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Fascinated by B.C.'s floating feet Add to ...

Before Monday, the mystery of the feet washing up on British Columbia's shores barely warranted a mention in the international media.

But when a fifth foot was discovered near Vancouver earlier this week, the international media finally decided this was a story with legs.

"CSI Vancouver: Where Are All the Floating Feet Coming From?" screamed a headline on the Bloomberg business news wire.

"Mystery deepens as fifth human foot lands," wrote the Melbourne Herald Sun.

The Cape Times in South Africa called it the "Five-foot riddle."

Then, as if the international media firestorm wasn't hot enough, a sixth foot was reported in the logging and fishing town of Campbell River on Wednesday.

That's when things got out of hand.

"There's worry and concern that maybe there's a madman on the loose," piped a correspondent for FoxNews, which cheekily titled its foot segment "Foul Play."

The Manchester Guardian poked fun as well, headlining its story "Six Feet Under."

Even David Letterman got in on the act, questioning two Canadian audience members about the mystery during a show earlier this week.

That was all before yesterday's plot-thickening development -the sixth foot was an animal paw.

Why were newshounds around the world so enraptured by a grim West Coast story about human flotsam?

"Weird things happen on the water," said Dick Hammond, a writer and retired beachcomber from Gibsons, B.C.

"But to have this many parts in a small area, it really gets the imagination working."

Indeed. One writer for the Guardian speculated the feet could be evidence of the "Mafia's traditional body-disposal method."

There's also the CSI factor. Forensic specialists are labouring over the feet, trying to find what little DNA still remains in the decomposed remains using drills and boiling water.

"There is a somewhat morbid fascination with that sort of thing," said Carleton University biologist George Carmody, who has helped identify the remains of victims from the World Trade Center, Hurricane Katrina and Robert Pickton's pig farm.

"Usually you'd expect to find some other parts too," Dr. Carmody said. "You often hear of criminal activity where they cut hands off to prevent identification through fingerprints. But they haven't been showing up, have they? That certainly sparks interest and imagination and wondering about just what in the hell is going on here."

There is also a fascination with the slim chance the victims could still be alive.

"With feet, it's not a guarantee that these people are dead," Dr. Carmody said.

And as a crime in which neither victims nor perpetrators have been identified, journalists and bloggers have allowed themselves a degree of levity in penning stories. So have readers.

Online comments responding to yesterday's Globe and Mail story about the discovery of the sixth foot turned into a veritable pun contest.

"Come get your feet wet on the beautiful shores of British Columbia," wrote one reader.

"It's obvious it was the work of their Arch Enemies," wrote another.

Mr. Hammond believes that more feet are still out there.

"We are finding a fraction," he said.

"For all that make landfall, there must be dozens more sunken or eaten or waiting to be found."

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