Part of our feature on the 125th anniversary of the creation of Stanley Park.
The dead of Deadman’s Island
Both Brockton Point and Deadman’s Island are filled with unmarked graves, some from the Squamish and Musqueam people, and others from immigrants of European and Chinese heritage. Victims of a smallpox outbreak in 1888 were also buried on Deadman’s Island. One sad gravestone found in brush in 1945 and kept today in the Museum of Vancouver marked the grave of 8-month-old Muriel Alida Mearns, who died in 1892.
The “Babes in the Woods”
The skeletal remains of two children were discovered in 1953 near Beaver Lake. Examinations at the time determined it was a young boy and girl, killed with a hatchet in 1947. In 1998, UBC professor David Sweet developed a forensic DNA technique that showed it was actually two boys, but the case remains unsolved.
A skull found in Stanley Park in 1990 was thought to be the remains of a teenage girl, but in 1998, Mr. Sweet used the same technique to show it was Ramsey Rioux, a boy who went missing in 1989. Later in 1998, a woodcutter who lived near the park told police about a skull he had found there three years earlier – and had been keeping on a bookshelf as a souvenir. It turned out to be Ramsey’s friend Kenneth Lutz, who went missing at the same time. Neither homicide has been solved.
In 1997, two rival gangs met at Ferguson Point in the middle of the night. David Pham, 18, was shot to death, while another man was injured. A few months earlier, a woman was sexually assaulted and left for dead under the Lions Gate Bridge. Vancouver Park Board chair Duncan Wilson told reporters that more police patrols and better lighting were being considered for Stanley Park. “The park is secluded, so it’s an attractive meeting ground for gangland fights and that sort of thing,” he said.
A national shame
In 2001, the death of Aaron Webster, who was stalked and beaten by four assailants, made headlines across Canada. It took place in a Stanley Park area known to be frequented at night by gay men looking for casual sex. The four men went out that night to “get in a fight with someone,” one later told a police investigator. One man was sentenced to six years in jail, two more were sentenced as juveniles, while a fourth was acquitted.
The Stanley Park Six
A scandal erupted when six police officers were discovered to have beaten up three suspected drug dealers in custody. They drove the suspects to Stanley Park’s Third Beach in the early morning of Jan. 14, 2003, surrounded them, and beat them with their batons, fists and boots. Two officers were fired and the others were suspended. A public inquiry was held over the actions of the so-called Stanley Park Six.