Sunday, March 15, 1998

Michele Mandel

Shameful silence over hookers' slaying

Donna was supposed to be squaring up. Those were her plans; last weekend was going to be her last working the streets. On Monday, she was booked on a flight back to Vancouver and her love, Leon, and their son, Mason, with their growing baby -- hopefully a daughter -- swelling inside her.

"She was getting out, squaring up," says her best friend, Robin. "It was the white picket fence dream. She kept saying, "Just two days to paradise."

Escape was hours away, but he got to her first. He left her splayed body in a wind-blown gravel parking lot off Jarvis St. where it was found last Sunday morning. She had been strangled.

"She was posed, with her skirt over her head and her panties at her ankles," rages Anastasia Kuzyk of Sex Workers' Alliance, a description the police won't confirm. "Dumped like a sack of garbage. It's like he's trying to taunt the police. He's trying to taunt us."

Yet listen to the silence. I have written too many of these. Yet another prostitute has been slain this year. Another candlelight vigil will be held, this one tonight at 9, once again in Allan Gardens.

More tears shed, more fear expressed, more anger that a killer -- or killers --stalks them with impunity. Yet listen to the silence.

Donna Oglive, 24, is the fifth prostitute murdered in Toronto since January 1997. Five in little more than a year. Substitute five taxi drivers murdered, or five night watchman. Dangerous professions all. Image the public outrage. What does it take for this to enrage us?

Ashamedly, perhaps it was too easy to ignore the other victims -- they were "low track" prostitutes, the girls who ply Parkdale and Regent Park, hollowed-eyed, whisper-thin girls fighting crack or booze, wasted bodies who sold themselves for $20 bucks so they could feed the monster within. Easy prey. Easy to dismiss.

Even Donna's friend, Robin, knows how unfair it is to think that way, but admits, she was guilty all the same. "We used to think, nah, he's down on low track, he' going after junkies. I'm not being rude, but they've already wasted their lives. I know it's wrong, but part of me thinks, why not stay with them?"

And now he's moved up. Or has he? The police won't say it's the work of a serial killer, won't say it isn't. "I like to remain open-minded," Homicide Det. Scott Bronson says. "I won't speculate until there is some linkage and I'm not there yet."

So Donna's death is not being investigated by the special task force that was set up after the discovery of Darlene MacNeill's strangled and partially clothed body in Lake Ontario in October. They are hunting for her killer and those of two other strangled prostitutes dumped in the lake in 1994.

Still, many of the working girls have already made up their minds. There's a serial killer out there who's now bold enough to set his sights on those who ply high track, the area about Carlton and Sherbourne where the girls are prettier, pricier, smarter.

Donna didn't drink, didn't do drugs. She'd been with the same guy for more than six years. They had moved to Vancouver some time ago, but Donna had come back for a few weeks to settle an insurance claim. Two weeks became five, and she worked the street to pay her bills. Her friends teased her, though, that with her pregnancy she was sleeping her working hours away.

She didn't start until about 1 a.m. that morning, Robin recalls. They linked up about 3 a. m. inside their favorite coffee shop at Church St. and McGill. They warmed up, complained about the slow night, talked about the settlement cheque Donna was finally going to pick up Monday from the lawyers.

And then she was out of here, home to Vancouver, to Leon and their two-year-old Mason and her new life. "She was so exited," Robin recalls. "It was a fairy tale. And this guy destroyed it."

Another friend saw her about 5 a.m. just before he was called out on a job for emergency glass repair. "She was the most beautiful girl out there," says Tom. "I should have been there. I promised I'd keep my eye on her after she told me she was pregnant. She wanted a little girl. ..."

Her friends took up a collection and quickly raised the $2000 they needed for a coffin and viewing here before her body was sent back west for burial.

For an hour, they wept over her beautiful face. "But then they had to close the coffin," Robin says with a shudder. Tears were falling from Donna's left eye. Tears, I think, for our shameful silence.

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Created: April 23, 1998
Last modified: May 21, 1998

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