Homicide investigators have issued a plea for international public assistance after learning a woman found dead in North Vancouver last month may have had connections outside the country.
At a news conference held Wednesday in Surrey, investigators displayed a sketch of the woman, along with photos of clothing similar to those she wore at the time of her death.
The brown Adidas slip-on shoes and black VS Miss-brand skinny jeans she wore appear to only be sold in Europe, though possibly also online, said Sergeant Jennifer Pound of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team.
“When we’re asking for the public’s assistance, we really aren’t just keeping this local,” she said. “Not strictly to North [Vancouver], not strictly to B.C., and, really, we’re not even keeping it within Canada. We’re hoping this information reaches a broader group and goes international.”
Sgt. Pound said the victim was between 5-foot-2 and 5-foot-6, in her mid 20s to early 40s, with shoulder-lengthy, wavy, blue-black hair. Also on display at the news conference were photos of the victim’s teeth, which showed a number of caps on the front, top teeth that may help friends and family members identify her.
Coroner Bill Inkster said this type of restoration is typically used to cover something on the front surface of the teeth, such as stains or enamel defects. “It’s a more reasonably cost-effective way to do it than a crown, or some gold work,” Dr. Inkster said. “This would be noticeable by her friends and acquaintances, but it’s not particularly unique.”
Stephen Fonseca, a coroner and manager of identification and disaster response, who created the facial approximation of the victim, said he focused his efforts on the definitive landmarks in the triangular area between the eyes and nose.
“If I get that proportion correct, I have a higher liklihood of somebody recognizing that approximation,” he said. Mr. Fonseca also opted to sketch by hand to avoid the digitized feel of computer-generated approximations.
“It’s impersonal to me,” he said. “I want to feel it, I want to draw it, I want to put life in the eyes. There needs to be some reflection there.”
As well, investigators learned the victim had broken two vertebrae at least six months – though possibly years – before her death, maybe from having fallen on to her bottom or back. As a result, she would have received non-surgical care and may have worn a brace for some time.
Her body could have been at the site anywhere from a few months to one or two years before being discovered last month, Sgt. Pound said.
Police located the body at 5:45 p.m. on Aug. 18, following a report from a resident of what appeared to be human remains in the 2000-block of Curling Road. They found the body six metres from a popular trail, amid the bushes and trees that concealed the path from street view. It was so badly decomposed that investigators could not immediately determine the sex.
Sgt. Pound said it was apparent efforts had been made to hide the body – enough reason alone to call in IHIT. The team is now liaising with the coroner’s office and the missing persons unit, reaching “national and international levels as well,” Sgt. Pound said.
Anyone with information about the victim, or the investigation, is asked to contact IHIT at 1-877-551-4448 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Those who wish to remain anonymous contact Crime Stoppers through a number of avenues, including phone (1-800-222-8477) and online (solvecrime.ca).