Triple-X workers shaken by the death of two escorts in New West

A group calling themselves "Triple-X Workers" sent an email to news media on August 30, saying the police suspected foul play in the deaths of two sex trade workers and calling for "justice in the deaths of two New Westminster workers".

Angel Gates in her Downtown Eastside apartment in a photograph by Krystle Alarcon

Jill Lyons, who worked as an escort, was found dead last summer on August 12. RCMP didn't issue a public warning after her death until they found escort Karen Nabors dead thirteen days later in the same apartment building where Lyons had died, the Elmwood Apartment on 11th Avenue in New Westminster.

A group calling themselves "Triple-X Workers" sent an email to news media on August 30, saying the police suspected foul play and calling for "justice in the deaths of two New Westminster workers".

"We remind Triple-X Workers to stay safe," the email said.

To date, no arrests have been made.

The apartment building in New West where Lyons and Nabors' bodies were found in a photograph by Krystle Alarcon

“It’s fishy that we haven’t heard anything about that. They (the RCMP) haven’t publicized what they died of yet. That’s of interest to girls like me. We should be told so we’re not living in fear,”  Angel Gates, a prostitute in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, told the Vancouver Observer.

“We’re all talking about it. There’s warning signs up all over here because we’re not sure if someone is targeting prostitutes or not,” Gates, who used to work near the building six years ago, added.

Gates only meets clients she already knows, having quit street prostitution and crack cocaine nine months ago. And even though the events took place in New West, they still resonate with her.

“I'm a veteran. I've been out here a long time and I'm too scared to go back onto the streets until I hear a little less violence towards women. It’s just getting sick. It’s worse now than I’ve ever seen it in my whole life,” said the 36-year-old woman who said she was forced into prostitution by her own mother, a former sex worker herself, when she was only 11.

Gates once broke her fingers in a near-death experience with a john, but instead of calling the police, she described the incident to a non-profit called WISH. It hands out food, condoms and clean needles to sex workers from a van that cruises the streets of the city every night.

The van gives prostitutes a list of “bad dates” with full descriptions of the incidents, including the kind of car the client was driving, Gates said.

In the past, Gates said she has had to “brush off” abuse by johns. “I would just cry and take a shot of vodka, more pissed off that he didn’t pay me than that he raped me."

Trisha Baptie, a former prostitute for 15 years and a close friend of Gates, echoed Gates' comments on the violence inherent to the sex industry.

“There’s the physical violence that you face because you’re in a house or a car or apartment with a stranger,” she said. And there are “little acts of violence” that take a toll on “prostituted” women. “It’s also the verbal abuse that I really remember, the name-calling, the talking down to you. It stays with you for a very long time,” she said.

Baptie criticized the RCMP for blaming the victims in a release sent to local media about the deaths.

“Unfortunately, there’s a statement like ‘engaged in a high-risk lifestyle.’ We’re really trying to get the police away from that kind of language and those kinds of warnings,” she said.

But the two women were indeed vulnerable, as at "some point," they were using drugs, on top of being escorts and meeting clients online,  Sgt. Jennifer Pound, a spokesperson for the The Integrated Homicide Investigative Team, said.

The statement from Aug. 26th indicated toxicology results are still being conducted for Lyons’ death and that evidence found in Nabors' apartment showed foul play might have been involved. Investigations into the deaths continue, Pound said.

Baptie told me that she wants to go beyond fighting for solutions on a case-by-case basis. She has been advocating for an end to prostitution through a group she founded called EVE, which stands for Formerly Exploited Voices Now Educating. 

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