The mother of an Indigenous woman whose remains were found a year and a half after she disappeared in Vancouver says she won’t give up trying to find out what happened.
“I’m not going to stop fighting until I get answers about what happened behind that house, about what happened to Chelsea,” said Sheila Poorman of the house in the one of Vancouver’s wealthiest neighborhoods, where her daughter’s remains were found in late April. .
Chelsea Poorman, 24, was reported missing in September 2020. For a year and a half, Sheila Poorman and her two other daughters posted missing persons posters all over town and pleaded with police to do more to find her.
Since Chelsea’s skeletal remains were discovered on the back patio of an unoccupied home in Vancouver’s Shaughnessy neighborhood, her death has raised questions about how police handled the case.
“For the police not to take this seriously, it’s the worst thing I’ve had to go through,” Sheila Poorman said on Saturday, as she joined others at the residence to say prayers and erect signs about missing aboriginal women.
“You know, losing my daughter and them not taking it seriously. I cried [police], I told them that she was vulnerable. They didn’t take me seriously.”
Those attending Saturday’s vigil gave speeches at the property near Granville Street and West 36th Avenue, then marched downtown Vancouver’s entertainment district, where Chelsea Poorman, a Cree woman from Saskatchewan, was last seen.
She had been with her sister Paige Kiernan, having a drink before attending a party at an apartment on Granville Street. Before disappearing, she texted her sister that she was leaving the party to meet a man.
It was the last the family heard from Poorman, who suffered a brain injury and physical disability due to a serious car accident in 2014.
“She was positive no matter what was going on in her life and she always saw the good in other people and she never spoke ill of anyone and that’s the part I loved about Chelsea and that’s the part I’m going to miss,” her mother said.
Investigation “active and ongoing”, according to the police
Since Chelsea’s remains were found, Sheila Poorman and Chelsea Poorman’s father, Mike Kiernan, have criticized police who, when announcing the discovery of Chelsea’s remains, said the death was not suspicious.
Investigators also said that due to the condition of his remains, it would be impossible to know for certain the cause of death.
Poorman and Kiernan said they were unsure whether police closed the case or continued to investigate, and found it hard to believe Poorman went to the property alone and died there.
Both said they were told their daughter was missing fingers and part of her skull, details which police have not made public.
Police maintain the case was never closed and investigators continue to work to find out more about what happened.
On Saturday, Sheila Poorman said police told her they were using dogs to search for more remains of her daughter.
The Vancouver Police Department did not confirm that detail, but said the case was never closed and “remains an active and ongoing investigation.”
“We have discussed the case in detail with the family,” said the constable. Tania Visintin in an email. “We won’t be discussing details of the investigation with the public, however.”
Lorelei Williams, whose cousin disappeared in 1996 and was later named one of Robert Pickton’s victims, helped Chelsea Poorman’s family by organizing several events before and after the discovery of Chelsea’s remains.
She says she knows the pain that Sheila Poorman, Mike Kiernan and the Chelsea sisters face.
“I know it all too well,” she said.
William says she hopes the continued attention to the case will translate into advice and information.
“Somebody had to see something,” she said. “Just anything. You know when people get together ideas come out and it can help support their families.”