VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Attempted murder charges against Pickton in 1997 'red flagged,' judge tells inquiry
BY NEAL HALL, VANCOUVER SUN APRIL 19, 2012
VANCOUVER - The charges laid against Robert Pickton in 1997 for an attack on a sex worker were so serious that the Crown red-flagged the file, the Missing Women inquiry was told today.
The Crown who approved the charges against Pickton was Richard Romano, who became a Provincial Court judge in 2005.
He was called as a witness to testify about his role in the Crown's decision to stay the charges against Pickton on Jan. 26, 1998, a week before Pickton's five-day trial was to begin.
Pickton, Canada's worst serial killer, went on to kill an additional 19 women after his arrest in 1997 and his release on bail.
Romano recalled he was the administrative Crown in Port Coquitlam in 1997 who approved charges against Pickton after reading the RCMP's report to Crown counsel.
He recalled police recommended charges of attempted murder, assault with a weapons and unlawful confinement for Pickton's knife attack on a street sex worker from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
Romano recalled he added another charge -- aggravated assault -- not recommended by police and red-flagged the file.
He said a red file -- the file had a red cover -- tells the assigned trial Crown that the case needed advance preparation.
Romano said the job of the administrative Crown is to handle about 2,000 charge approvals a year and to assign prosecutors to cases about three or four months before trial.
He said he assigned the Pickton case to prosecutor Randi Connor because she was a very competent and aggressive senior Crown.
He also assigned Connor because he felt the female complainant would feel more comfortable with a female Crown.
"I was very confident in her decision making and judgment," Romano said of the prosecutor.
"I would assign it to her again," he added.
But Romano said he had no independent recollection of his meeting with Connor on Jan. 26, 1998, when Connor decided to stay the charges against Pickton.
Connor testified last week that she decided to stay the charges because the victim, who is being called Ms. Anderson to protect her privacy, attended a meeting a week before trial while she was high on drugs.
Connor recalled Anderson was nodding off and couldn't articulate the evidence, so she stayed the charges against Pickton.
After his arrest in 1997, Pickton killed 19 women before he was arrested in 2002.
Romano said he knew Anderson was a prostitute but he didn't know she was a drug addict, although he felt there was a strong possibility she was an addict.
"I anticipated there were going to be problems with the complainant," Romano told inquiry Commissioner Wally Oppal.
That's why he red-flagged the case, he said.
The inquiry is probing why Pickton wasn't caught sooner.
The charges stayed against Pickton stemmed from a 1997 knife attack on Anderson, who was picked up by Pickton in Vancouver and taken to his farm in Port Coquitlam.
When Pickton tried to put handcuffs on her wrists, she feared for her life and she grabbed a kitchen knife, slashing his neck.
Pickton got the knife and repeatedly stabbed the woman.
Once Pickton loosened his grip on her, she ran to the street and flag down a passing car.
The woman died in hospital but was revived.
Anderson was listed as a witness at the inquiry but decided she didn't want to testify because of privacy concerns - she now is married with children and didn't want to relive the events that happened 15 years ago.
A tape of the police interview with Anderson is expected to be played at the inquiry.
Anderson was called as a Crown witness to testify against Pickton at his preliminary hearing in 2003, when the serial killer faced multiple murder charges.
Romano recalled he approved the first two murder charges against Pickton as police continued their exhaustive search of the Pickton farm.
The inquiry will resume Monday with the testimony of Sandy Cameron, a civilian clerk with the Vancouver police department.
The inquiry has heard testimony about Cameron, when she worked in the VPD missing persons unit, being rude and making offensive comments to family members of Pickton's victim when they tried to report their loved ones missing.
The inquiry has heard how Cameron would make judgmental comments to families about allowing their daughters to become drug addicts and work on the streets as prostitutes.
There will also be a panel of major crime witnesses next week to discuss the failure of the VPD to recognize that a serial killer was responsible for the dozens of women who were reported missing.
Police said at the time that without any bodies or crime scene, there was no evidence of a serial killer, despite credible tips to Vancouver police about Pickton starting in 1998.
Pickton was convicted in 2007 of six murders.
After Pickton lost all his appeals, the Crown decided not to proceed on a second trial of another 20 murders.
Pickton confided to an undercover officer that he killed 49 women.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
Updated: January 01, 2007