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Neighbours shocked by alleged crimes
More charges expected today against Bakker

Elaine O'Connor


Monday, January 19, 2004

Former neighbours of Donald Michel Bakker reacted with shock yesterday to the news that the quiet family man had been arrested and charged in connection with violent and sadistic sexual acts on Vancouver sex-trade workers.

Bakker, 40, is charged with five counts of sexual assault and one count of unlawful confinement following his arrest

Dec 2. Bakker, a hotel catering employee, is expected to face up to 27 additional charges in court today.

He was arrested after police spotted a man leaving the scene of an assault on a sex-trade worker in Crab Park.

The man was carrying a gym bag containing a video camera and tapes depicting images of extreme and degrading violence against women believed to be Downtown Eastside sex-workers.

In a search of his home, police discovered additional tapes allegedly containing taped torture sessions and sexual assaults on small children.

"It's frightening. It's frightening what was going on," said Becky Sorace, who has lived across the street from the home in the 2600 block East 7th Avenue for the past five years.

"Thank God, I'm moving to Burnaby."

Sorace said the former residents of the house kept to themselves.

"I've never seen him. I don't even know what he looked like," she said.

Bakker is believed to have lived at the home with a woman and young child in the late 1990s. But neighbours interviewed yesterday said they were under the impression he moved out just last summer.

Yesterday the house was unoccupied, and leftover Christmas evergreen boughs and velvet ribbons still decorated the front porch.

Next-door neighbour Don Cheung said he was distressed to hear that the man arrested for assaulting sex-trade workers and children had at one point lived beside his young family.

"It was a bit shocking because I've seen the man a few times before," Cheung said. "They seemed like a normal couple, a normal family. He was very quiet. He didn't talk much. It's shocking to hear what's going on."

Chris Miller had just moved into the house on the other side of Bakker's old residence and was disturbed by the arrest, though he never knew the former tenant.

"We haven't really gotten to know our neighbours," Miller said. "But now we'll probably start to get to know them."

eoconnor@png.canwest.com

© Copyright 2004 The Province 

Sex assault suspect could face more charges WebPosted Jan 19 2004 07:29 AM PST

VANCOUVER - Police say they expect to lay more charges later this week against a man alleged to have assaulted sex-trade workers in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

 Forty-year-old Donald Michel Bakker, a Vancouver hotel worker, has already been charged with five counts of sexual assault with a weapon and one count of forcible confinement.

 Bakker was arrested last month in Crab Park on Vancouver's waterfront. He was with a prostitute police described as distraught. 

Officers say Bakker was carrying a sports bag containing a video camera and some tapes.

 Police say those tapes, and others found in his home, showed Bakker brutally assaulting 51 Vancouver sex-trade workers and at least nine children from Southeast Asia. 

"These are by far the most disturbing images the investigators have ever seen in their careers." says police spokesperson, Const. Sarah Bloor.

 "The 25-year acting inspector has never seen anything this disturbing and it has had a huge emotional impact on our investigators."

 Bakker's lawyer, Kevin McCullough, says comments like that hurt his client's constitutional right to a fair trial.

 "Have they in some way affected an accused person's right to a fair trial, have they eroded the presumption of innocence, and have they inflamed a potential jury pool and an eliminated a potential jury trial?"

 Police say they have already found more than a third of Bakker's alleged victims.

But they also say that identifying the children is more difficult – as those alleged assaults appear to have occurred in South East Asia.

Torture tapes stun B.C. investigators

By JANE ARMSTRONG
From Monday's Globe and Mail
Monday, Jan. 19, 2004

The black-haired woman with the white cross dangling from her neck remembers the man she agreed to let hurt her. He was balding, "but not completely," wore glasses, and had a baby seat in the back of his car. He paid to inflict pain on her and she agreed.

"I needed the money," the young woman said, recounting the "date" last fall with a man who she said took her to a waterfront Vancouver park and videotaped a sadistic assault.

"It messed me up for a couple of days," the woman said, standing in the grey drizzle on Vancouver's seedy Hastings Street yesterday.

As she spoke, she stared into her Styrofoam coffee cup and described in graphic detail the man and the crime, without once looking up.

Asked why she didn't report the attack, the woman shrugged. "I don't know."

This woman's story took on broader significance yesterday with the news that Vancouver police are investigating the case of an alleged sadistic predator who they say tortured and videotaped up to 60 women over a period of several years.

Police say the man told the women up front that he wanted to inflict pain, but the acts escalated into violent assaults that involved "extreme pain" and degradation.

The suspect is also being investigated in the videotaped rapes of prepubescent girls as young as 10 in a Southeast Asian country.

Police say the tapes are disturbing to watch and have shaken even the most hardened officers. Police have identified about one-third of the women on the tapes and talked to many, but noted that not one had reported the alleged crimes.

The victims said the man paid to have sex with them and warned that he intended to inflict pain.

Police have charged Donald Michael Bakker, 40, with six counts of sexual assault and one count of unlawful confinement. They say up to 27 more charges may be laid today. (monday).

The alleged crimes are captured on videotape, which police discovered in the suspect's car and home.

Vancouver Police spokeswoman Sarah Bloor said the fact that women agreed to be hurt in exchange for money might explain their silence. Other agencies that assist women in the Downtown Eastside were surprised to hear that another predator was stalking women in the skid-row neighbourhood.

There was no mention of Mr. Bakker's name or physical description on any so-called "bad-date" list, which is circulated in the neighbourhood and warns of men who have assaulted or refused to pay prostitutes.

Mary Wreglesworth, chairwoman of the WISH Drop-in Centre Society, said sex workers are already burdened by defeat and shame.

"They went to the streets as abused children," Ms. Wreglesworth said. "Something like this brings up an incredible amount of turmoil." And if the women agreed up front to be hurt, they may feel they don't have the right to complain, even if the situation spun out of control.

The case comes nearly two years after police charged Robert William Pickton with killing women from the same Vancouver neighbourhood. He faces 15 counts of first-degree murder.

Police got wind of the torture case on Dec. 2 when they responded to a woman screaming in a waterfront park near the Downtown Eastside. Police arrested a man who was carrying a video camera and a bag filled with videotapes, searched his car and home and found more tapes depicting violent assaults.

Vancouver Police Chief Jamie Graham formed a task force of 34 officers to work on the case.

Mr. Bakker's lawyer, Kevin McCullough, accused police of blowing the case out of proportion. Mr. McCullough told CTV news that the case is no different from any other sexual-assault complaint and his client deserves to be presumed innocent.

Constable Bloor said Mr. Bakker is a banquet worker at Vancouver's upscale Pan Pacific Hotel. He is married with a baby and has no criminal record.

"By all accounts, he seems like your average neighbour," Constable Bloor said. Police have interviewed Mr. Bakker's wife, who is supportive of her husband. "She is still in a bit of denial."

Mr. Bakker has been in custody since his arrest. The man has appeared twice in court, most recently on Friday.

Police have said they want to talk to all the women on the tapes, but did not publicize the case until last Friday. Constable Bloor said police didn't want to jeopardize the investigation and noted there was no safety risk because the suspect was in custody.

Investigators hope to lay charges in the alleged assaults on children abroad. Under recent changes to the Criminal Code aimed at cracking down on so-called sex tourism, police can proceed with a case even if the alleged victim does not testify.