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Gone Boys: Connecting the dots on Vancouver Island’s missing men

Last Updated Mar 1, 2021 at 7:37 am PDT


Could there be a link between the cases of missing men on Vancouver Island? 'Gone Boys' explores the possibility

It can be difficult to rely on statistics when talking about missing men as not all data is captured

One expert believes it may simply take time and more missing men before a trend could emerge

Nova is a dominatrix on Vancouver Island. Last year she began noticing men on the Island were disappearing and decided to do something about it.

“I’ve always been not exactly in the mainstream and I’ve always had an interest in crime and unsolved cases,” she says. “Looking at the cases here, seeing one person going missing, Oh, it’s unfortunate. Seeing two, oh, that’s strange. Seeing three, four, five, six? It just really jumps out at me. “

Nova is an amateur map maker and data analyst. She pulled together a map of the missing men and shared it on reddit.

“I started looking at cases from 2000 onward, simply because I had to pick a start date to really dive in,” she explains. “I’ve indicated the last known location of the gentlemen, whether they were on foot in a vehicle or if it was unknown in certain cases. Markers also have their photos and information from news articles, Crime Stoppers, missing persons, anything I can find for details. I’ve created categories for gentlemen, age 15 to 35, 35 to 50 and 50 onward. Just to attempt to see if there are more similarities that we can isolate just by turning off certain pointers on the knots, basically.”

Nova is not alone in wondering if the missing men cases could be linked. There are hundreds of posts and comments in online groups and forums from Islanders concerned something sinister could be afoot.

“There are a lot of baffling disappearances of young men in B.C.,” says Nova. “I’ve noticed over the last several years a strange spike in seeing missing posters of very similar aged/ looking men. I’m glad I’m not the only one who considered a potential connection.

“Law enforcement denied for years that there was a link between all the missing women from the DTES in Vancouver. If nothing is done, we will find out a terrible truth year from now about the fates of all these men,” Nova adds.

But does any of this amount to more than rumour and speculation?

Statistics Canada does not keep track of data around missing people. Because ‘missing persons’ does not always imply a criminal event, it falls outside the agency’s scope for data collection.

The RCMP’s National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains (NCMPUR) tracks missing persons data across the country. Its database became operational in 2014.

Since 2015, the centre has published yearly fact sheets.

Kevin O’Shea is a strategic advisor with the NCMPUR. He says occurrences are broken down by province and it would be difficult to break out statistics captured by agencies on Vancouver Island.

“I hate to speculate on what could be possible,” he admits. “I think the data may be there to do that. When you talk about a baseline of what is normal? I don’t know if there is such a thing as normal. Over time, things change a little bit. But a lot of the anomalies you might be looking for maybe hard to actually notice in the general flux of one year over the other.”

As for whether the RCMP’s database algorithm could detect an uptick on Vancouver Island, O’Shea says, “It does automated checking all the time.”

“Every time new information comes in, it’s always checking. It has an algorithm looking for patterns of that sort, perpetrator patterns,” he explains. “We’ve tried to hone the algorithm over time. The difficulty is trying to base it on the information that’s there. And a lot of the information that we would like to have just isn’t available, it’s just not necessarily recorded. So, yes, it can pick up similar occurrences. Is it finding a perpetrators? That needs a much finer comb to find those.”

Cpl. Chris Manseau, who speaks for the RCMP on Vancouver Island, doesn’t see anything unusual in the number of missing men or any evidence to suggest the cases could be connected.

“I think if the statistics were managed the exact same way every year, year over year, and you use the same parameters, I think it would look very, very similar. I don’t think that there’s an increase. There’s been nothing to indicate that there’s anything that links to files together,” Manseau explains.

However, he does add a caveat.

“I know that some investigations are going on behind the scenes where information may be available to those investigators, not myself and not to the public, where people may be considered missing. But there’s still a background investigation that’s going on and new information may or may not be released as they’re trying to wait for that final piece of information to push them over the edge,” Manseau says.

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Years before the arrest of Robert Pickton, Kim Rossmo — a now-former Vancouver Police detective — wanted to issue a warning about a serial killer on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

“This is a, not an uncommon phenomenon with government organizations it’s referred to as the low probability high impact problem. So, it’s very unlikely that it will ever occur, but if it does occur, if it’s a major disaster,” explains Rossmo, who is now a professor in the School of Criminal Justice at Texas State University.

In the absence of statistical proof or forensic evidence, Rossmo offered his thoughts on what it would take before authorities would conclude the missing men’s cases could be connected.

“I like to think of a crime as the tip of an iceberg. And there’s a lot of stuff going on below the surface before the crime actually happens. So there should be some instances where the offender tried to get someone into his car and was unsuccessful. The police should be looking for such examples or anything else that is suspicious,” he explains.

For now, Rossmo believes it may simply take time and more missing men before a trend could emerge.

“I hate to say this, but sometimes it just ends up being a big unknown until there are more victims and each case adds to your certainty level, look how many it was before  we could even start talking about a police response to the missing women,” he adds.

Until then, Nova says she will continue to plot out the missing men’s cases on a map, hoping that it could spark interest.

“The feedback that I got was really encouraging. People checked it out and volunteered more information about other cases that I was able to look into. I stayed up all night editing the map, because I just got so much more information. I added about 15 more cases just that day. The more I dig into various news articles, it tells you the block radius, it tells you what parking lot they were in what direction they were headed. And that is important to know,” Nova says.

Listen to Gone Boys, a true-crime podcast part of the Island Crime series, for more on Vancouver Island’s missing men. Gone Boys drops a new episode every Monday. You can catch them on the Frequency Podcast Network.

Rogers Sports & Media is the parent company of this station and the Frequency Podcast Network.