North Vancouver neighbourhood honours site where body found
If the shock and sadness of the initial discovery wasn’t enough, there soon came the grief of knowing that someone mistook their North Vancouver neighbourhood for the kind of place where one could dump a body with indifference.
The grisly discovery on Aug. 18 of what homicide investigators say is the remains of a young woman, poorly concealed near a well-used walking path, left many Lower Capilano residents afraid to leave their homes or venture down that path at night.
“It made me sad because as a community we’d never really dealt with it in a public way,” Lower Cap resident Doug Curran told The Outlook.
With that in mind, Curran enlisted the help of Squamish Nation spiritual leader Eugene Harry and, together with a dozen neighbours, they held a vigil to “take back the neighbourhood,” and lift the pall of guilt many residents still reported feeling.
It was Curran who discovered the body that August evening, after the smell of decay had already plagued the neighbourhood for days.
Armed with a shovel and the intention to “bury whatever I found,” Curran walked down the path linking Belle Isle Place and Curling Road, following his nose into the bush.
But what he found there, partially burned on a bed of scorched leaves, made him turn tail and call the police.
The RCMP’s Integrated Homicide Investigation Team took over the scene the following day, telling reporters the apparent concealment of the body indicated foul play.
A month passed before details of the victim’s gender, approximate age — mid-twenties to early-forties — and appearance, were known.
In the time since the discovery, police say they have received a few leads in the case, but no major breaks have been announced and no arrests made.
And so it was amid all that unknowing that, on Dec. 23, Curran and his neighbours congregated at the spot where the body was found to place candles along the path and light up a large LED cross four metres above the approximate spot where the woman was discovered.
There were songs and prayers, hot chocolate and mulled wine. There was a tent for shelter, though the night was clear.
“We did the candlelight service to bring her into the light and make sure she wasn’t lost,” Harry, the Squamish elder and minister told The Outlook. “My part was just to make sure that she was okay and to comfort the people living there.”
It’s a ceremony he’s been called to perform in hospitals across Metro Vancouver with some frequency, Harry said, particularly after someone has died without any friends or family nearby.
“They feel the spirit is lost, still wandering around, and needs to be set free,” he said.
But perhaps it’s really the survivors who need to be set free.
“It’s given people a lot of comfort and reassurance walking through there,” Curran said of the lighted cross that will illuminate the foot-path until the end of the month.
“It was important to the community to have a form of closure — a recognition of what had happened and what it means now to the community.”