Following denial of serial murderer Robert Pickton’s final appeal, the BC Supreme Court released a mass of evidence previously banned from public view. Contained are shocking disclosures that emphasize how authorities botched investigations of the DTES missing women. Victims’ families have said for years that many lives would have been saved had police and prosecutors acted with greater diligence. Those accusations gained new weight when lifting of the ban revealed documents showing police had reason to target Pickton for arrest much earlier.
The most egregious information we learned is that a sex trade worker suffered a near mortal assault at the pig farm in 1997. Stabbed by Pickton, she fought off the attacker and called police. Crown refused to prosecute the case because the victim was a criminal drug addict and considered an unreliable witness. Police failed to connect the incident and Pickton to missing women.
Ernie Cray, whose sister disappeared three years later, was told only last Friday the details of where his sister’s DNA was found on Pickton’s farm. Cray said:
“They had him cold. They had him in their hands. But, someone made a decision not to charge him in the case of that terrible assault on that woman who escaped his murderous clutches.
In 1999, police were adamant that a serial murderer was not active in Vancouver’s downtown. Spokesperson Sgt. Anne Drennan spoke for the VPD when she said at the time:
“We don’t know that they’ve met up with foul play. They are simply missing.”
CBC News says many families and even the police are calling for a public inquiry and accountability. However, this was Gordon Campbell, speaking from Winnipeg where he is holidaying with other Premiers:
“We wanna meet everyone’s needs as we go through this. We wanna make sure that it’s productive and its a useful process. Ah, but, the cabinet will make the decision in a couple of weeks.”
According to CBC’s Alan Waterman:
“The government has said that it would call an inquiry once a Vancouver police review is released. Today, Vancouver Police say that they will release that review after an inquiry is called.”
- 1978, first known victim disappears from DTES.
- 1991, with growing list of victims, families and advocates demand improved police action.
- 1998, police establish task force because list of missing has grown to 40. Police doubt the cases are related or that these woman have met with foul play.
- 1999, police accept the possibility of connection between victims beyond lifestyle and offer a reward for information.
- 2001, amid continuing disappearances, VPD interviews Green River killer who has been associated with 49 missing women near Seattle.
- February 2002, missing Vancouver women list grown to 50. RCMP enter Pickton’s Port Coquitlam farm on a firearm warrant and the missing women’s task force soon begins searching on another warrant.
- February 2002, the first murder charges are laid against Robert Pickton.
- October 2002, the official list of missing has grown to 63, the number of murder charges to 15.
- July 2003, Pickton committed to trial after preliminary hearing.
- May 2005, 12 additional murder charges.
- June 2005, pre-trial hearings begin.
- January 2007, jury trial begins.
- December 2007, Pickton found guilty.
- June 2009, BC Court of Appeal denies Pickton appeal.
- July 2010, Supreme Court of Canada denies appeal.
After families warned of a serial killer, 11 years passed before charges were laid and more than eight years further before courts finished their work on the Pickton file. During much of that time, the VPD was crippled by an internecine feud as old guard officers fought modernizers viewed as unacceptable outsiders. The wounds were exposed during legal action by geographic profiler Kim Rossmo, following his dismissal because he spoke publicly about a serial killer working the streets of the DTES.
Despite having already promised to appoint an inquiry into the justice industry’s woeful performance, Premier Campbell remains non-committal:
“Ah, but, the cabinet will make the decision in a couple of weeks.”
The Premier’s shameful record of broken promises continues.