Five men and a young male under the age of 18 have been charged by police investigating a string of violent sexual assaults against women that have had Metro Vancouver on edge for months.
At a joint news conference on Wednesday, three police forces announced they believe they have caught the perpetrators of assaults that have taken place since January on the University of British Columbia Endowment Lands, as well as in Burnaby, North Vancouver and Vancouver.
"These terrible, unprovoked crimes justifiably scared people, and those living and working in those communities clearly expressed their concern," RCMP Chief Superintendent Jodie Boudreau said.
Although the six arrests were announced together, Chief Supt. Boudreau said the suspects and alleged crimes weren't linked, except in the UBC case, where two men were charged for the same alleged attack.
"In all but one of the incidents, the assaults were committed individually," she said.
David Singh Tucker, whose age wasn't provided, and Yuan Zhi Goa, 23, were both charged in a sexual assault that allegedly took place at UBC on April 30.
Mr. Tucker is charged with three counts of sexual assault causing bodily harm, three counts of robbery, three counts of confining a person, one count of break and enter and one count of disguising his face with intent to commit an indictable offence. Mr. Goa has been charged in the same incident with one count of break and enter with intent to commit a sexual assault.
Police also announced the arrests of Jason Anthony White, 45, who is charged with assault and break and enter for an April 7 incident in Vancouver; Vaughan Englot, 32, who faces three counts of sexual assault in relation to alleged attacks in North Vancouver on Jan. 12 and 19, and in Vancouver on Jan. 15; and Michal Popek, 36, who is charged with four counts of sexual assault and one count of break and enter for alleged offences in Vancouver on March 26, 2015, and April 9, 2016, and in Burnaby on Feb. 18 and March 6.
A youth, who police could not name because of his age, has been charged with two counts of sexual assault, two counts of committing an indecent act and one count of assault in relation to incidents that allegedly occurred from March 3 to 6 in Vancouver.
Although police have swept up six alleged sex offenders, Chief Supt. Boudreau said they are still looking for others.
"I would like to stress these men are charged with very serious offences, and while we are pleased that these individuals have been charged … there are unfortunately still a number of unsolved offences that we are actively investigating," she said.
As if to underscore the point, the RCMP in Surrey later in the day released video surveillance footage and a still photo of a suspect in the sexual assault of a real estate agent, who was attacked during an open house on April 30.
Police said they are looking for a South Asian male in his late 20s to mid-40s, who has a dark brown, well-groomed beard. "He was wearing dark-coloured pants, a light-coloured shirt, a light grey jacket, a white turban and he spoke with an accent," the Surrey RCMP said in a statement.
Chief Supt. Boudreau said the six arrests came about because of help from the public and a joint investigation that involved the RCMP, Vancouver Police Department and Metro Vancouver Transit Police.
"Today's message to offenders or would-be offenders should be loud and clear," she said. "Violence of a sexual nature or any violence against persons is not tolerated by law enforcement agencies, nor is it tolerated by the public. Those who prey on others will be held accountable."
Vancouver police Sergeant Lisa Byrne said one of the accused men, Jason White, was arrested at UBC, although he was charged with an alleged crime that took place elsewhere in Vancouver.
There have been several unsolved attacks on women at UBC in recent years, including one in March that came after two incidents in which students living in residence were warned that a man had been seen lurking inside buildings.
"At this time, we are keeping an open mind on unsolved cases both in UBC and the rest of the Lower Mainland, and we certainly will be looking at him and others," Sgt. Byrne said, adding that there are "several active investigations" under way by police forces in Metro Vancouver.
Superintendent Mike Porteous of the Vancouver Police Department praised the victims of assaults for helping police with their investigations. "As a result of the courage of these women to come forward and tell their story, we have been able to take a number of these violent offenders off the street," he said.