Missing Women Inquiry Reveals Police Incompetence, Indifference

A series of articles detailing police incompetence and indifference towards missing and murdered women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, most of whom were Native, in regards to the Pickton investigation.  These corporate news articles are compiled on http://missingwomen.blogspot.com/2012_01_01_archive.html.

Deaths prevented if police took ‘ownership’ of Missing Women reports: Witness

by Suzanne Fournier, The Province, JANUARY 18, 2012
An Ontario police chief told the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry Wednesday that if B.C. police leaders had “taken ownership” of the issue, “many women’s lives may have been saved.”
Peel Regional Police deputy chief Jennifer Evans, concluded in her 2011 report to the inquiry that “the VPD and the RCMP initially failed to recognize the missing women issue. When they did identify the problem they failed to act appropriately and accept ownership.”
Evans was asked by Cameron Ward, lawyer for 25 murdered women’s families, if senior cops didn’t “take ownership” because they didn’t care or were “disengaged” or uninterested due to the victims’ social status.
“Could those deaths have been avoided had there been a recognition of the problem and had senior (police) management taken ownership much earlier?” asked Ward.
Evans agreed that “commitment” by top cops could have prevented deaths.
Ward asked: “In the case of as many as 49 women whom Robert William Pickton is presumed to have killed, they didn’t get the opportunity to change their lives for the better because their lives were snuffed out?”
Evans replied: “I would agree.”
After Pickton was finally arrested in Feb. 2002, a forensic search of his Port Coquitlam farm found the DNA of 33 missing women. Pickton, serving a life sentence for the murder of six women, boasted he had killed 49 women.
By 1999, the Vancouver police and RCMP had multiple informants and many junior officers who belived Pickton was an active serial killer.
But RCMP Project Evenhanded, set up in late 2000, stuck to reviewing files for a lengthy period in which as many as 12 women died at Pickton’s hands.
Ward asked Evans if Vancouver police and RCMP managers didn’t care about the missing sex trade workers because of their perceived low social status.
“I don’t think they understood . . . or appreciated what they had on their hands,” said Evans, which she agreed was puzzling given by 1999 the many media stories, community outcry, women’s marches and grieving families.
Evans said she found “no evidence” that police “didn’t care” about the missing women because they weren’t UBC students or missing nurses.
She did admit that a senior VPD officer dismissed the missing sex trade workers as “just hookers” and that some officers used the term “hooker task force” to describe the VPD-RCMP joint Missing Women Task Force.
Evans also agreed with Ward that of the 56 people she interviewed for her review of the Missing Women investigation, all but two were police officers.
“You didn’t speak to me, or to any of my clients who are the families of 25 murdered women?” asked Ward.
Evans admitted that also didn’t talk to anyone knowledgeable about Vancouver’s sex trade workers or any of their issues.
Evans also admitted she had many frustrations in getting police documents that she needed for her review.
“Did you feel that the VPD, and the RCMP, Canada’s national police force, would have had better files of Canada’s largest serial killer investigation?” Ward demanded.
Evans said she did not, since she once did file management for Peel police.
But she admitted she wrote “RIDICULOUS” in her own notes about RCMP excuses for not providing her in a timely manner with full disclosure.
“That must have been on one of my more frustrating days,” said Evans, who is slated to testify all this week.
Inquiry commissioner Wally Oppal has promised to conclude hearings by April and hand in his final report to government by the end of June.
Hearings take place from 9:30 a.m. to about 4:30 p.m. every weekday, in the 8th floor Federal Court at 700 West Georgia.
sfournier@theprovince.com

Ontario cop at odds with RCMP lawyer during Missing Women inquiry

by Suzanne Fournier, The Province,  JANUARY 18, 2012
An Ontario deputy police chief on the stand at the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry refused Tuesday to agree with an RCMP lawyer that there was no point in the Mounties accepting Robert Pickton’s invitation to search his farm in 1999.
Jennifer Evans, Peel Regional Police deputy chief who analyzed the police probe into Pickton, produced a 2010 report documenting that cops knew for years Pickton’s farm was rife with evidence.

Robert Pickton, serial killer and pig farmer

Evans refused to agree with federal lawyer Cheryl Tobias that Pickton might have hidden evidence, or suddenly withdrawn permission, had RCMP Const. Ruth Yurkiw searched his farm, with his consent, in September 1999.
“We’ll never know because she never tried to search. We’ll never know what might have occurred,” replied Evans.
But in her report, Evans takes at least 50 pages to cite informant evidence that by 1999 Pickton’s farm was strewn with “trophies” such as women’s purses and identification and firearms. One woman told police she couldn’t walk across Pickton’s yard without tripping on women’s belongings.
Other informants told police Pickton slaughtered women on the farm, ground up human remains, took body parts to a rendering plant and even stored “strange” meat in freezers. All of that turned out to be true, as Evans documented.
Evans said informant Bill Hiscox told Vancouver Police Department Det. Const. Lori Shenher in 1998 that Pickton collected women’s things and “bloody clothing in bags.”
Evans took dozens of pages in her report to cite the chilling descriptions of Pickton’s grisly Port Coquitlam farm from information provided in 1999 by Pickton associate Ross Caldwell to VPD detectives Mark Lepine and Ron Chernoff.
Lynn Ellingsen, another Pickton hanger-on, told Caldwell and friend Leah Best she had seen Pickton gutting a woman in his barn, hours after they picked up the woman together on the Downtown Eastside.
Evans’s report notes that all of that information was in police hands long before Pickton issued his invitation to Yurkiw to search his farm.
Poor information sharing by police, both internally and between the VPD and Coquitlam RCMP, did not assist Yurkiw to judge what a casual search might have found, Evans noted.
In fact, Yurkiw phoned the Pickton farm in September 1999 but was told by Robert Pickton’s brother, Dave Pickton, to “come back in the rainy season” when the farm was less busy.
Pickton was not arrested until February 2002, when a rookie RCMP officer wrote up a search warrant to look for firearms on the Pickton farm.
Police immediately found missing women’s ID, medication and clothing, human remains in plastic pails in freezers, as well as packages of human flesh.
sfournier@theprovince.com

Officers never followed up on Pickton search offer, Missing Women inquiry told

by Neal Hall, The Vancouver Sun, JANUARY 17, 2012
VANCOUVER — A lawyer representing the RCMP at the Missing Inquiry tried to suggest Tuesday that serial killer Robert Pickton likely would not have consented to allow police to search his farm.
And even if he did, lawyer Cheryl Tobias said, he likely wouldn’t have left identification of missing women lying around.
“We’ll never know because she never tried to get his consent,” Peel Regional Police Deputy Chief Jennifer Evans responded at the inquiry, which is probing why it took so long to catch Pickton.
Evans was asked by the inquiry to provide an analysis of the failures of the Pickton investigationsdone by the RCMP and Vancouver police between 1997 and when Pickton was caught in 2002.
In her report, Evans was critical of an interview of Pickton done on Jan. 19, 2000, by RCMP Constables Ruth Yurkiw and John Cater.
One of the problems with the interview, Evans found, was that the officers allowed Pickton’s friend, Gina Houston, to sit in on the interview and interrupt the flow of the questioning.
During the interview, Pickton was asked about an informant’s claim that Pickton was seen one night butchering a woman in a barn on his Port Coquitlam farm.
Pickton, claiming he had never hurt anyone, told the officers they could search his farm and even take soil samples to search for DNA.
“I ain’t got nothing to hide,” Pickton said at the time.
But the officers never took Pickton up on his offer.
In her report, Evans wrote: “The worst case scenario was that Pickton would refuse them entry; the best case scenario, we will never know.”
The RCMP’s lawyer suggested to Evans that a consent search would only be legal if all the owners of the property — the Pickton farm was owned by Pickton, his brother Dave and their sister — consented.
“It would be a wise thing to do,” Evans agreed about getting a written consent from all the siblings.
The RCMP lawyer, during cross-examination, tried to downplay the possibility that Pickton would have consented or have left incriminating evidence lying around for police to find.
Evans said the officers should have at least followed up and tried to get written consent for a search.
“But they didn’t do anything following the interview,” Evans told Commissioner Wally Oppal.
She testified that police already had “shocking” suggestions made by informants that Pickton had killed at least one woman on his farm.
“There were multiple suggestions that he was responsible for the missing women,” Evans pointed out.
Evans is expected to continue her cross-examination until Friday.
On Monday, the inquiry will begin hearing the testimony of a number of current and former Vancouver police officers, tentatively scheduled in this order: Dave Dickson, Al Howlett, Doug MacKay-Dunn, Kim Rossmo, Gary Greer and Lori Shenher.
Evans testified earlier that there was a systemic communication failure that prevented the VPD and RCMP sharing information sooner.
Senior managers with the Vancouver police and the RCMP also failed to take ownership of the investigations, failed to provide proper supervision and failed to make sure there were enough human resources to do the job, she said.
On Nov. 21, 2000, a joint forces investigation involving Vancouver police and the RCMP was started but it was slow going for many months in early 2001 while investigators conducted a file review to get the full scope of the missing women problem.
Initially, it was believed the women reported missing from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside were historical cases but police eventually realized one or more serial killers were actively preying on women.
Evans testified that multi-jurisdictional investigations require someone with major case management training and computerized information system that can be accessed by all investigators in the region.
VPD interviewed three informants in 1998 and 1999 and passed along the shocking information to the Coquitlam RCMP, which was investigating Pickton for the alleged murders of missing women.
Coquitlam RCMP had investigated a 1997 attack of a Downtown Eastside prostitute at Pickton’s farm — the woman was stabbed several times but escaped and ran to the street to flag down a passing car.
Pickton was charged with the attempted murder and unlawful confinement but the Crown dropped the charges in 1998.
The inquiry will probe why the Crown decided to stay the charges. Pickton wasn’t arrested until Feb. 5, 2002, when a rookie Mountie executed a search warrant on Pickton’s home for illegal guns in an unrelated Investigation.
Police quickly discovered some identification and possessions of missing women.
Police had to return to court to get a new search warrant for a homicide investigation.
The exhaustive farm search, which took 18 months, found the DNA of 33 missing women.
Pickton, who once admitted to an undercover officer that he killed 49 women, was eventually charged with 27 counts of first-degree murder.
He was convicted at his first trial in 2007 of six murders. After Pickton exhausted all appeals, the Crown decided not to proceed on a second trial on another 20 murder counts.
nhall@vancouversun.com

RCMP Missing Women Scandel: Officer Paid Social Visit To pickton & Tipped Him Off

By Suzanne Fournier, The Province, January 12, 2012

An RCMP officer who paid a “social visit” alone to Robert Pickton in 2001 tipped the pig farmer that two informants had accused Pickton of “killing people and doing all sorts of horrible things.”

But RCMP Supt. Bob Williams refused to say on the stand at the Missing Women Inquiry Thursday if naming those informants put their lives at risk or undermined what was still an active serial-murder investigation.

Williams interviewed the officer, Cpl. Frank Henley, for his 2002 report on whether the Mounties could be liable for civil lawsuit compensation to the families of women murdered by Pickton.

“Snitches are not welcome in the criminal underworld, in fact they are probably often killed?” demanded lawyer Jason Gratl, a lawyer acting for Downtown Eastside aboriginal and women’s groups.

Pressed by Gratl to say if revealing sources was a “breach of discipline . . . or a firing offence,” Williams, the first senior Mountie to take the stand, protested, “that’s going pretty far.”

Williams testified that one of Henley’s reasons for his “visit” to Pickton may have been that the Mountie might have been curious, “trying to get a handle on what makes him [Pickton] tick, that sort of thing.”

Williams noted Henley also visited Pickton “on his mistaken belief that the police investigation [into Pickton as a serial killer] had shut down.”

Aside from curiosity, Williams was at a loss to account for Henley, protesting “it would be better if he explained his reasons” to the inquiry.

Henley gave Pickton the names of informants Ross Caldwell and Lynn Ellingsen, whose eyewitness evidence later helped convict Pickton.

Pickton was at the time of Henley’s visit a key focus of the joint RCMP-Vancouver police Missing Women Task Force.

Asked if Henley’s perception was “odd,” Williams shot back, “There’s lots of oddities in this investigation.”

Williams, a 44-year veteran Mountie, said he as a leader would not have condoned the visit by Henley.

Several lawyers at the inquiry, as well as victims’ families, are pushing for the inquiry to call front line investigators, instead of “armchair experts” or top officers like Williams and Vancouver Police Department Deputy Chief Doug LePard.

Next Monday, however, the inquiry will hear from another “review” witness, Peel, Ontario Region Deputy Chief Jennifer Evans, who last year conducted an exhaustive review of the Pickton investigation for the inquiry.

Hearings at the inquiry will continue until the end of April, with Commissioner Wally Oppal pledging to hand in his final report by June.

How serial killer Robert Pickton slipped away

New revelations show why he was able to prey with such impunity
by Ken MacQueen, missingwomen.blogspot.com, Friday, August 13, 2010
Long before Robert Pickton became an infamous household name, but years after he began prowling Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, a local advocacy group conducted a survey of the city’s prostitutes. It helps explain how a simple-minded pig farmer—the very definition of the banality of evil—got away with what police now believe is the largest serial killing spree in Canadian history.
The organization, the Prostitution Alternatives Counselling and Education (PACE) Society, interviewed 183 sex trade workers between 1999 and 2001. It found, not surprisingly, that 58 per cent worked to support a drug habit, and that violent “bad dates” were a frequent occurrence. More than half said they had been robbed while working the streets; 39 per cent said they had been kidnapped or confined; one-third said they had survived attempts to murder them. Remarkably, 40 per cent of those who claimed to have been targets for murder said they didn’t report the incident to police. The survey found a “gulf between acts of violence suffered and acts of violence reported”—indicative of a profound distrust of authorities.
It was the perfect combination of vulnerabilities for an urban predator. Pickton cruised  into the city, offered money and drugs to women working the Eastside “low track,” then drove them to the grotty, cluttered farm in suburban Port Coquitlam he shared with his brother Dave. If he was dead certain their disappearance would go unnoticed by authorities, it was with good reason. Trial information released last week shows Pickton skated on an attempted murder charge in 1997—freeing him to kill a further 21 of the more than 30 women investigators now believe were murdered and butchered at the farm.
With the Supreme Court of Canada upholding his six murder convictions and the Crown deciding not to proceed with 20 other murder charges, the courts were able to release testimony that wasn’t admitted at trial. Taken together, it helps show how Pickton was able to hunt humans with such impunity that he bragged to an undercover-police cell plant after his arrest in 2002 that he’d killed 49 women and was aiming for an even 50.
The most damning evidence jurors never heard was of a woman’s narrow escape from Pickton’s farm in 1997. She testified at the preliminary hearing he paid her $100 to accompany him to the farm for sex. She said she fought for her life after Pickton stabbed her and tried to handcuff her. Both suffered serious wounds and massive blood loss in the resulting knife fight. She escaped naked, with a handcuff dangling from a wrist.
The two were treated in adjoining operating rooms at Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster.
Doctors found the key to remove the handcuffs in a pocket of Pickton’s clothing. A subsequent charge of attempted murder against him was stayed in early 1998—apparently because heavy drug use by the woman, whose name remains protected, made her an unreliable witness.
Tragically, that decision not to proceed came at enormous cost. Police now believe Pickton had killed at least five women at the farm by the time of the stabbing. All six women he was subsequently convicted of killing died after the 1997 stabbing, as well as 15 others he was charged with killing. Yet, Pickton remained above suspicion largely because of a refusal by the senior ranks of the Vancouver Police and the RCMP to believe that women were systematically being murdered. (Women like Sarah deVries, who worked the streets to feed her addiction, often railed at the indifference that met the disappearance of those around her. In one poetic diary entry she wrote: “Just another Hastings Street whore / sentenced to death / No judge, no jury, no trial, no mercy / The judge’s gavel already fallen / Sentence already passed.”)
Sadly, Pickton’s bloody clothing from the 1997 stabbing held the key, literally and figuratively, to solving both past and future murders. Police had seized the items but they weren’t tested for DNA until 2004, seven years after the stabbing and two years after Pickton’s arrest. (The results revealed the DNA of two women who vanished in early 1997, evidence kept from the jury because they were among the 20 women named in what was to be a separate trial. Nor did the jury hear that the DNA of 10 women was found in freezers in Pickton’s workshop.)
Despite the rising count of missing women, police refused to say that a serial killer was at work, or even to speculate that the women were dead. Their sluggish response has fuelled calls for an inquiry into the investigation now that the trial is over. An internal police review of the matter was forwarded to the provincial government last week.
There is much to answer for. As early as 2005 a police missing-women’s poster held the faces of 65 women (though some were found alive and others weren’t linked to Pickton). Had police seriously entertained the possibility of a serial killer, Pickton would certainly have been a prime suspect. Not only would a test of his clothing have yielded DNA of two of the women, but former Vancouver police officer Kim Rossmo later revealed police were tipped in 1998 that Pickton had a stash of women’s purses and ID.
They lacked either the will or the manpower to check it out. The missing women’s investigation started that year with just one Vancouver detective, though it grew into a joint city-RCMP task force. That summer, Rossmo, then head of the department’s geographic profiling unit, raised the possibility of a serial killer—an idea rejected by his superiors. Police were denying the possibility of a serial killer as late as June 2001, in part, Rossmo later charged, because the women’s low social status made them a lesser priority. It wasn’t that simple, former Vancouver mayor Larry Campbell, the chief provincial coroner at the time, would later write. “We never had any bodies. We never had a crime scene.”
Pickton was finally arrested in February 2002 after a rookie RCMP officer, acting on a weapons complaint, discovered articles at the farm belonging to a missing woman. The task force was called in and began a massive search of the property. It was an overdue bit of luck that came too late for Sarah deVries. She vanished in 1998, age 28, her DNA subsequently discovered on the farm. She’s one of 20 women that a convicted serial killer will never have to answer for. No judge. No jury. No trial.

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Posted on January 19, 2012, in Indigenous Women and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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