Protesters outside the Missing Women Inquiry in downtown Vancouver Tuesday.

Protesters outside the Missing Women Inquiry in downtown Vancouver Tuesday.

‘Botched’ policing let Pickton kill, inquiry told

VPD, RCMP had many chances to stop serial killer preying on Downtown Eastside women



The Missing Women Inquiry opened Tuesday to blunt accusations that both Vancouver Police and the RCMP badly bungled their investigations, letting serial killer Robert Pickton murder several more women after he should have been caught.

Cameron Ward, the lawyer representing 18 victims’ families at the inquiry, called the conduct of both forces “inexcusable and egregious.”

In an opening statement to the inquiry, Ward said dozens of women vanished “right under the noses” of the VPD in the Downtown Eastside and were murdered under the noses of the Coquitlam RCMP on Pickton’s Port Coquitlam pig farm.

“The families of the missing women are absolutely outraged by what happened in the handling of this case,” Ward said. 
”They believe the authorities are culpable in the deaths of over a dozen women because the authorities’ negligence enabled Pickton to literally get away with murder for more than five years.”

He said the families believe the VPD, RCMP and B.C.’s Criminal Justice Branch all have the blood of the victims on their hands, outlining a litany of errors.

High on Ward’s “list of wonders” of how police “botched” their jobs, is the fact Pickton in 2000 walked into the Coquitlam RCMP detachment and offered to let them search his farm but the Mounties turned him down, even though plenty of evidence by then pointed to him as the prime suspect.

“They don’t bother,” Ward said. “We know the remains are there. We know after 2000 many more women are murdered there. It’s literally unbelievable.”

Police had an even earlier chance to stop Pickton in January 1997, when he handcuffed and attacked a sex-trade worker in his trailer, but the badly bleeding woman fought back, escaped and survived.

He was arrested and charged with attempted murder, forcible confinement, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon but all charges were stayed in early 1998 amid questions about the credibility of the drug-addicted victim.

Why the case was dropped will be a key area of the commission’s focus.

It took a rookie RCMP officer, acting on a tip about illegal guns, to get a search warrant for the farm in February 2002 that uncovered ID of missing women and finally led to Pickton’s arrest that month for murder and triggered the massive 18-month forensic search of the property for DNA of the victims.

Ward said he will also want to now why it took until 2004 – seven years after the 1997 incident – before the RCMP finally tested the clothing and other items seized from him then and discovered the DNA of two of the missing women.

The lack of action in Coquitlam was all the more surprising, Ward suggested, because RCMP there “must have been intimately familiar” with Piggy’s Palace, the Picktons’ after-hours nightclub just down the road from the farm that Ward said was frequented by Hells Angels, off-duty police and city officials.

Police also had tips, the inquiry heard, in 1998 from Surrey resident Bill Hiscox who suspected Pickton was killing the missing women. Hiscox told them Pickton had women’s purses and easy methods of disposing of bodies.

They’d also been tipped by at least three people in 1999 that addict Lynn Ellingsen witnessed Pickton slaughtering a woman in his barn. She initially denied it when questioned but ultimately testified at trial, helping convict Pickton.

Despite all that evidence, Ward said, Pickton was able to keep taking women from the Downtown Eastside to his farm, killing them and butchering them – “unhindered and unmolested by the police” – until his arrest in February 2002.

The DNA of 33 missing women was found on the farm.

Pickton was convicted in 2007 of killing six of them but had told an undercover police officer he killed 49.

Commission counsel Art Vertlieb said other questions to examined at the inquiry include:

– The VPD’s handling of missing women reports, including whether women from the Downtown Eastside were treated differently than those from wealthier neighbourhoods.

– Allegations a VPD clerk refused help to aboriginal family members or dismissed reports of missing sex trade workers.

– How well police forces worked together and shared information and whether a “turf war” within the VPD undermined the early investigation.

– Why VPD officials resisted a theory by crime profiler Kim Rossmo that a serial killer was responsible and refused to warn the community, insisting that the women were missing but not necessarily dead.

– Whether a lack of police resources and competing priorities in Coquitlam was to blame when RCMP didn’t follow up after an initial interview with Pickton in January 2000.

“All of this begs the question: Was anyone ultimately in charge?” Vertlieb asked.

The inquiry was supposed to report back by the end of this year, but Vertlieb is seeking an extension that would see hearings run well into 2012.

Besides answering the questions of what went wrong and how to keep it from happening again, families of victims want to know whether Pickton had accomplices in the killings who are still on the loose.

 

Photo:  Demonstrators at protest outside Missing Women Inquiry Tuesday. Jeff Nagel / Black Press

 

Related story:

Protests mark start of missing women inquiry (with video)

Just Posted

Co-creatorsAdrianna Hatton and Malcolm McKenzie stand next to the little free library revealed Sunday at 9710 First St. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Literary crowd helps opens little free library in Sidney

Located at 9710 First St., the book sharing box features original art and reclaimed wood

Deep Cove Elementary School principal Shelley Hardcastle (right) and vice-principal Mary Kaercher help to restock Reay Creek with fish – in this case, coho fry – after a recent bleach spill killed hundreds of fish. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
North Saanich’s Deep Cove Elementary School helps to restock Sidney’s Reay Creek

Restocking followed bleach spill that killed hundreds of fish in creek

The barred owl is the most likely to be spotted in the south Island. (Ann Nightingale photo)
Barred owls dominate Greater Victoria owl-scape

Western screech owl population decimated, partly due to barred owls

Between June 1 and 7, 168 net unconditional sales were made for properties in the VREB region. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria home sales slightly behind last June’s pace

Benchmark value of single-family home in Greater Victoria tops $1 million

A new report pegs the annual cost of hiring a third party to monitor use of pickleball courts in North Saanich at $12,000. (Black Press Media file photo).
North Saanich could end up hiring third party to monitor pickleball courts

Other options up for consideration include use of cameras and timed locks

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Most Read