Theories abound as fifth foot washes up in BC
Two right feet were found within six days of each other in August, on different small islands only a few dozen kilometres apart. A third right foot washed up in February, a little further to the south. Last month, a fourth right foot, reportedly a woman's, was spotted by a passerby in the sweeping Fraser River delta, closer to Vancouver.
And on Monday, yet another foot was found, also in the delta. A left foot, this one. Like all the others, it was encased in a running shoe, sock on.
Despite the similarities there is nothing to reveal their origin, or so police investigators let on.
"Hold back" evidence -- information that only someone with knowledge of an event or crime would know, such as type of shoe, distinguishing characteristics of a foot -- is something that police hold dear.
But investigators have at least indicated that none of the feet were detached from their limbs by mechanical means; they were not severed.
A simple and expeditious process of decomposition is responsible instead.
The footwear in which all five feet were found saved them from further disintegration. It also allowed them to float. The feet might have drifted down the Fraser, from any number of communities and tributaries in the B. C. interior.
Alternatively, they might have first touched water in the Strait of Georgia, which separates the B. C. mainland from Vancouver Island.
Of course, the feet might have originated in several different places. Where? When? It's almost impossible to determine with any precision, say forensic experts. Most vexing, of course, is that no one has determined to whom the feet belonged.
The most popular theory at the moment seems to be that the feet came from four victims of a plane crash off the south coast of British Columbia three years ago. DNA samples have been taken, but it may take a long time to make any kind of a match, given the decomposition of the tissue of the feet.
Kevin Decock, whose two brothers were aboard the plane which went down near Quadra Island, in the Georgia Strait, has spent hours searching for their bodies and dragged a hook along the seabed only two weeks before the first foot appeared. "I believed I could have stirred something up," he said.
Gail Anderson, a criminologist at Vancouver's Simon Fraser University and specialist in forensic decomposition, said that the appearance of five feet is not necessarily sinister.
“I’m beginning to think it might be a boat or plane that went down, and then something shifted, through seismic activity or a boat, that is making it release all these body parts now,” Ms Anderson said. “The reason only feet have been found is because they are in running shoes and protected.”
Experts say that feet normally come apart from legs in water as the flesh turns into adipocere tissue, a soap-like substance that scavengers and microbes avoid.
“This one stretches everyone’s imagination but we really need to remember that these remains are someone’s loved one," said Chief Coroner Terry Smith. "I’m reluctant to treat this as some sort of crime thriller.”
Mr Smith insists that foul play is not suspected: "There is no other process going on than disarticulation of the feet."