Archeology students to aid pig farm investigation

Retired police officers will also be used in expanded search of Port Coquitlam property

Kim Bolan and Lindsay Kines
Vancouver Sun

Saturday, May 11, 2002

Vancouver's missing women investigation is expanding again with the hiring of archeology students and retired police officers and an extension of the search warrant at one of the Port Coquitlam sites on which the investigation is focused.

Lynda Przybyla, of Simon Fraser University's archeology department, confirmed to The Vancouver Sun that the RCMP contacted the department about three weeks ago requesting a list of students with expertise in forensics and osteology, which is the study of human bone.

Przybyla said the university provided a list of about 24 names to the police.

Dean Hildebrand, coordinator of BCIT's forensic science technology program, said that school has also been approached.

"They're looking for additional manpower, basically," he said. "They wanted to know if we could recommend any of our students with appropriate background to assist in their large-scale excavation of the acreage that's supposed to start sometime in June."

Hildebrand said the police are specifically looking for students with training in human osteology.

"I understand it will be a large-scale excavation and they'll be tethered to a conveyer belt, basically, watching dirt and debris go by and they need to be able to recognize fragment human remains and anything else that looks like potential evidence."

Hildebrand did not know if any BCIT students have applied for the positions, but said the assignment would likely appeal to many of them.

"It's obviously not a very glamourous job, but it's a very important case and it's obviously the biggest forensic case in the province, probably in our history. So I'm sure many of our students would be honoured to participate in any manner. It would be valuable experience."

Dozens of students are now being interviewed for the positions and more than $1 million has been committed to hiring the students, who will assist police investigators with the excavation of two Port Coquitlam sites owned by Robert (Willy) Pickton and two of his siblings.

Pickton is facing six counts of first-degree murder of women who are among the 54 who have disappeared from the Downtown Eastside in recent years. His next court appearance is June 11.

In addition to the students, retired police officers are being invited back to work on the probe on contract.

And just this week, the search warrant for the Pickton property in the 2500-block of Burns Road was expanded beyond the perimeters of the 4.5 hectare site that police sealed off on April 17. The original police search, which has yielded human remains, began Feb. 5 at 953 Dominion Road.

The Burns Road site houses a community party hall called Piggy's Palace where numerous large scale events over the years have attracted many locals, including politicians like Port Coquitlam Mayor Scott Young.

Asked about the additional resources being dedicated to the searches, RCMP Constable Catherine Galliford, of the missing women task force, said she could not comment.

The joint Vancouver Police-RCMP task force has not held a media briefing in weeks and will not comment to reporters outside the briefings.

They did respond to several questions on their Web site earlier this week, but their answers revealed little about the case.

In response to a question about whether police will disclose details of which police department knew what and when in relation to the missing women case, the task force said the answer to that question will have to wait.

"The Missing Women Joint Task Force is committed to providing full public disclosure of key events and time lines to the appropriate and relevant public bodies that may be examining this case," police said.

"That sort of detail obviously cannot be disclosed today while an investigation is under way, while court action is being prepared in relation to the six murder charges against Robert William Pickton, and while a civil suit is being launched against police."

But police did say that they have "continually shared information on this very complicated case."

"Information that was considered important and reliable within the context of the day was dealt with quickly, with the necessary priority, and was shared with those who needed to know.

"At some point in time there may well be an official forum wherein the answers to this question can be dealt with in an open and direct way. We have no problem with that. In fact, both the Vancouver police department and RCMP are fully committed to being part of any such process."

The police said they are are in a "tough situation" when people make claims to the news media.

"We can only ask that the public continue with their trust in us, and to wait until the proper and legitimate forum takes place where all the facts will be weighed."

 Copyright  2002 Vancouver Sun

Courtesy of Vancouver Sun



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

Updated: August 21, 2016