Families brace for hearing

Prosecutor tells relatives of missing women about what they may expect

Kim Bolan
Vancouver Sun

Monday, October 28, 2002

With just a week to go before a preliminary hearing for accused serial killer Robert (Willy) Pickton takes place, relatives of Vancouver's 63 missing women came together at a meeting Sunday to find out what to expect when the case goes to court.

Ian Smith, Vancouver Sun

Family members take a break from a meeting with police, who are preparing them for a hearing for accused killer Robert Pickton

Pickton is facing 15 counts of first-degree murder in the slayings of women on the list of those missing from the Downtown Eastside. Thousands more DNA samples taken by investigators from his Port Coquitlam pig farm are waiting to be analyzed.

Crown prosecutor Mike Petrie said the meeting was valuable in providing information to the relatives about the preliminary hearing.

"It was basically a touch-base with the families to let them know what they might expect on Nov. 4 and what we anticipate might happen and otherwise to answer questions about procedure, courtroom decorum and all that sort of thing," Petrie said as he left the Surrey meeting.

"There was no discussion of the evidence except in the most general way."

Petrie said some families have indicated they plan to attend the preliminary hearing, which is expected to last months. Others have said they do not want to be there.

"Some of the family members will be subpoenaed as witnesses in the trial and, of course, they can't be present," he said.

While there is a chance the hearing will be delayed, Petrie said he has to prepare as if it is going ahead.

About 30 seats have been reserved for family members in the small provincial courtroom where the hearing is due to take place.

Petrie said most of the reserved seats will be for families of women already named as Pickton's alleged victims.

Ernie Crey, whose sister Dawn disappeared in December 2000, said he is disappointed that more seats aren't being made available to family members given that dozens may want to attend.

"I understand it is a relatively small courtroom setting, so I don't know that everyone who might want to be there who's a member of a family who has someone missing will get that opportunity," Crey said.

An earlier suggestion that a separate room hooked up to a video monitor be made available to relatives is not going ahead, Crey said.

But he said he is happy with the over-all success of the police investigation.

"You can't forget that a couple of years ago, there were no charges against anyone and here we are a couple of years later and a gentleman is facing 15 charges of murder and I view that as progress."

Crey is hopeful that once police labs finish testing all the DNA samples, he may get answers about his missing sister.

"We didn't learn anything about the disappearance of our sister, Dawn Theresa, at this meeting. Of course we are hopeful. We understand that a lot of DNA has been recovered from the site the police are examining. We understand a lot remains to be processed. So we are hopeful that in the coming days or weeks, they'll have some news for us. But they didn't at this stage and I didn't expect they would."

Daphne Peters and her mother Evelyn Murdock also hope that untested DNA might lead to some answers in the August 1997 disappearance of Jacqueline Murdock, their much-missed sister and daughter.

Evelyn travelled from Prince George, where she cares for two of Jacqueline's children, for Sunday's meeting.

Peters lives in the Lower Mainland and has attended several of the earlier ones.

She expressed concern about not learning anything new about her sister.

"It just seems like the same thing each time," Peters said. "I ask questions, but I don't get any answers."

Kathleen McKenzie clutched a photo of her missing sister, Debora Jones, that had just been returned to her by police as the meeting began Sunday.

"She was a wonderful musician," said McKenzie, who praised the joint police task force. "I think they are doing a wonderful job."

Some relatives could be seen hugging each other for support while taking a break on a balcony outside the meeting at the RCMP's E Division satellite office.

"It is a sad process," is all Herbert Williams had to say about the gathering. He travelled from Burns Lake to represent his missing niece, Olivia Williams.

Charles Wattley echoed the sentiment as he described what the meeting was like. His daughter, Kathleen, vanished in June, 1992.

"In such circumstances, you really can't feel good about anything," said Wattley.

"We just have to wait and see." 

 Copyright  2002 Vancouver Sun

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Missing Women Tip Line: 1-877-687-3377

Updated: August 21, 2016