoorde said. "They've been through so much, and to constantly be put through the bureaucracy for no other reason that I can see is just cruel."

The B.C. Coroners Service has declined to comment on the Frey family's allegations while an investigation by the B.C. Consumer Protection Branch is underway. 

Update: chief coroner responds

On Thursday, B.C.'s Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe told CBC News the crematorium involved in handling Frey's remains is under investigation to see if protocol was properly followed.

Lapointe added that her office is usually not involved in the disposition of remains.

"I don't know why we did. I think it was done with the best of intentions to help families who were already dealing with unimaginable circumstances, to assist them further," said Lapointe.

"But I think in assisting them further we stepped outside our box and that should not have happened."

With files from the CBC's Natalie Clancy

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