Vancouver police apologize for not catching Robert Pickton sooner

'When faced with the worst, we should have been better'


Vancouver's deputy police chief Doug Lepard apologizes Friday to the families of the women murdered by Robert Pickton, 

acknowledging that investigators made mistakes and more lives could have been saved.

Photograph by: Bill Keay, PNG


Vancouver's Deputy Police Chief Doug LePard apologized Friday for his department's mistakes in the missing women case and for not catching Robert Pickton sooner.

"I wish that the several agencies involved ... could have done better in so many ways. I wish that all the mistakes that were made we could undo," he said at a news conference. "So I wish to say to the families that we're sorry from the bottom of our hearts that we didn't catch him sooner and protect more women from being harmed."

The VPD and RCMP have been criticized for not realizing sooner that a serial killer was at work in the Downtown Eastside.

LePard was tasked by the VPD to write a report examining why Pickton wasn't caught sooner, a report he said the VPD plans to release publicly within the coming weeks.

And while he wouldn't comment on the specific mistakes made by investigators, he acknowledged there were several.

"While many investigators poured their hearts and souls into this case from different agencies and different jurisdictions over a number of years, still, when faced with the worst, we should have done better," he said.

Assistant Commissioner Al Macintyre said the RCMP has conducted its own internal review of the investigation and hopes to release it publicly as well.

Both the VPD and the RCMP renewed their calls Friday for a public inquiry into the missing women case, a request also made by the families of the missing women.

"We think we owe it to the victims and the public," said LePard.

However, B.C. Attorney-General Mike de Jong refused Friday to commit the province to holding an inquiry.

"We are not ruling an inquiry out but I'm not in the position to tell you that one is being called today," he said.

De Jong acknowledged there "are very compelling arguments for why a detailed examination [into the investigation] should take place".

But he said he wants to wait until Crown prosecutors formally withdraw the remaining 20 charges against Pickton and to see the internal reviews conducted by the VPD and RCMP before cabinet decides if an inquiry is necessary.

Asked when cabinet would make a decision, de Jong would only say, "Soon".

The government's caution in calling an inquiry into the missing women case is in stark contrast to how it handled the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski after being Tasered at the Vancouver airport in October 2007.

Then Attorney-General Wally Oppal announced a public inquiry into that matter just five weeks after Dziekanski died, before the RCMP had even completed its criminal investigation into the incident.

Deputy Police Complaints Commissioner Bruce Brown confirmed Friday that his office received two complaints in 2002 about the VPD's handling of the missing women case.

"The complaint was that ... it was an inadequate investigation," said Brown.

He said the investigation was suspended pending the conclusion of Pickton's legal proceedings but will be reactivated when the Crown drops the remaining 20 charges against him.

Brown said, under the Police Act, the Commissioner has a number of options for how to proceed with the investigation.

They include allowing the VPD to handle the complaint itself, handing the investigation over to another police force or holding a public hearing.

Brown said the Commissioner also has the power, if the issues involved are particularly complex, to recommend the province hold a public inquiry into the matter.

He refused to speculate on what path the Commissioner might take.

While the legal proceedings involving Pickton are now over, police emphasized Friday that the missing women investigation is not. Macintyre said the missing women task force, which has cost $122 million to date, still has 51 officers on it.

Insp. Gary Shinkaruk, head of the task force, noted Pickton confessed to an undercover officer planted in his cell that he was one murder short of reaching his goal of 50 killings, a number far higher than the 33 deaths police believe they have linked to him so far.

"Mr. Pickton made statements, that we have no reason to disbelieve, that he is responsible for 49 deaths," said Shinkaruk. "We're certainly actively investigating ... to try to identify those 16 people. We do believe it's important for the families and the public to know if that's the number."

Shinkaruk said the task force is also investigating other suspects who may have been involved in some of the deaths Pickton was responsible for as well as missing women cases not linked to Pickton at all, including three murders in the Fraser Valley.

The Supreme Court of Canada rejected Friday Pickton's quest for a new trial in a unanimous ruling that upheld the pig farmer's convictions for murdering six missing Vancouver women.





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

Updated: August 21, 2016