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Map of B.C. human remains generates flood of cold case tips

Last Updated Apr 6, 2019 at 5:43 pm PDT

The BC Coroners Service has launched an interactive map of unidentified human remains. (Source: governmentofbc.maps.arcgis.com)

The first day the map was up, the site received 50 times the visitors it usually does

In Vancouver alone, almost 40 bodies or body parts have been found

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – More than a week after the BC Coroners Service launched an interactive map of unidentified human remains in an effort to generate leads, tips continue to come in.

The map, believed to be the first of its kind in the country, shows the locations where unidentified human remains have been found in British Columbia. The goal of the online tool is to bring attention to about 200 active and cold cases. In the longer term, the Coroners Service hopes other provinces will get on board and create a national map.

Andy Watson with the BC Coroners Service says since going live last week, morbid curiosity has driven up traffic to their site.

“I know police services across the province have also been getting lots of calls since this tool started and launched,” he says.

LISTEN: NEWS 1130’s Monika Gul explores a new interactive map launched by the BC Coroners Service, which is already generating tips and leads a week after going live. 

In Vancouver alone, almost 40 bodies or body parts have been found, with the crucial question of who that person was remaining unanswered.

“Coroners investigations have five question to answer – not only how, where, when, and by what means someone came to their death but also that very important question of who the deceased is,” Watson says. “There’s a number of missing persons investigations where there hasn’t been closure for families.”

The first day the map was up, the site received 50 times the visitors it usually does. That’s translating to calls to the coroners service and police detachments.

“We’re just going to dive in now, and try and dig deeper into those leads and what they lead to.”

Close to 200 bodies and body parts that have been found around the province remain unidentified. When users click on a point on the map, they are given information such as when the body was found, the sex and race (if known), an estimated age, and other identifying marks like scars or tattoos.

RELATED: BC Coroners Service hopes map of unidentified human remains will lead to tips

The oldest point on the map dates back to 1953 and is known as the Babes in the Woods case.

“A worker at Stanley Park came across two human skulls that ended up being the skulls of two young children,” Watson says.

Who they were is a mystery to this day, and he says if the service can close any investigation through a lead generated by the map, it would be a success.

“For somebody in the public that’s thinking, ‘Maybe I have something to offer, but I’m not sure’ — our message would be: It just might be that missing puzzle piece that links to or three other pieces together that we need to help determine the identity.”

The map is available on the province’s Map Hub website.

With files from Denise Wong and the Canadian Press.