VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Missing women case should have been solved earlier, former cop tells inquiry
BY NEAL HALL, VANOUVER SUN JANUARY 25, 2012
VANCOUVER - The missing women case should have been solved sooner, an expert witness told the Missing Women inquiry today.
But Vancouver police dropped the ball, Kim Rossmo testified.
"There was a very good chance of solving the case by the end of 1999, if the appropriate resources were employed," he said.
"If we had taken the case more seriously," Rossmo added.
"It could have and should have been solved earlier," he testified.
"I think this case should have been solved one or two years earlier," Rossmo said, "but we dropped the ball."
He agreed during cross-examination by lawyer Cameron Ward that if a judge's daughter had gone missing, it would have attracted more media attention and pressure from politicians to solve the case.
Rossmo credited The Vancouver Sun and reporter Lindsey Kines for keeping the missing women story on the "agenda" and bringing the attention it deserved.
Meanwhile, another lawyer representing a police officer appeared today at the inquiry.
The lawyer, David Neave, said he was appearing at the inquiry to represent the interests of former Vancouver police Insp. Fred Biddlecombe, who was in charge of major crime in 1998 and rejected the theory that a serial killer was behind the disappearance of 27 women by that point.
Neave said he wants to have the current witness on the stand, Rossmo, return at a later date for cross-examination.
Ward objected to another lawyer being added to represent the interests of police at the inquiry, which is probing why it took so long to catch serial killer Robert Pickton.
Ward, who is representing 25 families of murdered women at the inquiry, complained that there are now 19 lawyers representing the interests of police.
"The public interest is not well served if the public is paying for all these lawyers," Ward told inquiry Commissioner Wally Oppal.
Ward said that police were "lawyering up at this late stage" and he suggested it was a calculated strategy by the Vancouver police the RCMP to "derail" the inquiry process.
"There is no legitimate reason for the lawyers to be coming out of the woodwork now," Ward told the inquiry, which began hearings on Oct. 11.
Oppal, however, said he had to be fair and allow Biddlecombe to have a lawyer at the inquiry.
"If I had my way, we'd have no lawyers in here and we'd get it done quicker," Oppal quipped.
Tim Dickson, representing the Vancouver police department, took issue with Ward's allegation that the VPD was trying to derail the inquiry process.
"Nothing can be further from the truth," the lawyer added.
Biddlecombe retained a lawyer after the testimony of former VPD officer Kim Rossmo, who wanted to issue a public warning in 1998 that a possible serial killer was preying on women in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
Rossmo testified that Biddlecombe had a small temper tantrum - a "hissy fit" - and kiboshed the idea at a meeting on Sept. 22, 1998.
""The community should have been warned," Rossmo testified today.
He said Biddlecombe's negative attitude -- he was angry and felt there was no evidence to support the serial killer theory -- effectively killed a VPD "working group," which included Rossmo, that was trying to look into the problem of a growing number of missing women.
Ward pointed out to Rossmo that a VPD spokesperson, Const. Anne Drennan, issued this media statement on April 7, 1999:
"There is nothing that has come to light...that indicates a serial killer is on the loose."
Rossmo said that statement was not accurate.
"It's not true," he said.
He said police did have evidence and intelligence that Pickton had killed one or more women on his Port Coquitlam farm.
By that time, police had a number of informants who said Pickton may be responsible for the missing women and he had bloody clothing and purses on his property, which were alleged to be "trophies" of his murders.
Rossmo said Drennan's statement reflected the reluctance of the police force to adopt the serial killer theory.
"Not everyone agreed with it," he added, pointing out that Insp. Gary Greer and another senior officer, Doug Mackay-Dunn, thought the missing women problem was serious and that a serial killer may be responsible.
The inquiry has heard how Vancouver police officers who were investigation Pickton in 1998 thought Pickton was a strong suspect.
But VPD passed along the information from three informants to the Coquitlam RCMP because Pickton lived in their jurisdiction.
The same investigative failures occurred at Coquitlam RCMP, Rossmo said, adding there were not enough resources were devoted to the investigation and there was no sense of urgency.
Rossmo, an internationally known serial crime expert, at the time was the first police officer in Canada with a PhD in criminology.
Rossmo now is a professor at Texas State University, where he is the director of Geospacial Intelligence and Investigation.
He served 20 years with the Vancouver police, including two tours of duty in the Downtown Eastside,
Former VPD inspector Gary Greer is also at the inquiry today, with a lawyer, listening to testimony.
In 1998, Greer was in charge of District Two, which includes the Downtown Eastside.
Rossmo testified that Vancouver police had a duty to protect all citizens, including the vulnerable street prostitutes who went missing.
If the same number of women went missing in a wealthy area of Vancouver, he said, it would have got more attention and more resources.
More detectives should have been assigned to the missing women case sooner, Rossmo said.
And he blamed police managers for not taking ownership of the problem.
Instead, he said, police managers remained disengaged because of the lack of political pressure.
Rossmo testified the police denial of the serial killer theory was just one of a number of classic mistakes that have been made in other serial killer cases.
Rossmo is expected to continue testifying until Friday.
Oppal reiterated today that inquiry is not looking to find "scapegoats" to blame but is trying to learn about the systemic problems within the VPD and RCMP investigations of Pickton, who wasn't arrested until 2002.
The inquiry will also probe why the Crown dropped attempted murder charges against Pickton in 1998.
The charges stemmed from a 1997 knife attack on a Vancouver prostitute at Pickton's farm in Port Coquitlam.
The woman stabbed Pickton and ran to the street, where she flagged down a passing car.
The woman, who cannot be named, testified at Pickton's trial in 2007.
Pickton, who is serving a life sentence in prison for the murder of six women, once confided he killed 49 women.
He was facing a second trial for the murder of another 20 women.
But after he lost all appeals on his first six murder convictions, the Crown elected not to proceed with a second trial, which upset the families of those victims.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
Updated: January 01, 2007