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Two escorts found dead in New West apartment complex
Criticism of the handling of two similar deaths in the same New Westminster apartment complex this month has drawn a response from police.
Jill Lyons, 45, was found dead on Aug. 12 just before 10 p.m. in an apartment in the 200 block of 11th Street. The cause of death was unclear and an autopsy was inconclusive. Investigators are waiting for toxicology results to help determine cause of death.
Another woman, Karen Nabors, 48, was found deceased in her home in the same complex on Sunday. NWPD officers found evidence that foul play may have been a factor so the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team was called in.
Since the two victims were in their own apartments, in the same complex and knew each other, IHIT has taken over both investigations.
"Investigators know both women were engaged in a high-risk lifestyle and were working as online escorts," said IHIT spokeswoman Sgt. Jennifer Pound in the press release. "IHIT's priority is to reach out to all escorts and remind them of the risks involved and to take extra precaution as it is unclear at this point why, or even if, they are in fact being targeted."
After the news came out on Monday, Kate Gibson, executive director of the WISH Drop-In Centre Society for sex-trade workers, told CBC News police should have warned the public after Lyons was found. She said similar situations of police not stepping up have occurred in Vancouver, and if New Westminster police and IHIT had issued a warning earlier maybe they could have prevented a second death.
Pound responded to the concerns by issuing a press release Tuesday in which she said, "As police officers we are morally, ethically and legally responsible to balance the protection of the public and the integrity of the investigation. In cases, where suicide is a possibility, there is particular emphasis on the protection of information in order to be empathetic and understanding to the sensitive issues that surround some of our cases."
The release said although the evidence at first appeared Lyons' death was a suicide, the NWPD continued to process the scene as a suspicious death.
Although both deaths remain suspicious, foul play has not been confirmed nor ruled out, said the release. Nabors' autopsy was scheduled for Tuesday with toxicology results pending for both.
IHIT also reissued its warning to individuals engaging in a high-risk lifestyle to take extra precautions.
Anyone with any information is asked to call the IHIT tipline at 1-877-551-IHIT or Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-8477.