Family pleads for help finding missing Winnipeg sex-trade worker

A Winnipeg family is fearing the worst as they search for 21-year-old Claudette Osborne, who has been missing for more than two weeks.
Claudette (Penny) Osborne was last seen on July 24, 2008, in Winnipeg. ((Police handout))
A Winnipeg family is fearing the worst as they search for 21-year-old Claudette Osborne, who has been missing for more than two weeks.

Osborne, who also goes by the name Penny, was last seen July 24 in the area of Selkirk Avenue and Charles Street, in the city's North End neighbourhood.

Her family acknowledges that Osborne lived a troubled life. A young mother of four children, she became addicted to drugs, and work in the sex trade soon followed, said her sister, Tina Osborne.

She last heard from her sister in a series of telephone messages left on her machine overnight two weeks ago. She worries her sister was with a "john" and ran into trouble.

"She said she didn't want to be where she was and wanted someone to go and pick her up," she said. "I know by the sound of her voice … she was scared."

The family fears the worst.

"It scares me to think my sister's out there, like, who knows where she is or what she's doing?" she said. "I know a lot of sex-trade workers and crack addicts are often found dead, in a  garbage bin and — it's just crazy, like, chopped up somewhere."

No new leads: police

Police released a missing-person alert Tuesday, but said they have received no new information.

Sharon Morgan of Ikwe Widdjiitiwin, an aboriginal women's shelter that is helping in the search, said women in Osborne's position are extremely vulnerable and have few places to turn for help.

'We love her and we just want her to come home.'—Tina Osborne

"They're just tiny little fish in a great big sea, and no one seems to give a shit about them," she said.

The family hopes anyone with information will provide it to investigators.

"Yeah, she's a prostitute. Yeah, she does smoke crack. But that's my little sister," Osborne said.

"Despite everything she's done — not only to herself but to her family — we love her and we just want her to come home."

Osborne is described as five-foot-seven, weighing about 145 pounds. She has long, black hair and was last seen wearing black pin-striped pants and a black V-necked T-shirt with a ruffled collar.

Anyone with information on Osborne's whereabouts is asked to contact the missing persons unit at (204) 986-6050 or the police non-emergency line at (204) 986-6222.