Relative of murder victim slams Vancouver Police for failure to properly investigate


VANCOUVER - A woman whose sister-in-law disappeared in 1997 slammed police today for failing to do a proper investigation.

Lori-Ann Ellis testified Tuesday at the Missing Women inquiry that she came to Vancouver in 1998 to search for her husband's sister, Cara Ellis, a heroin addict and sex trade worker in the Downtown Eastside.

She recalled her family became worried when they hadn't heard from Cara for six months.

Unable to find Cara along East Hastings, Lori-Ann Ellis finally called Vancouver police to report Cara missing.

She recalled spending about an hour on the phone with an officer from the Missing Persons section, answering questions.

She said no Vancouver police officer ever called to get more information or provide an update on the investigation.

"I sat and waited and hoped," Ellis told Commissioner Wally Oppal.

About a month later, Ellis recalled, she phoned the missing persons unit.

"I got a woman on the phone who was a bitch," she added.

"She said if Cara wants to be found, she'll be found. Why don't you leave us alone and let us do our job."

As a final insult, the woman suggested that Cara was probably on vacation, Ellis said.

"This woman should have never been given that job," she told the inquiry.

She said she did make a list of 36 things that might assist police in their investigation to try to find Cara, but no one ever asked for the information.

One of the things on the list was the fact that Cara had once said she would get out of town and stay with a man on a farm who lived like a pig.

Ellis recalled Cara said the man would give her drugs if she cleaned his place.

Ellis, who lives in Calgary, said when Robert Pickton was arrested in 2002 she submitted Cara's name as a possible victim to the missing women task force.

Then, on Jan. 26, 2004, her sister-in-law's birthday, the doorbell rang and it was two people from the Missing Women task force.

'I said, 'You're here to tell me that you found Cara at the farm'," Ellis recalled saying.

Yes, they said.

Ellis said her treatment by Vancouver police was shameful and disrespectful.

"It pissed me off - and everyone in my family feels the same way," she told the inquiry.

"I want to see changes made so this never happens again to another family," she said.

Ellis also was critical of the RCMP for "shuffling paper work" and accidentally stumbling on Pickton, instead of catching him sooner.

"These women were taken, one by one, right under the noses of the Vancouver police and the RCMP," she said.

"Shame on them for all they did and shame on them for all they could have done and instead turned the other way," Ellis added.

"Lives were lost that could have been saved."

The DNA of Cara Ellis was eventually found in a tiny bone found on Pickton's farm.

Her DNA was also found on Pickton's jacket, which had been seized in 1997 after a knife attack on another woman who Pickton tried to kill -- the woman escaped, running naked and bleeding from Pickton's farm and was picked up by a passing motorist.

Police charged Pickton with attempted murder, unlawful confinement and other charges, which were stayed by the Crown in 1998.

Pickton's jacket was in a police storage locker for seven years until it was tested, revealing the DNA of Ellis.

The DNA of another missing woman, Andrea Borhaven, was also found on Pickton's boots.

Pickton, now 62, was convicted in 2007 of the murder of six women and faced a second trial on another 20 murder charges, but the Crown decided not to hold another trial.

Another witness to testify Tuesday at the inquiry, Donalee Sebastian, recalled she tried to report her mother Elsie Sebastian missing to Vancouver police in 1992 and was "shrugged off" to a VPD native liaison worker.

She said her mother struggled with alcohol and drug addiction in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, but maintained phone contact with her three children and other relatives.

But the calls suddenly stopped in the summer of 1992, she said.

Like other families, the young woman, now in a nursing program in Victoria, went looking for answers about her missing mother in the DTES.

She never found out what happened to her.

No trace of Elsie Sebastian was ever found on Pickton's farm, even though she remains on the poster of 61 missing women.

The daughter said she last saw her mother in July 1992 at a relative's house at the University of B.C.

At one point, she recalled, she was told by Vancouver police that her mother probably didn't want to be found or was probably on holiday.

The daughter said her file was eventually closed by police because police believed that Elsie was still alive and had been seen drinking rice wine in Oppenheimer Park.

"That was a mistake," Sebastian testified, adding the rice wine woman apparently looked like her mother.

The daughter said her mother had suffered beatings and isolation in an Indian residential school.

"She was separated from her culture," she told the inquiry.

Donalee recalled she was born in Prince George and lived with her mother and brother until age 12, when her mother's drinking caused the children to be taken away by family services.

Donalee said she went to live with her father's relatives in Hazelton, about a five-hour drive northwest of Prince George.

Sebastian turned to the head of the inquiry and urged: "Find my mother for me."

She began to cry as she added: "Please, let's find her. Let's bring her home."




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

Updated: August 21, 2016