For the first time, the RCMP is saying a serial killer is responsible for the deaths of some of the murdered prostitutes found on Edmonton's outskirts over the past few years.
And they went so far as to say that perhaps there may be more than one person, each responsible for multiple deaths.
- INDEPTH: Deadly Streets
|Rachel Quinney was found June 11, 2004|
Faced with the unsolved cases of nine prostitutes found murdered over the past three years, as well as two other cases considered suspicious, police are now turning to the public for help.
There have been more than 20 unsolved cases since 1983.
"We are confident somebody out there has information that will help us solve these crimes," RCMP Const. Tamara Bellamy said. "The person responsible for these homicides is going to be somebody's neighbour. He's going to be somebody's brother.
"But he will likely not look like the monster we see in the movies. He's likely going to blend into society, perhaps never having any interaction with police. And this is why we need the public to help us."
And, Bellamy added, "we forget that first and foremost [these women] were mothers, sisters, friends. They were all members of our community."
Project Kare, the RCMP task force looking into about 70 cases of missing and murdered women living high-risk lifestyles, has asked its behavioural sciences branch to develop a profile of the person they believe is killing women and dumping their bodies in rural areas.
- RCMP: Project Kare
"The definition of a serial killer, as our behavioural sciences refer to, is someone who is responsible for more than one murder with a cooling-off period in between those murders," Bellamy said. "We are referring to this subject as a serial offender because that is the situation that we're seeing here.
"We don't necessarily use the terminology serial killer, because it seems to be terminology that is sensationalized by the media, by movies. We prefer just serial offender."
The picture assembled by the profiler is of a person who drives a truck, van or sport utility vehicle, who likes to hunt or fish, and who may clean their vehicle at odd times.
Women who work Edmonton's streets say the new term being used by police doesn't surprise them.
"The girls have known for two or three years that there's been a serial killer," Rebecca said Friday, adding many now carry weapons.
After reading the profile of the killer she added, "That could be 40 per cent of the guys who drive around here."
Project Kare announced a reward of up to $100,000 Friday, for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone responsible for any of the deaths it has on file.
"That's a very large reward and I'm hoping that somebody is going to phone that maybe wasn't phoning before," Joanne McCartney, a former police officer who now helps sex trade workers leave the streets, said. "That'll be the incentive for them to phone that one piece of information that will make the difference."
The RCMP said the behavioural science branch reviewed the files and came up with a profile it believes contains traits the killer will have. These include:
- Drives a truck, van or SUV, and is comfortable driving in rural areas.
- Vehicle is reliable, and likely has a significant amount of mileage. May be used for work or outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing or farming.
- Suspect may hunt, fish, camp or participate in other outdoor activities.
- Suspect likely has a past or present connection to area south of Edmonton, including Leduc, Camrose, New Sarepta, etc. He may have lived or worked in the areas, have family or friends there, or hunted or fished in the area.
- Suspect may periodically clean the inside or outside of their vehicle, maybe at times that wouldn't be usual for them.
"These assertions are the result of indepth analyses of the Project Kare cases," a news release said. "The public should not be discouraged from calling if the person that they suspect does not possess all of these traits. We still want your calls."
The seven recent murders Project Kare is investigating:
- Ellie May Meyer, 33, was found May 6 in a farmer's field near Sherwood Park.
- On June 11, 2004, the body of 19-year-old Rachel Quinney was discovered east of Sherwood Park.
- Sylvia Ballantyne, a 40-year-old mother of four, was found in a field near Leduc July 7, 2003.
- In April, 2003, the skull and remains of Debbie Lake, 29, were found near Miquelon Lake, near Camrose.
- In January 2003, the bodies Monique Pitre, 30 and Melissa Munch, 20, were found days apart in different farmers' fields near Sherwood Park.
- Edna Bernard, 28, was found in September 2002, in a field outside of Edmonton.
Police are also investigating two suspicious deaths involving women working in the city's sex trade:
- The burned body of 20-year-old Charlene Gauld was found near Camrose on April 16, 2005.
- The partially clothed body of Samantha Berg, 19, was found frozen under snow in an industrial area parking lot on Jan. 25, 2005.