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Amritpal Saran's mother Jitinder Saran, right, wipes away tears as his sister Simrit Saran holds a photo of her late brother during an Integrated Homicide Investigation Team news conference announcing charges in his death, at RCMP headquarters in Surrey, B.C., on Monday January 6, 2014. Two Surrey residents have been charged in relation to the deaths of Amritpal Saran, Karen Nabors and Jill Lyons.DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

Police have made an arrest in the case of two sex workers who lived in the same building and were found dead two weeks apart – and authorities say they have linked the accused to the killing of a third person.

The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team announced the arrest of Sarbjit Bains at a news conference at police headquarters on Monday. Mr. Bains, 32, is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Karen Nabors and Jill Lyons, and second-degree murder in the death of Amritpal Saran.

The body of Mr. Saran, 29, was found on Colebrook Road in Surrey last February. Ms. Lyons, 45, was found dead in her New Westminster apartment in mid-August. Ms. Nabors, who lived one floor below Ms. Lyons, died two weeks later. She was 48.

When police issued the public warning in late August, investigators were unable to say definitively whether the women were murdered. The death of Ms. Lyons had initially been believed to be suicide, and autopsy results on both were inconclusive.

Sergeant Jennifer Pound, a police spokeswoman, said investigators had to await "very lengthy test results" to determine whether the women were victims of foul play. She said investigators were still gathering evidence as recently as a week or two ago.

Sgt. Pound was tight-lipped on details of the case – she did not release a motive or indicate what led to the arrest, aside from saying that surveillance video was helpful.

As she spoke, some family members of the victims sat at a table to her left, while others were in the first two rows of the gallery.

Sheri Hickman, the mother of Ms. Lyons, described her daughter as smart and beautiful. She said Ms. Lyons was the third of four children and grew up on Saltspring Island. She married when she was 19 and had two boys.

Ms. Hickman said her daughter's life took a wrong turn when she became addicted to the painkiller OxyContin after a surgical procedure.

"She made some poor choices and she did some things she was ashamed of, and she did them to get drugs and to support herself. But she was on methadone and she was trying to beat the addiction. She was looking forward to going into a recovery program in October when she was killed and she never got the chance," Ms. Hickman said, adding the death has left a hole in the family's hearts.

Herb Auerbach, the father of Ms. Nabors, said his family never expected such a tragedy. He described his daughter as a vibrant person with a strong sense of justice, who stood up for anyone who needed help. He said there was much more to her than her profession, and requested donations in her name to Women Against Violence Against Women.

He said he hopes to learn the motive for the crimes, and how to protect women better from violence.

Simrit Saran, Mr. Saran's sister, said her brother had a "heart of gold," but battled addiction. Her mother sat to her left and wept throughout her daughter's statement, clutching a photo of her son.

Mr. Bains, who was arrested on Friday and is in custody, has also been charged with indignity to human remains in Mr. Saran's death.

Evelina Urbaniak, 36, who knew Mr. Bains, has been charged with indignity to human remains and being an accessory after the fact to murder in Mr. Saran's death. She is also in custody. Police did not clarify the nature of her relationship with Mr. Bains.

Both Mr. Bains and Ms. Urbaniak were in court on Monday. Neither have a criminal record.

Inspector Kevin Hackett, the officer in charge of IHIT, on Monday publicly expressed his regret for what the families have lost.

Superintendent Bill Fordy, who is in charge of Surrey RCMP, said he was pleased with the arrests. The city has been in the news in the wake of a record number of homicides in 2013.

"We're continuing our efforts to reduce and prevent crime in Surrey," he said.

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