Temporary memorials that are placed on city-owned property in Duncan will be allowed to stay in place longer, council has decided.
Mayor Michelle Staples told council at its meeting on Jan. 18 that the city had received correspondence and calls over Christmas from a number of residents about the murders of Nellie Williams and Fran Shurie on Christmas Eve, 2019, near the corner of Trunk Road and Canada Avenue.
She said people were asking about the status of the police investigation into the case around the first anniversary of the double homicide, and other related issues.
“All this was happening at the same time that the city was preparing to place a public notice at the site of the temporary memorial [located in Charles Hoey Park near where the crime occurred] that it was time to remove it,” Staples said.
“I talked to staff about the issue and we realized how inappropriate that was, and that the [city’s temporary memorial] policy currently in place doesn’t work that well.”
Just before 11 p.m. on Dec. 24, 2019, North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP officers found Williams and Shurie at the site with life-threatening injuries after receiving calls about an assault.
Both victims were taken to a local hospital but Shurie was soon pronounced dead, and Williams died in hospital on Dec. 28.
Investigators believe the attack was targeted and are pursuing several leads, including two male persons of interest, but no arrests have yet been made in the case.
Soon after the murders, a memorial was set up near the site of the assault by unknown persons, but likely friends and family, that is still in place.
The city’s policy on temporary memorials, which was only established in 2020, states that they are to be in place no longer than 13 months, and a public notice order will be placed at each memorial after 12 months informing the public that it must be taken down within the following four weeks.
In a report written by Allison Boyd, Duncan’s corporate services coordinator, Boyd said, as with every policy, amendments are sometimes needed to suit its purpose, and for the comfort for citizens and council.
She said that under the policy in place, the temporary memorial erected in Charles Hoey Park would be removed on Jan. 24, but due to the uneasiness in the community and council about doing that, the public notice order has not yet been posted, and so the memorial will remain a minimum of one month from when a notice is placed there.
Boyd proposed a number of changes to the policy, including increasing the time a temporary memorial may stay in place from 13 months to 16 months, and to post the public notice orders earlier; after 10 months rather than 12 months.
Council agreed to the changes.
Coun. Carol Newington asked that, considering the serious nature of this particular case and the fact that the crime has not yet be solved, the city place a plaque at the site once the temporary memorial is removed.
Staples said there is no reason why council can’t discuss it.
“I suggest you give something to staff so that it can be discussed at the next council meeting,” she said.