VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Officers never followed up on Pickton search offer, Missing Women inquiry told
BY NEAL HALL, 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 investigations done 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.
Click here to read Jennifer Evans' analysis of the Robert Pickton investigations done by the RCMP and Vancouver Police
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Updated: January 01, 2007