The RCMP has been asked to review the investigation conducted by the Vancouver Police Department into the disappearance and death of Chelsea Poorman, whose remains were discovered in April in the backyard of a vacant Shaughnessy mansion.
The 24-year-old member of the Kawacatoose First Nation was reported missing in September 2020, two days after she left a friend’s apartment in the 1200-block Granville Street, possibly to meet a new boyfriend.
Vancouver Deputy Chief Fiona Wilson told the Vancouver Police Board July 21 that the department contacted RCMP Asst. Comm. Will Ng to have the RCMP conduct a file review of the Poorman investigation.
Wilson said the purpose is to “make sure that there isn't another angle we could look at, or an investigative step that we've missed — and to take some advice from their review, moving forward to see if we can further advance the file.”
“The investigation into the circumstances regarding Ms. Poorman’s disappearance and death remain open and ongoing,” said Wilson, who didn’t indicate how long the review would take.
When police announced in May that Poorman’s remains were found by contractors working on the vacant house in the 1500-block of West 36th Avenue, they said Poorman likely died the night she disappeared or shortly thereafter.
Police said they notified the BC Coroners Service immediately after Poorman’s remains were discovered, but no cause of death was determined. Police also said they were not treating the woman’s death as suspicious, despite the family sharing publicly that Poorman’s cranium and some fingers were missing from her body.
Const. Tania Visintin, a VPD media relations officer, said Monday that the department’s findings were based on evidence collected during a 20-month investigation, which began the day Poorman was reported missing.
“Information from the Coroners Service forms part of that investigation, but is not the sole basis on which our findings are made,” Visintin said in an email. “Evidence that we have collected so far does not lead us to believe her death was the result of a crime. We are, however, continuing to investigate.”
'Second set of eyes'
Until Poorman was discovered, her stepfather, Mike Kiernan, had travelled from Saskatoon to Vancouver in a van, which he covered in photographs and notices featuring Chelsea in hopes someone would contact him about her disappearance.
In an interview Monday (July 25), Kiernan said he was encouraged to hear another police agency was reviewing the VPD’s file on Poorman’s disappearance and death.
“I certainly welcome a second set of eyes on it,” he said by telephone from Saskatoon, where he has returned. “I don't know if the RCMP would be my choice, but it's interesting that they’re doing that though. I wonder what finally brought them to that. It could be media pressure, it could be many, many things.”
Kiernan has been clear in previous interviews with reporters that he is not happy with the VPD’s work on the investigation, saying he believes more attention would have been paid to finding his daughter if she weren’t Indigenous; the VPD has denied the accusation.
Kiernan also shared that he broke into the vacant house on whose property his daughter’s remains were discovered, where he said he found belongings that typically would have come from Chelsea’s purse.
“There’s a lot of DNA evidence left there — a lot of stuff that can be investigated,” he said, noting he later told police about what he did. “They didn’t touch any of it, and just left it there.”
'Unlikely to satisfy family'
Police said the VPD’s missing persons unit and major crime section investigated Poorman’s disappearance. Visintin described the investigation as detailed and complex, with a number of investigative techniques used to gather evidence and information that might lead to finding Poorman.
“As investigators, we must always render our findings based on facts and evidence,” she said, reiterating that police don’t believe Poorman’s death was suspicious. “Following a careful examination of all available facts and information, there is insufficient evidence to suggest her death was the result of a crime.”
Added Visintin: “We know this news is unlikely to satisfy family, friends, and community members who knew Chelsea, loved her, and believe her death must have been the result of foul play.”
Kiernan said Poorman and one of her sister’s got into an argument the night she left the apartment on Granville Street. She later contacted her sister to say she was with her new “bae,” which Kiernan and others took to mean a new boyfriend.
Kiernan said police have also interviewed another man who was connected to Poorman, with the two of them having had some brief contact over social media the night of her disappearance.
'It doesn't make sense'
Despite the police's conclusion about the case, Kiernan believes his daughter was killed somewhere in the city before being moved to the property in Shaughnessy.
“It doesn’t make sense,” he said, noting Chelsea’s cranium was missing when her remains were discovered. “A cellphone is missing, her camera is missing, her identification is missing.”
The deputy chief explained to the police board last Thursday that having another agency review a file is not uncommon, particularly if the case is challenging or complex.
Wilson pointed out this was done in 2019 during a multi-agency police operation — “Project Territory” — that resulted in 92 charges related to firearms, drugs and the seizure of several 1960s era muscle cars.
Police continue to ask that anyone who has information about Chelsea Poorman’s disappearance who has not yet come forward to contact the VPD’s major crime section at 604-717-2500.