Ex-cop baffled by severed feet mystery in B.C.

CTVNews.ca Staff

Another foot has washed up in British Columbia — the 11th found along the coastline in the last four years. But while B.C. officials say they don’t consider any of the discoveries to be the result of foul play, a Toronto-based forensics expert is not so sure.

Forensics consultant and former Toronto Police detective Mark Mendelson says with this many feet being found in such a short period of time, he’s suspicious something is up.

“I don’t know whether you can look at this as just a coincidence,” he told CTV’s Canada AM Thursday.

Mendelson says one or two feet washing up on shore is weird enough; but this many feet, this often, is pretty fishy.

“You have to ask yourself: why is this only happening on the West Coast? Why aren’t these body parts floating up in Nova Scotia, or St. John’s, or off the coast of New Jersey? Something is very, very strange here,” he said.

In the past four years, 11 shoe-clad feet have washed up on beaches near Vancouver, along the southern Georgia Strait and off Washington State.

Four of the feet have been identified as belonging to three individuals who had been reported missing, but the identity of the rest remain a mystery.

The latest foot was found floating Tuesday in the water along False Creek in downtown Vancouver by a young boy. The shoe and foot were attached to lower leg bones. The B.C. Coroners Service says an autopsy confirmed the foot is human, but further tests are needed to determine whether it’s a man or woman’s foot.

In previous cases, police have said it appeared the feet separated naturally from bodies that were likely in the water for some time. Each time, they have said that foul play wasn’t suspected.

Huh? How does a foot separate “naturally”? I understand decomposition, animals feeding on bodies, shoe protecting certain parts….

See, the problem with the shoe protecting certain parts is that one the shoe and foot is loose the animal would begin feeding into the shoe.

Decomposition, why does 1 foot decompose and the other float to shore? Every time!?!?!?!

It is creepy.

But Mendelson says at this point, “You have to think dirty,” and consider foul play.

He says it’s true that a lot of people go missing in both Canada and the U.S. who are never reported missing. But if all these feet belong to people who were suicide victims or died in float plane crashes or drownings, why are only feet showing up?

“Where are all the rest of the body parts?” Mendelson wondered.

He says in his almost 30 years with the Toronto Police Service and in his 15 years in homicide, he’s done lots of investigations of bodies that turned up floating in waterways.

“Body parts do eventually make their way to the surface. So why are we only getting feet? Why are they only in running shoes? I’m not sure I buy the theory that it’s because the shoe floats,” he said.

Mendelson says forensic anthropologists will likely begin this investigation by looking at the break point of the leg, to see if there are striations or cut lines that show whether the leg was cut off with a saw or other implement.

They can also do tests on the bones to determine the approximate age of the victim. And they can talk to the shoe manufacturer about the brand of shoe that was found to determine when it was available for sale.

They’ll also run DNA tests on the foot, but that may not reveal much, Mendelson said. DNA results do not reveal identify on their own; they have to be matched with other DNA to be useful.

“If you can’t attach it to a human being, it’s just a piece of paper with letters and numbers,” he said.

Article and pictures here.

All I can say is creepy.

I am not saying it is a serial killer but I am saying that this is all strange.

How can they be so confident that the feet are not all connected? They have said some of the feet are form missing people but they do not give anymore info on who that might be and under what circumstances those people went missing.

Mind blowing.

  1. if I lived in Alaska or British Columbia I’d stop wearing running shoes – just in case !!! 😦

  2. I know.
    Maybe barefoot is the only safe way to go?

  3. I live in Vancouver and today saw the police checking the boats in False Creek. Didn’t know until I read the post that they found another foot.

  4. Are there many rumors there about this?
    I mean this is so strange.

    • frigginloon
    • September 5th, 2011

    If it is the case of decomposition, where are their OTHER friggin feet? Only one foot ever washes up. So unless they all have only one foot, there should be another one floating around. Sheez!

    • You would think but obviously the police figure it is a perfectly normal part of decomposition for just 1 foot to come off, in the shoe and float ashore.
      Maybe there is something that we don’t know?

  5. SFU professor Gail Anderson, an entomologist who specializes in decomposition of bodies, said it’s not unusual for body parts to wash ashore.

    “It’s not just the foot, it’s the plastic of the shoe as well, and it’s not floating, it’s been carried by waves,” she said.

    Curtis Ebbesmeyer, an oceanologist who specializes in flotsam, said he gets calls about body parts floating in the water “all the time. It’s not unusual. What’s unusual is that there are four right feet and one left foot.”



    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.[3] 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.[5]
    However, finding feet and not the rest of the bodies has been deemed unusual. Finding two feet has been given a “million to one odds” and has thus been described as “an anomaly”.[3] The finding of the third foot made it the first time three such discoveries had been made so close to each other.[5] The fourth discovery caused speculation about human interference and, statistically, was called “curious”.[28]


    • frigginloon
    • September 6th, 2011

    They better pray there isn’t a serial killer out there,sawing off feet, is all I can say 😦

    • we have all these progs on TV now featuring forensic scientists working with the police to solve crimes.

      admittedly, some of the very clever deductions they make from minuscule signs are very probably exaggerated but surely they can tell whether or not these severed feet show saw or axe marks ?

  6. I thought the same thing.
    I do hope that more information come out and that the officials do not just try to sweep this under the rug.

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