The Forever Garden in South Surrey is dedicated to those whose lives are cut short. (Tracy Holmes photo)

A generation later, brutal murder of B.C. teen still resonates

Oct. 4 is 25th anniversary of brutal death of Pamela Cameron

Next Friday, Oct. 4, will mark 25 years since a brutal tragedy rocked the Semiahmoo Peninsula – the rape and murder of South Surrey teen Pamela Cameron.

While the crime is one forever cemented in the memories of those who knew and loved Cameron – and for many who lived in the community at the time – in the minds of many others, it’s decidedly less prominent.

“When I went to the school, no one remembered it,” said Bonnie Moy of the reaction received when she stopped by Semiahmoo Secondary recently to drop off a letter detailing plans to pay tribute to Cameron.

Moy sold Cameron’s family their home in the summer of 1994.

“It’s a generation now (since it happened).”

Cameron, 16, was grabbed off of 152 Street in broad daylight by convicted rapist Mitchell James Owen, a 40-year-old who was on parole from Kingston Penitentiary in Ontario; a freedom he was granted less than a year prior, after serving two concurrent 10-year sentences for rape and robbery.

Before grabbing Cameron, he stole a cellphone from a White Rock business and broke into an elderly couple’s home.

Cameron – a softball and rugby player who was described as “lively and fun” – was walking home when Owen struck, pulling her into the nearby brush.

The Grade 10 Semiahmoo Secondary student’s body was found by police dogs near 20 Avenue, mere paces away from the busy street she had been walking along. Her clothing was found about a block away.

The manhunt for her killer ended when Owen turned himself in. He pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison with no parole for at least 25 years. He’ll be eligible to apply for release next month.

Cameron’s family had moved to Surrey from Milton, Ont. just two months prior to her killing.

Her death “shattered” the community, Moy – who was instrumental in the development of Realty Watch, a system formalized in the wake of Cameron’s murder that fans out alerts to real estate agents in the community – told Peace Arch News this week.

“Those of us who remember this tragedy, and still grieve the loss, want to remember Pamela Cameron.”

In an effort to ensure Cameron – who she was, what happened to her and all she inspired – isn’t forgotten, a memorial is planned for the 25th anniversary, Oct. 4, to be held at the Forever Garden, which was created in the teen’s memory.

Highlighted by a broken arch that symbolizes lives cut short, the garden is located immediately east of the South Surrey Arena (2199 148 St.). It is a peaceful place – one of benches, a water feature and plants.

Other initiatives developed in memory of Cameron included Lifesaver 1000, a 2004 effort led by late South Surrey Const. Marc Searle that trained 1,000 youth in first aid, and encouraged them to get involved in positive activities in their community. The goal was reached that same year.

Significant legal developments in the years after Cameron’s death included a move to require suspects in violent crimes to provide DNA samples – before, permission was needed – and, that Crown could apply to have someone declared a dangerous offender up to six months after sentencing. Previously, it had to be done at the time of sentencing.

Moy said next week’s memorial is planned as an informal event. Set for 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Peninsula politicians, as well as representatives of Surrey RCMP and local real estate boards have been invited to attend, Moy noted. Everyone is welcome.

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Tracy Holmes photo The Forever Garden, adjacent to South Surrey arena.

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