VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Pig farm search continues as four more murder charges laid
Pickton now faces 11 charges related to missing women
Kim Bolan and Lindsay Kines
Friday, September 20, 2002
Police expressed optimism about the outcome of the missing women investigation Thursday as four more first-degree murder charges were laid against Port Coquitlam pig farmer Robert (Willy) Pickton, bringing the total to 11 counts.
"The investigators are feeling very positive. We've done some extremely good work," said RCMP Constable Catherine Galliford of the joint Vancouver police-RCMP missing women's task force. "We feel extremely optimistic with regard to the outcome of this investigation."
Robert (Willy) Pickton
Galliford told a packed news conference that the new charges against Pickton relate to the murders of Helen Mae Hallmark, who disappeared in June 1997, Georgina Faith Papin who disappeared in March 1999, Jennifer Lynn Furminger who vanished in March 2000, and Patricia Rose Johnson last seen in March 2001.
With 11 charges against him, Pickton is now accused of being as prolific a killer as Clifford Olson, Canada's most notorious serial killer who admitted to the sex slayings of 11 children in the early 1980s.
Pickton, 52, had already been charged between last February and May with seven counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Mona Wilson, Diane Rock, Sereena Abotsway, Andrea Joesbury, Heather Bottomley, Brenda Wolfe and Jacquilene McDonell.
All 11 women were among dozens -- many of them sex-trade workers and drug addicts -- who have vanished from the Downtown Eastside in recent years.
Galliford refused to comment on the prospect of more charges being laid against Pickton before his preliminary hearing scheduled for Nov. 4.
"That would certainly be speculation on my part. We do plan on being on the farm property for many months to come," she said. "But it would be purely speculation at this point for me to comment on any future charges."
Geoffrey Gaul, of the attorney-general's ministry, said that even though Pickton's preliminary hearing is just six weeks away, Crown prosecutors can still decide to proceed by way of direct indictment. That would mean the high-profile case would go directly to B.C. Supreme Court, bypassing the preliminary hearing process completely.
Robert (Willy) Pickton faces four more murder charges in the deaths of Jennifer Lynn Furminger, (left), Helen Mae Hallmark, Georgina Faith Papin and Patricia Rose Johnson
Pickton was not in court Thursday, but is scheduled to appear on Oct. 2.
The joint task force began an intensive search, which now involves 91 people, at Pickton's Port Coquitlam pig farm in February, moving to a second property on Burns Road in April.
While some exhibits have been recovered at the second Burns Road site, Galliford said all the DNA evidence leading to the 11 charges comes from the Dominion Avenue farm site where Pickton had been living in a grungy trailer.
"We have forwarded many exhibits to the lab and one of the reasons that our charges are coming so sporadically is that we have burdened the lab with a lot of exhibits that we need to have identified," Galliford said. "Once we get the exhibits back from the lab, we prepare our report to Crown counsel, so often times it takes a while for charges to be laid."
Robert (Willy) Pickton faces four more murder charges in the deaths of Jennifer Lynn Furminger, Helen Mae Hallmark, (left), Georgina Faith Papin and Patricia Rose Johnson
Galliford said the Dominion Avenue search is expected to continue for longer than police originally estimated, while the forensic team is likely to be finished on the second site much sooner.
"The farm property has been divided into grids which are being thoroughly searched. We still have 52 archaeology specialists assisting us by manning four conveyor belts of sifted soil, looking for anything which may assist us in this investigation," she said.
Galliford also said the task force has had no success in tracking down nine missing women whose photos where released in July. All have now been formally added to the list of 54, bringing the total number who have vanished in recent years to 63.
Five more missing women cases are still being considered for addition to the list, she said.
"The file review process is still ongoing and our task force is following up on tips as well as other investigative avenues," she said. "This has been, and will continue to be, a slow and methodical process with no definitive time frame involved."
Robert (Willy) Pickton faces four more murder charges in the deaths of Jennifer Lynn Furminger, Helen Mae Hallmark, Georgina Faith Papin, (left), and Patricia Rose Johnson
She also claimed the task force continues to pursue other suspects besides Pickton, though she could not say how many.
Relatives of the women now confirmed dead said they have mixed emotions about the new charges.
Johnson's cousin Janette Mackenzie believes more should have been done sooner to save lives.
"The damage is already done. What are they going to do or say now that can change anything?" Mackenzie asked. "For us, it is too late. A sorry or an apology or somebody reprimanded -- the girls are still gone."
Meanwhile, another family member of a missing woman has filed a lawsuit claiming police badly mishandled the case.
Doug Creison, whose daughter Marcella disappeared in December 1999, alleges Vancouver police and the RCMP received information from various sources during the initial investigation indicating that Pickton was involved in some way with the disappearances of women from the Downtown Eastside.
Robert (Willy) Pickton faces four more murder charges in the deaths of Jennifer Lynn Furminger, Helen Mae Hallmark, Georgina Faith Papin, and Patricia Rose Johnson, (left).
But Creison says the police either wilfully failed to properly investigate the information, or were negligent in their investigation. "And such negligence allowed the killing to continue and such negligence amounted to gross negligence," the suit says.
The suit, which names the cities of Vancouver and Port Coquitlam, is similar to one filed earlier this year by Karin Joesbury, whose daughter, Andrea, is listed among Pickton's alleged victims.
Unlike Joesbury's suit, however, Creison also names Premier Gordon Campbell, claiming that he either willfully influenced the investigation or was negligent in his duties. "Since approximately 1996," the suit states, "50 women disappeared under similar circumstances, without any or adequate police investigation being conducted."
Creison also says police were negligent because they identified the existence of a possible serial killer, and then failed to commit adequate resources to conducting a meaningful and effective investigation.
He further states that the police were negligent because they failed to share information with other police forces, which would assist in resolving the case of the missing women.
"As a result of the defendants' willful acts or alternatively the defendants' negligence, the plaintiff's daughter, Marcella Helen Creison, went missing from the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver."
The suit says Doug Creison has suffered mental anguish, loss of companionship, emotional trauma and spiritual trauma over the loss of his daughter.
None of the allegations contained in Creison's suit have been proven, and the defendants have not yet filed statements of defence.
Both Creison and Joesbury are represented by Victoria lawyer Denis Berntsen. He did not return calls to The Vancouver Sun.
© Copyright 2002 Vancouver Sun
Updated: January 01, 2007