Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Pacific North West macabre shoe finds

Washed up shoes containing human feet continue in British Columbia with the most recent find in December 2017. According to CNN, this is the thirteenth such discovery on the same stretch of coast since 2007.

The British Columbia Coroners Service says the 12 feet found earlier all belonged to humans, and that eight of them have been identified. Early analysis suggests the latest find is human and further investigation and testing in ongoing. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in conjunction with the Coroners Service are trying to identify the foot, the cause of death, and whether it matches any records for missing persons.

In 2016, a pair of running shoes containing human feet washed up on on Botanical Beach almost a week apart. The BC Coroners Service Identification Unit were able to confirm the macabre findings were a matching pair of human feet. To date the owner has not been identified. Forensic inquiry includes identifying make, size and colour of the shoes to trace where that particular type of shoe was first sold in North America. In the absence of other forms of identification, other than missing persons, shoe provenance helps investigators identify a time line i.e. when these shoes were manufactured and sold. Limited edition trainers are especially helpful.

Feet disarticulate naturally after a body is exposed to prolonged immersion in water, however, the feet in all cases, were preserved by the rubber soled shoes. The shoe not only protects the decomposing foot but because its buoyancy floats on the tides it can carry them hundreds of miles. Fish are unable to chew through them and the remains were taken by the tide and deposited at random places along the coast of British Columbia in Canada and Washington State in the U.S. British Columbia coroner, Stephen Fonseca, was convinced the earliest finds did not belong to victims of the Asian Tsunami of 2004 and has also dismissed the theory they were victims of human trafficking or stowaways who smuggled themselves onto a container ship as it left Vancouver. The BC Coroners Service has been able to identify 10 of the previous 12 feet, belonging to seven individuals. In none of the cases was any foul play involved. Seems on the balance of probability most belonged to suicides who threw themselves off nearby bridges.

According to reports in the Canadian press, the discoveries began in August 2007 when a man's foot was found on Jedediah Island, northeast of Nanaimo in British Columbia. Over the next five years they have turned up with occasional regularity on nearby beaches and always clad in a rubber soled shoe. Pranksters have made the investigation more difficult and in 2008, a hoax ‘foot’ was planted on Vancouver Island which renewed interest in the case. Through painstaking work the forensic experts cross-checked the locations where the feet were found with missing person’s directories. Tide flows and data on where the shoes were manufactured. It appears most of the victims jumped from a bridge over the Fraser River, which flows into the Pacific Ocean at Vancouver.

More information
Why are severed feet washing up in Pacific North-west? Newsday BBC World Service
Quackenbush C. 2017 A Foot Has Been Found on the Beach in Canada. It's the 13th Such Discovery in a Decade Time December 11, 2017

Reviewed 13/12/2017

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