Janet Henry

Alert Bay memorial for missing woman

Janet Henry is finally returning to her Alert Bay home.

Janet Henry is finally returning to her Alert Bay home.

Not in body — that disappeared about 15 years ago, most likely on Willie Pickton’s pig farm — but in spirit, her sister told the Gazette.

“I last heard from her June 25, 1997,” said Sandy Gagnon, 55. “We were supposed to get together, but I wasn’t feeling well so we said another time,” Gagnon recalled.

“I never did see her again.”

Henry was the youngest of 12 children —  only three of whom are still alive — born to an Alert Bay fisherman and his wife.

“Some of the kids were put in residential schools, the others spent time in foster homes,” said Gagnon.

If any family had the right to feel cursed, it was this one.

When Janet was a youngster in the 80s, she survived contact with serial killer Clifford Olson, who drugged but inexplicably spared Henry.

“I asked my sister what happened, why did he let her go,” recalled Gagnon.

“She told me she didn’t remember a thing because Olson had drugged her.” It was the same story Janet gave to the cops who were investigating the infamous serial killer of children and youth.

But Janet seemed a magnet to tragedy: she was six when she saw her Alert Bay father wash overboard and drown; her sister, Lavina, was raped and murdered in the early ‘70s in Nanaimo. Another sister, 21-year-old Debbie, was abused in a foster home and committed suicide in 1981.

Her twin brother, Stan, died in Vancouver in 1990 after being struck by a police car.

Another sister died recently, as did a nephew.

The final chapter of Janet’s own life came in 1997.

She was 34 living on the Downtown Eastside, her home for the past for seven years, said Gagnon.

Henry was last seen at an East Hastings hotel in Vancouver on June 25, 1997.

She had a drinking and drug problem, several related health problems and may have been involved in prostitution.

“I know she worked the streets off and on and she did have a drug problem,” said Gagnon.

Still, the sisters were close and kept in almost daily contact and it was a shock when Henry didn’t call her sister.

“I knew something was wrong,” Gagnon said.

“She paid her rent in advance and had cash in the bank, but never claimed any of it.”

A short time later — three days, to be exact — Gagnon took a picture of her sister to the cops and filled out a missing persons report.

“We learned Janet went missing with a whole pile of other women and we believe she ended up on that Pickton farm,” she said.

Robert “Willie” Pickton was a Port Coquitlam serial killer convicted of the second-degree murders of six women, but it’s believed he killed at least 20 more, many of them prostitutes and drug addicts from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

While it’s never been proven Henry was one of Pickton’s victims, her face is one of 64 on a police poster of women missing from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

Still, life moved on, as it will, and Henry’s daughter, Debra, graduated high school, studied to earn a degree in criminology and is happily married, reported Gagnon, who added April is the right time to say goodbye to her sister.

“We wanted to have a memorial so we could move on with our lives,” she said. “I think the whole town might be there.”

The memorial takes place in Alert Bay April 10.

 

 

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