BC Coroner’s Service launches computer tool to help identify human remains

Denise Titian, April 5, 2019

In February 2016 a pair of matching human feet encased in black and blue New Balance shoes was found at Botanical Beach, Port Renfrew in Pacheedaht territory. This is one of several unsolved cases the province is highlighting with an online tool available to the public. (BC Coroner photo)

British Columbia — 

The BC Coroner’s Service in partnership with various police agencies have launched a website dubbed the Unidentified Human Remains (UHR) Viewer, featuring a map of the province marked with the locations of sites where unidentified human remains were found.

“The BC Coroner’s Service, in conjunction with municipal police or RCMP, seeks your assistance to help to identify human remains,” reads in the website.

The BC Coroner’s Service says there are nearly 200 unsolved UHR cases in the province; the oldest dating back to the 1940’s at Stanley Park in Vancouver known as the Babes in the Woods Case. The skeletal remains of two small boys were discovered by a Parks worker in January 1953. The deaths were deemed homicides and the boys have never been identified.

DNA samples have been collected from the remains and it has been determined that the boys, both less than 10 years old, were half-brothers, sharing the same mother. Their DNA samples are being added to online consumer DNA databases like Ancestry and 23andMe in hopes that relative matches can help solve the mystery of the boys’ identities.

Closer to home, there are four UHR cases in Nuu-chah-nulth territories – all males, and it appears all were in the water at one time.

The oldest case dates back to Oct. 5, 1980 when the remains of a male were discovered near the shoreline of Barclay Sound between Ucluelet and Toquaht territory. The race and age is unknown and it is estimated that the individual had been deceased between five and 20 years.

In February 1992 the remains of a male were located near a beach in Hesquiaht Harbour. The Caucasian male was estimated to be between the ages of 25 and 50, 5-7 to 5-11 tall. He had US currency in the pocket of his Levis blue jeans.

Four months later, in June 1992 the remains of an Asian male between the ages of 40 and 80 were found offshore near Ucluelet.

In February 2016 a pair of matching human feet encased in black and blue New Balance shoes was found at Botanical Beach, Port Renfrew in Pacheedaht territory. The age and race of the male is unknown but it was determined that the individual had suffered injuries to both feet during his lifetime. There is evidence of past injuries to the left heel, left ankle and right big toe. The shoes, size 12, were sold after March 2013. It is believed that the individual went missing between March 2013 and January 2016.

To view the UHR Interactive viewer visit https://governmentofbc.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=1a60c24b82ed41699d8a55338fb11076&extent=-15708075.5817%2C5881908.303%2C-11980394.5863%2C7951211.5327%2C102100

Click on color-coded markers for basic information about the UHR case. There is a link to Canada’s Missing website that offers additional information about some of the UHR cases both in B.C. and the rest of Canada.

If you have any information regarding any of the investigations displayed, please contact the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) at BCC.SIU@gov.bc.ca. Your information will be treated confidentially.