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In Canada, Theories Swirl With the Tide as 14th Human Foot Washes Ashore

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MONTREAL — The mystery has haunted Canadians for more than a decade: One by one, human feet clad in running shoes have floated ashore on British Columbia’s southern coast with gruesome regularity.

Last weekend, foot No. 14 was discovered by a man strolling on a beach on Gabriola Island, a sleepy and picturesque enclave, population 4,000, that is known for its captivating sandstone and close-knit artistic community.

This time, the foot, squeezed between a pile of logs, wore what appeared to be a hiking boot, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The 13 feet found previously along the coast since 2007 were in running shoes — Adidas, Reebok and other brands. Each time, the questions arose: Why are the feet ending up in Canada? Where did they come from? And where are the other parts?

The discoveries have fanned speculation, rational or not, that the unattached feet could be the work of a tsunami, a human trafficker, a Mafia hit man, a deranged foot fetishist or a serial killer who had spread body parts out to sea. Others have theorized that the floating appendages could belong to people falling off a ship or killed in a plane crash.

British Columbia, Canada’s westernmost province, known for its imposing mountains, exhilarating ski runs and delectable seafood, has grown used to also being known as the destination for what some newspapers have called “the floating feet.”

But coroners have taken pains to dampen conspiracy theories and tame overactive imaginations. Barb McLintock, a former coroner at British Columbia’s Coroners Service, once called it “the myth of the famous feet.”

In 2016, after a hiker found a foot in a sock and running shoe at Botanical Beach, on Vancouver Island, Ms. McLintock told the Canadian news media that the feet were the work of neither “strange serial killers” amputating victims nor “funny little aliens” scattering the feet along the coastline.

Andy Watson, a spokesman for the Coroners Service, said this week that foul play had been ruled out in all the previous cases. Coroners have attributed the disembodied feet to suicide or accident — someone slipping and falling into the sea, for example, or a swimmer being swept into the ocean by a huge wave.

A lower left leg and foot found last year on Vancouver’s coast.CreditMike Johns

Nine of the feet have been identified, two of them from the same person, according to the Coroners Service. Most of the feet were men’s. In


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