Alleged killer's victims deserve empathy: advocate

Victims related to the case of alleged serial killer Peter Dale MacDonald should be remembered as more than prostitutes, a former sex-trade worker says.
The alleged Toronto victims of Peter Dale MacDonald, from left to right: Julianne Middleton, Virginia Coote and Darlene McNeill.

Peter Dale MacDonald's alleged victims should be remembered as more than prostitutes, a former sex-trade worker says.

Bridget Perrier said referring to Julieanne Middleton, Virginia Lee Coote and Darlene McNeill as prostitutes sensationalizes their deaths.

"These women were someone's mom, someone's auntie, someone's daughter," she said. "And we need to stop labelling them. We need to see them as victims."

MacDonald, 52, has been charged with killing Middleton, 23, Coote, 33, and MacNeill, 35, whose bodies were found in Lake Ontario in Toronto's west end in the mid-1990s.

He appeared in court at Old City Hall in Toronto on Thursday.

Perrier said thinking of the women as only prostitutes reduces people's empathy for them.

"It makes them think, 'Oh well, they chose their life,'" she said. "Really, it wasn't a choice, it was a circumstance."

Sherman Middleton remembers his daughter as fun and outgoing.

But when her body washed up on a beach near Sunnyside Pool 16 years ago, he was faced with the attitudes Perrier talks about.

"Maybe it was the truth, but it was a lot of publicity that I wasn't comfortable with as a father," he said.

The three women all faced similar deaths, sexually assaulted and strangled in the mid-1990s.

MacDonald, who was from P.E.I. and lived in Toronto and Windsor, Ont., is already serving a life sentence for a previous murder conviction.