Reward offered in mysterious death case in the Downtown Eastside

Aboriginal woman believed to have fallen from a hotel window

The Vancouver Police Board has renewed a $10,000 reward for information regarding the mysterious death of a 22-year-old woman who died near Main and Hastings Sept. 15, 2010.

One year after Ashley Machiskinic died outside the Regent Hotel at 160 East Hastings St., the Vancouver Police Department is still unable to conclude whether her death was a homicide, a suicide or an accident.

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The aboriginal womans body was discovered in an alley outside the hotel. She is believed to have fallen to her death from one of the hotel rooms windows.

The investigation into her death has been exhaustive but has not conclusively determined all of the circumstances that led to her death, said a VPD report that went before the police board Sept.14 and requested the reward be renewed. Ashleys death has caused a considerable amount of anguish and concern to all persons in Vancouver but in particular to many women in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver.

Mona Woodward, executive director of the Aboriginal Front Door Society, was a cousin to Machiskinic and attended a memorial Thursday in the alley behind the hotel to remember her relative. Members of the police department also attended, she said.

Woodward and others in the community believe Machiskinic was murdered and said those people with information that could help police fear retribution from the person or persons responsible.

Im very familiar with the people that access the drop-in centre and Im in good communication with them and I hear things and I see things, she said. But its really difficult to break that code of silence.

Woodward, who meets regularly with police and spoke at VPD press conferences about violence against women, said the reward is important to Machiskinics case.

Im very happy about [the reward] but Im not hopeful that itll yield anything because the longer the time goes by, people forget details, she added.

When the VPD announced the reward in November 2010, the department set up a telephone tip line for people wanting to report crimes against women in the Downtown Eastside, including any information related to Machiskinics death.

The tip line is part of the VPDs so-called Sisterwatch program, which aims to combat violence against women in the Downtown Eastside.

The program has included regular town hall meetings with residents hosted by Police Chief Jim Chu and several police officers who work in the Downtown Eastside and in the departments sex crimes unit.

Another facet of Sisterwatch is what the VPD refer to as a speakers bureau, where female police officers are available to speak to groups on personal safety and other matters of interest to women.

Woodward had a hand in helping create the program, which she says has helped improve relations between the police and female residents, particularly those from the aboriginal community.

The VPDs Sisterwatch tip line is 604-215-4777.

mhowell@vancourier.com

Twitter: @Howellings

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