The gruesome beach of severed feet
HEAD down to the shore line of the Salish Sea, a cold expanse of water that divides the Canadian mainland from Vancouver Island, and you could stumble along many things.
Logs from fallen trees sit marooned on its beaches; cormorant birds dot its rocky outcrops. If you're very lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of Staqeya, a lone wolf that for years has roamed the sea's fringe looking for seals to munch on.
But, be warned, because you may make an altogether grimmer discovery. A severed human foot washed up in the shallows.
Since 2007, scores of disembodied feet have been found on the shores of the Salish Sea, each one entombed within a shoe.
In 2016, Charlotte Stevens was taking a walk on Vancouver Island when her husband saw a single shoe stranded on the sand.
"He picked it up and brought it out on to the beach," she told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, "and we had a look at it for about five minutes and we thought, it almost looks like there is an actual foot bone in it."
This month, the 14th such foot washed ashore. A man going for a walk on Gabriola Island, close to the port city of Nanaimo, found the human foot within a hiking boot jammed between a pile of logs.
Where many of the decayed body parts are coming from has been a mystery.
Some have speculated that the feet may have come from the fatalities of ship sinkings or plane crashes. Another theory is the feet have travelled vast distances and may have belonged to some of those who perished in the 2004 Asian tsunami.
Perhaps they are from people bumped off by organised crime syndicates, or even the victims of a serial killer who slices up his victims and then tosses them in the water.
Yet the coroner's office in the Canadian province of British Columbia has consistently ruled out foul play, finding no evidence that the feet were surgically removed or have shown signs of trauma.
In 2011, when a mere eight feet had risen from the depths, the authorities determined they had at least partly solved the mystery.
Two of the feet belonged to a woman who committed suicide in Vancouver in 2004. Her feet washed ashore four years later, reported the Canadian Press.
DNA was used to identify the woman leading her family to be notified.
Connected only by the relatively narrow ankles to the rest of the body, after a time the feet seemingly naturally parted from the rest of the leg.
Of the feet, nine have now been identified as coming from six different people. It's thought all have come from people who ended their own lives or drowned either by swimming too far out to sea or falling in the water.
But why have only feet washed ashore? It's a question that's stumped local police.
"Two being found in such a short period of time is quite suspicious," Corporal Garry Cox of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police told the Vancouver Sun in August 2007.
"Finding one foot is like a million to one odds, but to find two is crazy."
But a clue could be the fact that all have been found within trainers or hiking boots.
Forensic expert Gail Anderson said the shoes provide a raft for the feet.
"Something you'll notice is that the only feet washing up are in running shoes … they're not washing up in stilettos or sandals, or as bare feet," she said.
Air pockets inside the trainers make them buoyant, Ms Anderson said.
"It's basically a flotation device, so it's going to hold it all together and get it washed ashore," she said.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said it will assist the British Columbia Coroners Service with their investigation into the latest discovery, in an effort to determine the identity of the remains.