2 min

Trans prostitute killed

Have police learned anything? asks activist

NEED TO CHANGE BAWDY HOUSE LAWS: Jamie Lee Hamilton says the murder of Tracey Tom points out the need for safe space for prostitutes to ply their time-honoured trade. Credit: Xtra West files

The killing of an Asian transsexual prostitute in North Vancouver May 31 has sex trade activists wondering if the police have learned any lessons from the Downtown Eastside missing- women case.

Shelby “Tracey” Tom, 40, a transsexual sex trade worker, was found dead in a shopping cart behind a North Vancouver laundromat.

Tom was generous and giving, says activist Jamie Lee Hamilton. Tom was “absolutely stunning,” says Hamilton, who remembers her as a hard-working, high track, high-priced prostitute who was proud of her half-million-dollar West End condo, her Mercedes and her beloved pet beagle.

“She was a gentle woman and could also diss like the rest of us; however, she always displayed respect and dignity to all she met,” Hamilton says.

Jatin Patel, 29, of no fixed address has been charged with second degree murder in connection with the death. Police allege he met Tom in downtown Vancouver and then took a taxi to a Travel Lodge on North Vancouver’s Marine Drive.

Patel has appeared in court and was remanded in custody until Jun 26.

RCMP say Patel was identified early in the investigation. He was arrested two days after Tom’s body was found.

But, Hamilton says, she finds it strange Tom would have crossed to North Vancouver with a trick. She is firmly convinced the killing was hate motivated, similar to that of Aaron Webster in Stanley Park Nov 17, 2001.

Hamilton wants to know why it took the police several days to tell the community about Tom’s death. Other sex trade workers could have been at risk, she says.

“There should have been a warning.”

Hamilton likens that lack of notice to apparent police apathy in the missing-women case. She is now demanding greater transparency in police dealings with the public-especially with the advent of a specialized regional murder unit combining resources of all area police.

In the missing-women case, Robert William Pickton, 53, is charged with 15 counts of first degree murder in connection with more than 60 female sex trade workers and drug addicts who disappeared over a period of 20 years.

“No one in a society is a throwaway,” Hamilton says. “We have very real lives. We have the same needs.”

Hamilton, who was charged in 2000 with running a common bawdy house in Vancouver’s Eastside, says Tom’s death shows the need to change outdated bawdy house laws to allow prostitutes a safe place to work.

A candlelight memorial for Tom will be held Jun 12 on the 1100 block of Davie St at dusk.