*Many thanks to James for sending this info my way :)*
VANCOUVER — The discovery of yet another detached foot in a waterlogged running shoe lessens, rather than enhances, the ongoing puzzle of the grisly West Coast finds, according to a prominent oceanographer who has paid close attention to the captivating mystery.
“I don’t want to burst any bubbles, but I think we’re getting to the bottom of things,” said Curtis Ebbesmeyer of Seattle Wednesday. “Science is starting to come through.”
Mr. Ebbesmeyer based his conclusion on the likelihood that the latest find in a small, left-footed New Balance running shoe – the seventh within 16 months – was a match to an earlier, nearby discovery of a right-footed sneaker of the same brand and a similar size.
“That means we have only two rights that haven’t been matched,” said the expert, who has won a measure of fame with his study of ocean currents based on the accidental release of thousands of bathtub toys, including rubber ducks. “My specialty is everything that floats on the ocean.”
Ken Johnston and his wife, Diane, came across the seventh foot encased in a running shoe Tuesday along the south arm of the Fraser River in Richmond.
Mr. Johnston said he was even more shaken a day after the couple’s discovery than he was at the time they came across the shoe floating in the afternoon tide.
“It was eerie, very weird, and even more so today, as you come to the realization that maybe this was part of a human being,” he said. “It rattled me a bit more. It’s all very strange.”
Since the first orphaned foot was found Aug. 20, 2007, on the shores of Jedediah Island in the Strait of Georgia, interest in the apparent mystery has grown worldwide, as more running shoes with feet inside them kept turning up at various locations along the West Coast.
None of the feet appear to have been purposefully severed but separated through natural processes, according to the RCMP, which has nonetheless launched an intense investigation into the case.
So far, only one of the feet has been linked by DNA to a specific individual. Police said the victim’s death was not suspicious.
Two other feet have been identified as being from the same person, and now, with the most recent discovery, there is a possible second match. A right New Balance shoe with a woman’s foot inside was found off Kirkland Island near Richmond on May 22.
“We are certainly aware of the parallels between the latest shoe and the one discovered in May,” said RCMP spokeswoman Constable Annie Linteau. “One left, one right and a similar size.”
However, she said police cannot even confirm the remains in the shoe are human until the coroner’s office conducts an examination and DNA analysis.
She said police continue to comb missing-persons lists for clues to the feet, but often, there is no DNA available from those who have disappeared. “It’s certainly not like episodes of CSI where you can solve things in 60 minutes.”
Constable Linteau said local police investigators have never heard of so many detached feet washing up in the same general vicinity in such a short period of time.
Mr. Ebbesmeyer, however, said it is not unusual for body parts to show up anywhere along ocean shores. “I know on the shorelines of Florida and Texas, where I’ve studied, you get detached heads, feet, legs, everything showing up. Drifting human remains are not that unusual. It’s just that nobody likes to talk about them.”
What intrigued him initially about the so-called mystery was the fact that the first four discoveries were all right feet. “A string of rights. That’s unusual,” Mr. Ebbesmeyer said. “But now we’re starting to see some matches.”
Mr. Johnston, a former MLA who is running for Richmond council in Saturday’s municipal elections, said he has been taken aback by the number of news media calls he has received. “I didn’t realize how much interest there was in this. I’m so tired of it,” he said, wearily.
He said the foot was first noticed by his wife during a morning walk with their beagles Patty and Keegan, but it was difficult for her to get close to the shoe. Mr. Johnston joined her later in the day, and the object was hauled up on shore.
“I turned it over and saw a bit of a sock inside. Then I poked it with a stick and what was inside was hard, like a bone.” He then placed it in the plastic bag they carried for their dogs’ waste and prepared to take it home. But recalling all the publicity over earlier feet finds, Mr. Johnston decided to call police immediately.
“They were there within 30 minutes, with all their cameras, and they dragged it away. Then they interviewed us for quite a time. It was like I was guilty or something.”