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Friday, 8 February, 2002, 07:29 GMT
Pig farm searched for missing women
The house under investigation in Port Coquitlam
Police say the search could take several weeks
By Janet Williams in Vancouver

Police from Vancouver, British Columbia, are searching a pig farm as part of an investigation into the disappearance of at least 50 women over the last 20 years.

Vancouver at night
The women were all sex workers in Vancouver

The officers are searching the farm near Port Coquitlam, about 35 kilometres (22 miles) from the city, after going there to investigate an alleged firearms offence.

One of the owners of the farm has been arrested.

The police say the new search is a major development in the case of the missing women, who worked in the sex trade in Vancouver.

Major operation

More than 30 police officers spent all day Thursday at the waterlogged, ramshackle farm, fencing off a large section of the site.

They have set up a mobile command centre and say the search of the farm, which covers 11 hectares (27 acres) could take days, if not weeks.

A police spokeswoman confirmed that the search is linked to the disappearance of more than 50 women who worked mainly in the sex-trade on the east side of Vancouver, one of Canada's poorest areas.

She said that the Missing Women Task Force, formed to investigate the disappearances, had spent months reviewing old files.

This had sparked interest in the farm.

Firearms

Members of the task force accompanied Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who visited the premises on Tuesday night with a warrant to search for an illegal firearm.

One of the farm's owners was arrested on firearms charges, but released pending a court appearance later this month.

The Missing Women Task Force then gained their own search warrant, returning to the farm the next day.

Late last year a team of Canadian officers travelled to Seattle, over the border in the United States, to talk to police investigating the killing there of at least 45 women - dating back to 1982.

The Seattle police have recently charged a man, Gary Leon Ridgway, with four of those murders.

However, the Canadian police have found no evidence to link him to the disappearances of women north of the border.

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