The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team has issued a public warning to all Lower Mainland sex workers after a woman's body was discovered in a Surrey park.
Lisa Ann Zielke, 41, a mother of two, was found in Hi-Knoll Park on Oct. 31. She was last seen getting into a vehicle the day before. Police described Ms. Zielke as drug dependent and said she regularly worked in the sex trade.
Sergeant Jennifer Pound, IHIT's spokeswoman, at a news conference Monday urged sex workers to take extra precautions when meeting unfamiliar clients.
"Our priority right now is to issue a public warning to those involved in sex work and those involved in a high-risk lifestyle," she told reporters.
Ms. Zielke's death is not believed to be linked to any other homicide investigations, Sgt. Pound said. The bodies of a man and woman were found on the same street, Colebrook Road, earlier this year, though Sgt. Pound noted that stretch is about 70 blocks away from the park.
The police spokeswoman was tight-lipped on what leads police are pursuing and declined to say whether investigators have any information on the vehicle Ms. Zielke was last seen getting into in the 9100-block of King George Boulevard.
Police did, however, release photos of furniture – a brown sofa bed and a wooden table and chairs – that was found in close proximity to Ms. Zielke's body.
Sgt. Pound said police believe the furniture was dumped at around the same time Ms. Zielke was in the park. She said investigators are interested in speaking with whoever left the furniture, though they don't know whether the individuals involved are connected to Ms. Zielke's death.
An autopsy has been conducted but police are still waiting on toxicology results. Sgt. Pound said it is believed Ms. Zielke met with foul play.
Sgt. Pound said IHIT and Surrey RCMP have been working to make sure area sex workers are properly warned. She said investigators have been canvassing locations since the weekend to speak with women involved in the sex trade directly. She said the warning extends across the Lower Mainland.
Kate Gibson, executive director of Wish Drop-In Centre Society, a Vancouver non-profit that provides services for sex workers, said she went to Surrey on Saturday to speak with some of the women at risk.
Ms. Gibson said she and her Wish colleagues told the women that a sex worker had died. She said sharing as much information as soon as possible is always ideal and the public warning is helpful as an alert.
Ms. Gibson said Surrey sex workers do not have access to an overnight support van like their counterparts in Vancouver She said such an investment in Surrey would be money well spent.
"I think that it means that there's another set of eyes out there on the street. I think it keeps women that much safer."