VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
U.S. media probed for possible Pickton violation
Wednesday, December 11, 2002
The joint Vancouver Police-RCMP Missing Women's task force is investigating U.S. Internet news reports that detail banned evidence about the case of accused serial killer Robert Pickton.
Dawn Lynn Cooper
RCMP Constable Catherine Galliford said Tuesday investigators will look at the reports on the Web sites of two American media outlets.
Port Coquitlam provincial court judge David Stone last week ordered a ban on publication of evidence at the preliminary hearing for Pickton, who is charged with killing 15 women who disappeared from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
"We are looking at it," Galliford said. "If there are any breaches of the publication ban, we will certainly have to investigate it."
She said it was similar to an incident that occurred after a bail hearing last year for suspects in the Air India bombing case.
The son of one of the suspects posted banned evidence on an Internet site, but agreed to remove it once police began investigating.
Both the U.S. outlets reported evidence Tuesday that is to be presented during Pickton's preliminary hearing. The material was referred to in provincial court Monday by Marilyn Sandford, one of Pickton's lawyers.
The information contained in the reports, which were both sourced as coming from the Associated Press, was not used by Canadian media outlets.
Jeremy Hainsworth, a Canadian freelancer for AP who filed the story, was unaware police were investigating until he was contacted by The Vancouver Sun.
He said he couldn't comment and referred calls to AP's office in Toronto. Calls to the Toronto office were not returned.
One of the U.S. outlets put a disclaimer in both English and French beside its Internet news report. The disclaimer said: "A Canadian court has determined that proceedings in the Pickton case are subject to a publication ban. This report is intended for non-Canadian viewers."
Both outlets were part of a group of media outlets that hired Vancouver lawyer David Sutherland last week to argue against a defence application to close Pickton's preliminary hearing to the media in order to guarantee his right to a fair trial.
Pickton's lawyer Peter Ritchie said he feared the U.S. media would taint the potential jury pool by reporting on banned details that would come back into Canada via American news outlets.
Sutherland said his clients would make every effort to block reports on television about the case that would come into Canada via cable and might violate the ban. But he also said his clients intended to report details on the Internet "for their American viewers."
While Stone ruled the courtroom will remain open to the public and media for now, he said either the defence or the Crown could bring future applications to remove people or close the court.
Meanwhile, the task force announced Tuesday it has learned the fate of another person who was added to the missing women's list last summer.
Dawn Lynn Cooper died of natural causes more than five years ago, while living under an assumed name.
Cooper was reported missing by her American relatives in June 2002. They last had contact with her in 1996.
Once Cooper's photograph appeared in local media outlets in July, police received a tip that she had used the name Dawn Lynn Woods.
Investigators then learned she had died at a local hospice in March 1997.
It is the second time this month that police have located someone on the list and were able to report to their families or friends what had happened to the women. Last week, police located Tanya Emery, who is alive and well and living in central Canada.
While the news in Cooper's case was still upsetting, it allows her family some closure, Galliford said.
"From our point of view it will give the other families faith that we are continuing to investigate the disappearances of these women," she said.
© Copyright 2002 Vancouver Sun
Updated: January 01, 2007