A 39-year-old New Zealand man who entered Canada illegally under a pseudonym is facing eight charges in connection with a March 4 violent assault on a Vancouver sex trade worker who escaped her attacker by jumping from a moving van.
Michael Edward Farley is also facing a deportation order for being in Canada illegally for two years and using the name Robert James Clarke while he worked as a handyman with a company in the Lower Mainland.
“We’re open to the possibility that there could be other incidents, we’re actively looking into that at this time,” said Insp. Laurence Rankin of the Vancouver Police Department’s major crimes section at a press conference Friday.
Vancouver police arrested Farley March 9 in Richmond on behalf of the Canada Border Services Agency, who learned Farley was in the country illegally.
At the time, police considered Farley “a person of interest” in the assault case. Two days after the arrest, police released surveillance video of a white van believed to have been used by the suspect and a composite drawing of the man.
While in custody of the border services agency, Farley went before the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada for a hearing and was deemed inadmissible to Canada, according to Stefanie Wudel, a spokesperson with the border services agency.
“He was issued a deportation order which will be enforced once his criminal matters are concluded,” said Wudel, noting Farley used false documents to enter Canada.
On Thursday, police took Farley from the custody of the border services agency and successfully recommended eight charges against him in connection with the assault of a 42-year-old sex trade worker. Police also seized Farley’s van.
Charges against Farley, who was to appear before a provincial court judge Friday, include aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, choking, administering a noxious substance and uttering threats.
New Zealand police and Interpol assisted in the investigation. Vancouver police wouldn’t comment on whether Farley had any dealings with police in his home country but acknowledged investigators checked his background.
A Michael Edward Farley is listed on the New Zealand Police’s website as wanted by Palmerston North Police. The website doesn’t indicate the type of crimes but says Farley has three warrants for “breaching home detention and attempting to pervert the course of justice.”
Farley is described on the website as having a tattoo of the outline of the Tasmanian Devil on his upper arm. He is listed as white, 38 years old, five-foot-11 with a medium build. An accompanying photograph of Farley shows him with a goatee and balding on top.
When Vancouver police initially released information on the assault case, the suspect was described as a white male with a “tanned complexion,” balding with a moustache or goatee, and possibly with an Australian accent.
Vancouver police said Farley had a relationship while in Canada and spent some time in the United States. But Sgt. Ryan Kenny, lead investigator in the case, said police “could indicate no sinister purpose for his arrival in British Columbia.”
The case against Farley dates back to the early evening of March 4 when a man in a van picked up a sex trade worker in the Downtown Eastside and drove her to a secluded area.
Police said the man tied up the woman and beat her. It wasn’t until she was seen being dragged and then jumping from a white van near Clark Drive and 13th Avenue that police were notified via numerous 9-1-1 calls from witnesses.
The woman suffered head injuries and serious abrasions and spent several days in the hospital. She has since been discharged and is recovering at home.
“If it weren’t for her courage to come forward, we wouldn’t be here today,” said Rankin, who also acknowledged tips from the public assisted in the investigation.
News of the arrest was welcomed by leaders of organizations that work with sex trade workers and women, including the Battered Women’s Support Services and WISH drop-in centre for sex trade workers.
“We now have a sense that when women in the Downtown Eastside experience violence, that the violence will be taken seriously,” said Angela Marie MacDougall, the executive director of Battered Women’s Support Services. “Women in the neighbourhood need to know that when they experience violence, that the system — in this case, the Vancouver Police Department — will care and will follow through.”
MacDougall and Kate Gibson of WISH praised the victim of the attack for her courage in helping police with the investigation and believing it would lead to an arrest.
“I’m sure that so much of the success of this investigation is because of [the victim’s] relationship with the police and her willingness to come forward,” said Gibson, who also praised police for how quickly an arrest was made. “Our various organizations want to send that message that men can’t come here to do violence. This arrest really sends that clear message.”