Angela Jardine's family was hoping there would be something to bury - "even a bone."
"Just a way to remember her," said her mother, Deborah Jardine.
But then the news came from officials: All that's left of Angela is DNA found in Robert Pickton's freezer.
"They brought pictures," Ms. Jardine said. "I asked to see the picture of the shed where the freezers were and then a picture of the freezer where [Angela's]DNA was found."
Officials are contacting the Jardine family and others to return the remains and belongings of their loved ones and issue death certificates. The process began after the Crown announced Wednesday that it would stay the remaining 20 charges against Mr. Pickton, with members of the coroner's office, victim services and police travelling throughout Canada and the United States.
Jeff Dolan, director of provincial operations at the Coroners Service, said "the decision was made at the outset [of the trial]that no death certificates would be issued while the court proceedings were ongoing." After the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the six murder convictions last week, death certificates were issued for the six victims, but the Coroners Service held off on issuing the certificates for the others.
"Now that the court proceedings have been stayed, the families will be given full disclosure and that will include the remains that exist for each particular case," Mr. Dolan said.
As the dates of death for many of the victims are unknown, it is not clear how the coroner's office will determine that on the certificates. "The coroner, considering all the information that is available, will do their best to determine a date or a time frame, and as an absolute last resort it will be left as undetermined," Mr. Dolan said.
But the numbers on the death certificate are the least concern for Lori-Ann Ellis, who will get the remains of her sister-in-law Cara Ellis as "crushed bones."
"There is only a small amount of bones left of her," Ms. Ellis said. "We knew that there were remains, but we didn't know what or what items that belonged to her were found on the farm."
On Sunday night, members of the Ellis family in Calgary were met by members of the task force, the first time they would learn of Cara's remains. "It will be sent to the funeral home in an urn," Ms. Ellis said.
Cara's belongings, consisting of a couple of paper items, are likely not to be returned due to the dangerous process used to extract DNA evidence from the material. "In the process of trying to extract DNA … [investigators]used poisonous chemicals," said Ms. Ellis, who is in the process of pursuing a civil lawsuit against Mr. Pickton. "In this case if we can't get him for murder, we will get him for theft of Cara's objects."
In addition to the six women whose cases came to trial, and the 20 whose cases didn't, there were six cases in which police recommended charges but the Crown decided not to press them. Among the latter women was Dawn Crey. There were no remains at her funeral, and her family learned last Friday that all that could be found of her was a grisly trace in Mr. Pickton's trailer.
"Blood on an undergarment - that's all that remains of her," said her brother, Ernie Crey.
The family was not told about personal items or even if the undergarment would be returned. Her death certificate will bring the family together for another memorial service.