[Editor’s note: This article contains descriptions of sexual assault and stories related to missing and murdered Indigenous women and youth. It may be triggering to some readers.]
A young woman is speaking out about her interactions with Jimmy Pham, a man who was one of three people found dead inside an apartment in a single-room occupancy building at 405 Heatley Ave. in Vancouver this year.
Months after Jimmy Pham was discovered dead in his SRO room on Feb. 23, two other bodies were found in the same location. (The Vancouver Police Department has since told Global News the man's full name was Van Chung Pham.) The subsequent May 1 discovery of the body of a woman in her 30s and a 14-year-old who went missing from foster care over a year ago has been deeply concerning for their families, Downtown Eastside residents and Indigenous community advocates.*
Zoe said she went to Pham’s room inside the single-room occupancy building several times between September and November in 2020 to use drugs, which she says he often provided free to young women. The last time she went to his room, in November 2020, the substances he gave her made her unable to move. Zoe said Pham then sexually assaulted her while she was incapacitated.
“He was weird every time I went there,” Zoe told The Tyee. “He had to keep me hidden. It was very hush-hush — I wasn’t allowed to be seen there or be heard there.”
For safety reasons, The Tyee is using a pseudonym to refer to Zoe. The Tyee has confirmed Pham’s identity with another source who has knowledge of the situation.
The remains of Noelle O’Soup, 14, and Elma Enan were reportedly not found by police, but by building staff.
O'Soup had gone missing from a foster care group home in Port Coquitlam on May 12, 2021.*
Olivia Louie, O’Soup’s cousin, told Global News that O’Soup’s body had been in the apartment for “quite a long period of time,” including after the discovery of tenant Pham’s body in the same apartment. Multiple unnamed sources told Global News that Pham, before he died, resided in the room for months with the dead bodies of O’Soup and Enan.
“There were multiple times Vancouver police officers were at the apartment, speaking with the tenant, before the tenant’s death,” Louie told Global News.
Louie also told Global News that she and other family members heard “multiple accounts” from residents at 405 Heatley that Pham “often brought young women who seemed troubled to this building.”
O’Soup’s family is questioning why O’Soup and Enan’s bodies were not found earlier.
The Vancouver Police Department has said investigators from its major crimes section are continuing to investigate O’Soup and Enan’s deaths. Neither the coroner nor police have released information about how Pham, O’Soup and Enan died. The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner has also opened an investigation into a complaint about one officer, related to the officer’s visit to the apartment where the three bodies were eventually found.
On some of her visits to 405 Heatley, Zoe said she saw other young women in Pham’s room also using drugs that he provided. Pham had drugs of all sorts — fentanyl, heroin, crack and meth — and Zoe said the substances he provided were much higher quality than the street drugs that are normally available in the Downtown Eastside, where unpredictable mixes of drugs often cause overdoses.
Pham insisted that she use the drugs inside his room, Zoe said. She also noticed that the girls Pham brought to his room shared certain physical characteristics: they were young, small and usually Indigenous, often with long dark hair. Zoe said she never saw O’Soup there, or anyone as young as O’Soup.
When Zoe met Pham, she had recently moved to the Downtown Eastside, and he warned her that women new to the neighbourhood are often preyed on by men. But Zoe says Pham was himself a predator. She remembers seeing one woman in his room who appeared to be 19 or 20 and was weeping and very upset. Zoe also described seeing Pham “forcing” a woman into a taxi and said he wouldn’t let her speak to the woman.
“He was always with other girls, giving them free drugs,” she told The Tyee. “That was basically the guy I would go to because I’d know I’d be getting free drugs. It was always free, I never had to pay.”
The last time Zoe went to Pham’s place, the drugs he gave her made her unable to move, and that’s when Pham sexually assaulted her, Zoe said.
“It was so weird because I was still conscious and aware,” she said. “I felt like my spirit left my body and I just remember lying there, kind of being paralyzed.”
After the sexual assault in November 2020, Zoe said she got treatment in Burnaby Hospital the same day and spoke to an RCMP officer while she was at the hospital. A few days later, she said, a Vancouver police officer came to her home and spoke with her about the assault. According to Zoe, that police officer stayed in touch with her and let her know that police and Crown counsel were preparing to move ahead with charging Pham.
But before that could happen, Zoe said the officer told her that when police arrived at 405 Heatley to inform Pham of the charges, they discovered he had died.
Zoe showed the Tyee email correspondence with the Vancouver Police Department that show a police report file number, and text messages with a woman called Deanna who Zoe said is the police officer she was working with. The texts are dated Oct. 20, 2021; Jan. 18, 2022 and Jan. 19, 2022.
Sgt. Steve Addison, a VPD media liason, told The Tyee the force cannot comment on the identity of the man who was discovered on Feb. 23. Police have said that the man whose body was found was in his 40s.
Addison said the VPD also can’t comment on Zoe’s account of the police investigation into the sexual assault.
“We cannot provide any information that may identify a sexual assault victim, and we cannot disclose the identity of a suspect who has not been charged with a crime,” he told The Tyee in an email.
Since 2020, there have been several disturbing cases of young Indigenous women who have gone missing from downtown Vancouver or the Downtown Eastside, or have been found dead in the Downtown Eastside after being reported missing.
Chelsea Poorman went missing from downtown Vancouver in September 2020 when she was 24; her remains were discovered in April 2022 behind a vacant $7 million home in Shaughnessy. Tatyanna Harrison, 20, went missing from the Downtown Eastside in April 2022; her body was discovered on a yacht in Richmond on May 2, but her remains were not identified until Aug. 6. Kwem Manuel-Gottfriedson, 25, was found dead in a building at East Hastings and Hawks Avenue on July 30, three days after she was reported missing.
Like O’Soup, all of the women were either unfamiliar with the Downtown Eastside or had moved there recently, according to police press releases, media reports and interviews with family members.
* Story updated on to Aug. 31 at 1:34 p.m. to include that the Vancouver Police Department identified Pham's full name as Van Chung Pham after initial publication of this story.
* Story updated on Nov. 3 at 10:04 a.m. to correct the name of the municipality Noelle O'Soup went missing from and the date they were last seen.
Read more: Indigenous, Rights + Justice, Gender + Sexuality
Tyee Commenting Guidelines
Comments that violate guidelines risk being deleted, and violations may result in a temporary or permanent user ban. Maintain the spirit of good conversation to stay in the discussion.
*Please note The Tyee is not a forum for spreading misinformation about COVID-19, denying its existence or minimizing its risk to public health.