Still strewn with spent hypodermic needles, condoms, snack bags and detritus from people who have used the city lot for everything from getting high to sleeping, this spot is sacred, native elders say.
The vacant lot at 106 Avenue and 135A Street is where 45-year-old Janice Shore was beaten beyond recognition just over a year ago, an attack that eventually ended her life.
The wanton act of violence deeply affected many in the community. Among them are three aboriginal elders – Tom Oleman, 68, Wally LaVigne, 64, and Bernie Parkinson, 73 – who work at the nearby Cwenengitel Aboriginal Housing Society, a recovery house for First Nations people.
Some time ago, they attached aboriginal “spiritual ties” to a tree on the lot where Shore was found.
Prior to her brutal assault on Dec. 2, 2012, Shore, who suffered from bipolar disorder, was last seen between 2:30 and 3 a.m. headed through the Flamingo Hotel looking for tobacco, then along Whalley’s notorious strip on 106 Avenue and 135A Street.
She was later found slumped near a large tree on the vacant lot, moaning for help.
Shore’s friend Ken Smith, who found her, told The Leader he didn’t recognize her at first, as her face had been pummeled so badly.
He referred to that area of Whalley as the “dead zone,” where crime doesn’t get reported.
It was eight days after the attack that police issued a public request for witnesses to Shore’s beating.
Her prognosis wasn’t good. She clung to life for more than two months and on Feb. 18, she succumbed to her injuries.
Not much has changed at the vacant lot in nearly a year, save for a picture of Shore pinned to the tree and a view of Surrey’s new $97-million city hall, which now overlooks the site of the attack.
The elders were drawn to do something after learning a member of the public had recently put up a small memorial at the site, only to have it torn down the next day.
Oleman said it’s an insult to both Shore’s memory and the people who want to honour her.
“Why would they tear it down? We have (memorial) signs all over the highway,” he said.
On Feb. 8, the trio will conduct a small ceremony and start a four-day fast at the site, a custom they believe will send Shore’s spirit off to another plane.
And they are inviting all members of the community – spiritually minded or not – to join in on the ceremony.
Oleman, 68, speaks in soft tones, but with a conviction that inspires the listener to lean in to hear a little better.
“The thing that brings us in here is the real sad thing about someone having to die that way,” Oleman said. “The big message that we have to the Surrey community is that our place needs to be safe.”
Oleman feels there should have been a stronger reaction from the community about Shore’s death, as there has been when murders occur in other areas of the city.
“There’s no other way to say it – some of the higher-profile cases get more manpower than this poor person who died as a result of being beaten here.”
It’s a First Nations tradition to wait about a year after someone’s death before conducting any ceremonies, Oleman said, giving the spirit of the departed a chance to find its way.
With that in mind, the three elders will be take part in a four-day fast at the site starting Saturday, Feb. 8 and continuing to Feb. 12.
All members of the public are encouraged to come and pay respects on Saturday, Feb. 8 beginning at noon.
So far, there have been no significant developments in finding Shore’s killer.
Sgt. Bari Emam, a spokesperson with the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT), said a team of 10 officers remains on the Shore case, and more will be brought on as they are needed.
Several tips have come through the IHIT tip line, but none have led to a suspect or person of interest.
Emam is renewing a call for anyone who has information to come forward, and stresses their identity will be protected if they are fearful for their safety.
Anyone who has information is asked to call the IHIT tip line at 1-877-551-4448, email firstname.lastname@example.org or make a report anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.