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Discoveries of human feet on British Columbia beaches, 2007–2009: Wikis

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Southern Gulf Islands (British Columbia) in the Strait of Georgia

Since August 2007, eight disarticulated (i.e. legless) human feet have been discovered in coastal British Columbia, Canada, and an eighth in nearby Washington, United States. The feet belong to five men and one woman, the two left feet having been matched with two of the six right feet. As of August 2008, only one foot has been identified; it is not known to whom the rest of the feet belong. In addition, a hoax "foot" was planted on Vancouver Island.

Contents

Discoveries

The first foot was discovered on August 20, 2007, on Jedediah Island, by a girl visiting from Washington.[1] The girl found the foot when she picked up a shoe and opened the sock, finding the foot.[2] The foot was that of a man, and was found wearing a size 12 Adidas shoe and a sock. It is thought to have become disarticulated due to submerged decay.[1] This kind of shoe was produced in 2003 and distributed mainly in India.[3]

The second foot was discovered by a couple on August 26 on Gabriola Island. It was also that of a man, and also became disarticulated due to decay.[1] It was waterlogged and appeared to have been taken ashore by an animal. It probably floated ashore from the south.[2] This shoe was produced in 2004 and sold worldwide, and the type has since been discontinued.[3]

The third foot was discovered on February 8, 2008, on Valdes Island.[4] It was also a man's right foot and was wearing a sneaker and a sock.[5] This shoe was sold in Canada or the United States between February 1, 2003, and June 30, 2003.[3]

The fourth foot was discovered on May 22 on Kirkland Island, an island in the Fraser Delta between Richmond and Delta, British Columbia. It was also wearing a sock and sneaker.[6] It is thought to have washed down the Fraser River, having nothing to do with the ones found in the Gulf Islands.[7] This right foot was of a woman.[8] The shoe was a New Balance sneaker[9] manufactured in 1999.[3]

The fifth foot was on June 16, floating in water near Westham Island, part of Delta.[8] It was found floating in the water by two hikers.[10] It has been confirmed that the left foot found on June 16 on Westham Island and the right foot found February 8 on Valdes Island belonged to the same man.[3][11]

Another foot was discovered on August 1, 2008, by a camper on a beach near Pysht, Washington. It was covered in seaweed. The site of the discovery was less than 16 kilometers from the international border in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Testing confirmed that the right foot was human. Police say the large black-top, size 11 athletic shoe for a right foot contains bones and flesh. This was the first foot of the series to be found outside of British Columbia. The RCMP and Clallam County Sheriff's Department agreed on August 5 that the foot could have been carried south from Canadian waters.[12][13]

Another foot was discovered on November 11, 2008, in Richmond.[14] The foot was in a shoe that was found floating in the Fraser River. The shoe was described as a small New Balance running shoe, possibly a woman's shoe.[9] A forensic DNA profiling analysis indicated that it was a genetic match to the foot discovered on May 22 on Kirkland Island.[15]

In July 2008 it was announced that one foot had been identified by Vancouver police as belonging to a man who was depressed and probably committed suicide.[14] His identity was withheld on request of his family.

On October 28, 2009 another foot had been inside a running shoe found on a beach in Richmond.[16]

Table of discoveries
Date Place Notes Coordinates
August 20, 2007 Jedediah Island A man's right foot

49°29′55″N 124°12′15″W / 49.49861°N 124.20417°W / 49.49861; -124.20417 (August 20, 2007)

August 26, 2007 Gabriola Island A man's right foot 49°09′00″N 123°43′59″W / 49.15°N 123.733°W / 49.15; -123.733 (August 26, 2007)
February 8, 2008 Valdes Island A man's right foot (same person as June 16 finding)

49°05′N 123°40′W / 49.083°N 123.667°W / 49.083; -123.667 (February 8, 2008)

May 22, 2008 Kirkland Island A woman's right foot (same person as November 11 finding)

49°06′39″N 123°05′44″W / 49.110905°N 123.095627°W / 49.110905; -123.095627 (May 22, 2008)

June 16, 2008 Westham Island A man's left foot (same person as February 8 finding) 49°05′N 123°09′W / 49.083°N 123.15°W / 49.083; -123.15 (June 16, 2008)
August 1, 2008 near Pysht, Washington A right foot, only U.S. find so far
November 11, 2008 Richmond A woman's left foot (same person as May 22 finding)
October 28, 2009 Richmond A man's right foot
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Sixth foot hoax

The sixth "foot", which was discovered on June 18, 2008, on Tyee Spit near Campbell River on Vancouver Island,[17] was a hoax.[18] The hoax was a "skeletonized animal paw" which was put in a sock and shoe and then stuffed with dried seaweed. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have begun an investigation into the hoax, and an arrest could result in charges of public mischief.[17]

Theories

The series of discoveries has been called "astounding" and "almost beyond explanation", as no other body parts have turned up.[19] The discoveries have caused speculation that the feet may be those of people who died in a boating accident or a plane crash in the ocean.[1] One explanation is that some of the feet are those of four men who died in a plane crash near Quadra Island in 2005 and whose bodies have not been recovered, though one of the feet has been determined to be from a female.[6] Foul play has also been suggested,[20] although none of the first four feet contained evidence of tool marks.[18] This does not rule out foul play, however; it is possible that the bodies could have been weighted down and disposed of, and the feet are separating due to natural decay.

Determining the origin of the feet is complicated because ocean currents may carry floating items long distances,[21] and because currents in the Strait of Georgia may be unpredictable.[20] A foot may float as far as 1,000 miles (1,600 km).[18] Also, human feet have a tendency to become adipocere (a soap-like substance formed from body fat), which makes it hard for forensic scientists to find clues.[4] Under optimal conditions, a human body may survive in water for as long as three decades, meaning that the feet may have been floating around for years.[22]

Level of rarity

Finding human remains on a beach is not uncommon. Storms may erode old burial sites and wash the debris out to sea where it is subsequently found, although this in particular would mainly reveal bones. In addition, missing people are common, and people fall off vessels at sea on occasion. Decomposition may separate the foot from the body because the ankle is relatively weak, and the buoyancy caused by air either inside or trapped within a shoe would allow it to float away.[2] According to SFU entomologist Gail Anderson, extremities such as the hands, feet, and head often detach as a body decomposes in the water, although they rarely float.[4]

However, finding feet and not the rest of the bodies has been deemed unusual. Finding two feet has been given "million to one odds" and "an anomaly".[2] The finding of the third foot made it the first time three such discoveries had been made so close to each other.[4] The fourth discovery caused speculation about human interference and, statistically, was called "curious".[22]

Media reaction

After the fifth foot was discovered the story had begun to receive a lot of international media attention. With major headlines from newspapers such as the Melbourne Herald Sun, The Guardian, and the Cape Times in South Africa, the story elicited much speculation about the cause of the mystery, originating from a sense of "morbid fascination" with this type of subject, as stated by one scientist who identifies remains of victims.[23] David Letterman also questioned two of his audience members who were Canadian about the mystery during one of his shows.[24]

References

  1. ^ a b c d "Discovery of unattached human feet baffles B.C. police". CBC News. 2007-08-31. http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2007/08/31/bc-feet.html. Retrieved 2008-06-18. 
  2. ^ a b c d Sunny Freeman (2007-08-31). "Two large right feet found on Georgia Strait beaches; 'Finding one foot is like a million to one odds, but to find two is crazy' RCMP corporal's 'best guess is that they are from missing persons'". Vancouver Sun. p. A1. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "No evidence 5 feet were severed, say B.C. RCMP". CBC News. 2008-07-10. http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2008/07/10/bc-missing-feet-shoes-identified.html. Retrieved 2008-07-10. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Human right foot found on Valdes; This is the third foot to wash up on a Gulf Island within a year;". Vancouver Province. 2008-02-15. p. A3. 
  5. ^ "Another mysterious right foot floats ashore in Gulf Islands". CBC News. 2008-02-15. http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2008/02/15/bc-third-right-foot.html. Retrieved 2008-05-18. 
  6. ^ a b "Fourth right foot washes up near Vancouver, RCMP confirm". CBC News. 2008-05-24. http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2008/05/22/bc-severed-foot-richmond.html. Retrieved 2008-06-18. 
  7. ^ Judith Lavoie (2008-05-26). "Latest washed-up foot likely a woman's, says finder". Vancouver Sun. p. A7. 
  8. ^ a b "5th foot found on B.C.'s south coast". CBC News. 2008-06-17. http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2008/06/16/bc-fifth-foot-found.html. Retrieved 2008-06-18. 
  9. ^ a b "7th Human Foot Washes Ashore on Canadian Coast". Fox News. 2008-11-13. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,451186,00.html. Retrieved 2008-11-13. 
  10. ^ David Carrigg (2008-06-17). "Fifth human foot -- with shoe -- found floating; Two most recent finds in Fraser delta, other three off Gulf Islands". Vancouver Province. p. A3. 
  11. ^ Petti Fong (2008-07-10). "Two mystery feet from same person, B.C. police say". Toronto Star. http://www.thestar.com/article/458028. Retrieved 2008-07-10. 
  12. ^ "Missing foot mystery deepens with latest find". CTV News British Columbia. 2008-08-03. http://www.ctvbc.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20080803/BC_missing_foot_080803/20080803?hub=BritishColumbiaHome. Retrieved 2008-08-03. 
  13. ^ Paige Dickerson, Peninsula Daily News (2008-08-06). "Foot found in U.S. may be from Canada". Vancouver Sun. p. a6. 
  14. ^ a b "Another severed foot washes up on B.C. shore". CTV News. 2008-11-11. http://www.ctvbc.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20081111/BC_missing_foot_November_081111/20081112/?hub=BritishColumbiaHome. Retrieved 2008-11-11. 
  15. ^ "DNA tests match feet washed ashore". The Globe and Mail. 2008-12-05. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20081205.wbcfeet1205/BNStory/National/home. Retrieved 2008-12-06. 
  16. ^ "Human remains in shoe found near Vancouver". CBC.ca. 2009-10-28. http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2009/10/28/bc-foot-found-running-shoe-richmond.html. Retrieved 2009-10-28. 
  17. ^ a b "6th foot found on B.C. south coast". CBC News. 2008-06-18. http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2008/06/18/bc-sixth-foot-found.html. Retrieved 2008-06-18. 
  18. ^ a b c "Latest floating 'foot' turns out to be a hoax". CNN. 2008-06-18. http://www.cnn.com/2008/CRIME/06/19/canada.feet/index.html. Retrieved 2008-06-18. 
  19. ^ Gary Bellett (2008-05-24). "A fourth foot deepens the mystery; The severed-feet explanation is 'beyond imagination,' expert says after latest find". Vancouver Sun. p. B1.  Original article wrote five bodies, but two of the feet has since been confirmed that they belong to same person.
  20. ^ a b Cheryl Chan (2008-05-23). "Fourth foot fuels flotsam frenzy; Still no clues after boater's discovery in Richmond". p. A4. 
  21. ^ "Mysterious feet may be linked to single accident: B.C. forensic expert". CBC News. 2008-06-17. http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2008/06/17/bc-forensic-feet-connection.html. Retrieved 2008-06-18. 
  22. ^ a b Carolyn Heiman (2005-05-25). "Families of victims seek expert's help". Vancouver Province. p. A9. 
  23. ^ Patrick White (2008-06-20). "Fascinated by B.C.'s floating feet". The Globe and Mail. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/fascinated-by-bcs-floating-feet/article44528/. Retrieved 2009-11-02. 
  24. ^ Vanessa Richmond (2008-06-26). "Super, Horrific BC". The Tyee. http://thetyee.ca/Mediacheck/2008/06/26/HorrificBC/. Retrieved 2009-11-02. 

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