Ahhh.  Well that was timely

New leads emerge after B.C. police reveal shoes that held severed feet


ANNA MEHLER PAPERNY
July 12, 2008

VANCOUVER — The RCMP are following three new missing-persons files they hope are connected with the five feet that have washed up off the southern coast of British Columbia in the past year.

Five calls came in to the RCMP’s information line after the police revealed the brands and size of the shoes the feet were clad in, said RCMP Sergeant Tim Shields. Two of the calls were hang-ups and three look like legitimate leads. “They’re being taken seriously, they appear legitimate and we’re following up as quickly as we can,” he said. “They all related to missing people – [the callers were] people who believed they had further information based on the shoes.”

Sgt. Shields said police have been in contact with the shoes’ manufacturers – Nike, New Balance, Reebok and Campus – so they can establish a time frame as to when the shoe’s owner could have gone missing.

Investigators are not trying to find what stores sold the shoes and to whom, which Sgt. Shields said would be “extremely difficult.”

Nike Canada spokeswoman Jane Shaw said the RCMP contacted the company recently for information regarding the two matching size 11 Nike shoes – one found on Valdes Island on Feb. 2, the other on Kirkland Island on June 16. Police said DNA analyses showed the pair came from the same man.

Ms. Shaw said she couldn’t say when police contacted them, but it may have been as recently as this week. Nike shoes have information on them that would indicate where and when the shoe was made and possibly where it was sold.

New Balance spokeswoman Amy Vreeland said the RCMP have run a check on the model number for the New Balance shoe found on Kirkland Island May 22 – the only one of the five belonging to a woman.

Connecting the feet to a missing-person file is investigators’ best bet; coroners’ and forensic anthropologists’ investigations of the feet have yielded little information aside from DNA samples and the victims’ sex.

Mark Skinner, a forensic anthropologist from Simon Fraser University, said it’s possible to determine a person’s age, height, origin, occupation and even diet from the bones and nails of their feet, but so far analysts have not succeeded. He said the rash of washed-up feet on B.C. shores – and a shoe-clad foot found on a beach in Tylosand, Sweden, on Tuesday – is forcing forensic anthropologists to rethink their field.

“These standards are better developed for other parts of the body than the feet,” Prof. Skinner said. “This find of five feet is something we really, I think, should have anticipated but haven’t adequately, and we’re going to have to respond better to it.”

He thinks feet will continue to wash up because more people wear sneakers made of rubber or other floating material. “There is this natural phenomenon of wearing footwear that floats,” he said.

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