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

Travel Penticton went to city council for support in increasing the tax on short-term stays to fund a convention bureau and affordable housing. (File photo)
Travel Penticton seeks to grow through increased hotel tax

The increased funds would go to creating a convention bureau and to affordable housing

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
Penticton Indian Band joins for the Children Caravan to Kamloops

The Okanagan Nation Alliance has arranged a ceremony for local nations to pay respects

Directors and alternate directors at the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen received nearly $560,000 in remuneration and expenses in 2020, according to the Statement of Financial Information. (Black Press file photo)
Almost $560,000 in remuneration for Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen board

Costs of directors and alternate directors outlined in Statement of Financial Information

(File photo)
$8M in wages for Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen staff

34 employees paid more than $75,000 in 2020

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

A worker, at left, tends to a customer at a cosmetics shop amid the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Half of cosmetics sold in Canada, U.S. contain toxic chemicals: study

Researchers tested more than 230 commonly used cosmetics and found that 56% of foundations and eye products, 48% of lip products and 47% of mascaras contained high levels of fluorine

White Rock’s Marine Drive has been converted to one-way traffic to allow more patio space for waterfront restaurants. (Peace Arch News)
Province promotes permanent pub patios in B.C. post-pandemic plan

More than 2,000 temporary expansions from COVID-19 rules

Lake City Secondary School Williams Lake campus students Ethan Reid, from left, Brenden Higgins, Ty Oviatt, Kaleb Alphonse, Nathan Kendrick and Landon Brink with RCMP officers Const. Nicoll and Const. Stancec. (Photo submitted)
RCMP thank 6 teens for helping prevent forest fire in Williams Lake

The students came across fire in a wooded area and used the water they had to try and extinguish the flames

There is an emergency shelter near the Golden Ears peaks. (Facebook/Special to The News)
Hiker fogged in on Golden Ears, spends 2 nights

Talon Helicopters, Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue bring him home Monday

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran addresses a crowd of more than 100 people who gathered at Stuart Park on June 12 to honour the Muslim family who was attacked in London, Ont., on June 6. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
‘It’s gotta stop’: Kelowna mayor, local faith groups honour victims of London attack

Faith groups at the event included the Okanagan Jewish Community, the Baha’i community and the Sikh community

Annamie Paul, leader of the Green Party of Canada, speaks at a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on June 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Green Leader Annamie Paul facing no-confidence motion from party brass

move follows months of internal strife and the defection of MP Jenica Atwin to the Liberals

Two e-scooters parked on the sidewalk along Water Street in downtown Kelowna on Monday, May 3. Scooters parked on walkways are causing accessibility issues for some people with disabilities. (Michael Rodriguez/Capital News)
Helmet selfies and sober pledges: Changes coming after rough e-scooter rollout in Kelowna

A number of changes are coming to Kelowna’s e-scooter program, more could be on the way

Glen Lennon now resides in a neat and fully serviced unit in the Silver Crest Retirement Home, managed by Princeton and District Community Social Services. Photo Andrea DeMeer
Princeton RCMP and social workers find new home for elderly accident victim

“I love the sun and the sun shines on my patio here. I can go out and walk around.”

Most Read