Vancouver police officer lied about whereabouts of missing women, witness tells Missing Women Inquiry

NEAL HALL, VANCOUVER SUN  November 1, 2011

A Vancouver police officer lied about the whereabouts of one of the dozens of women who had disappeared from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, a witness told the Missing Women inquiry.

Elaine Allan, who ran the WISH drop-in centre for street sex workers from 1998 to 2001, recalled Tuesday that Tiffany Drew disappeared in the fall of 1999 and Drew's friend Ashwan was frantic the day after Tiffany vanished.

"She was completely hysterical," Allan recalled. "She was adamant that something was wrong."

She pointed out that Drew and Ashwan, another sex trade worker, used a "buddy system" to check in with each other after so many women had disappeared at an alarming rate.

"It was sort of this dark force out there, it's like there was this monster out there," Allan recalled of the missing women -- she knew 20 of them, including five of the six that serial killer Robert Pickton was convicted of killing.

"You could feel the presence of this evil force that seemed to be swallowing up women, but we couldn't really figure out what it was," she added

Allan told the inquiry that after talking to Ashwan, she paged Vancouver police Const. Dave Dickson and told him what had happened.

Dickson attended the drop-in centre that night and seemed very concerned about Drew's disappearance, but the officer didn't take notes and didn't fill out a missing person report, she added.

The officer said not to worry, that Drew would eventually show up, Allan recalled.

"I never saw her again," she said about Drew. "She was a beautiful young girl."

Three months later, Allan recalled, Ashwan was still upset about her missing friend and kept asking Dickson if he had done what he said he would do-- check whether Drew had cashed her welfare cheques.

Dickson said he hadn't got around to it, she said.

Police later learned the welfare office closed Drew's file on Sept. 2, 1999, because of lack of contact, the inquiry was told.

Allan recalled Dickson took her aside one day and said Drew was in recovery and didn't want contact with her former friend because she feared she would relapse.

Allan recalled Ashwan was doubtful about Dickson's explanation, as was Allen.

She said she later learned from a Vancouver Sun reporter that Tiffany Drew's DNA had been found on the Port Coquitlam farm of serial killer Robert Pickton.

"He lied to me," Allan said of Dickson's explanation that Drew was in rehab. She said she didn't realize it until after Pickton was arrested in 2002.

She said Dickson's casual response to Drew's disappearance was indicative of the indifferent attitude police had to the dozens of women who went missing.

Dickson is expected to testify at the inquiry. He was a highly-respected officer in the Downtown Eastside (DTES) who took early retirement in 2003 but was hired back on contract because of his extraordinary work and popularity in the area.

Allan said she tried to get anyone who would listen to investigate and bring attention to the missing women problem.

"It was really a struggle - a hard sell," Allan told inquiry Commissioner Wally Oppal.

"There was indifference from the mayor's office," she said, noting the mayor was the head of the Vancouver police board.

"It was really hard to get anyone's attention."

The inquiry is probing why it took so long to catch Pickton and looking at some of the systemic problems with the investigations conducted by Vancouver police and the RCMP Police had been provided tips in 1998 about Pickton, who even offered to allow police to search his farm in 2000, but police failed to act.

The inquiry will also look at the Crown decision in 1998 to drop charges against Pickton stemming from a knife attack on a prostitute a year earlier.

The woman fled naked and bleeding from Pickton's farm and flagged down a passing vehicle.

Cameron Ward, the lawyer representing 18 families of murdered and missing women, complained Tuesday to Oppal that Dickson's notes were only disclosed late at 3:06 p.m. Tuesday, despite asking for them months ago.

"I consider this late disclosure of critical information to be most unsatisfactory," Ward told the inquiry commissioner.

"I have the gravest of concerns about the disclosure of documents to date," he added.

Allan also testified about another prostitute who was raped for two hours on March 14, 1999. The woman had got the licence plate number and Allan called 911 for the woman, so she could report the sex crime.

Police eventually tracked down the vehicle and found it had been used by Lance Dove.

Police detectives tried to reach Dove on his cell phone to come in for an interview - they didn't tell him what it was about.

"He didn't return the phone calls and he assaulted another woman and murdered her," Allan recalled.

The day police left a second phone message for Dove on Aug. 3, 1999, Dove raped and killed Kimberly Ann Tracey, a 28-year-old mother, Allan said.

She also recalled a friend of Pickton, Gina Houston, would sometimes come to the WISH drop-in centre.

She recalled asking Houston, who used the name Alice, to leave WISH twice.

"She was hustling the girls up for a date, playing the middle man for dates,"" Allan testified.

The inquiry has heard that sex trade workers used the term "date" to describe the interaction with customers.

After Pickton was arrested, she added, she attended his first court proceedings and was stunned to see Houston testifying as a friend of Pickton.

She also recalled that Bonnie Fournier, a street nurse in the DTES, saying of Pickton after he was arrested: "He's had his truck parked in front of the Astoria [hotel] for 25 years." Pickton was well-known at the Astoria, located on East Hastings, where Sharon Baptiste, the cousin of Georgina Papin, one of the women killed by Pickton, confronted Pickton one night, Allan recalled.

"Hey, you took my cousin. Where's my cousin?" Baptiste asked Pickton, Allan recalled being told.

She said Pickton hit Baptiste hard, knocking her down, claiming she had ripped him off for $20 he had given her to buy drugs for Papin the night she disappeared.

"He was buying rounds [at the Astoria] so everybody looked the other way," Allan said of the assault by Pickton on Papin's cousin.

She also recalled she phoned 911 many times to report emergencies at WISH but the operators often hung up on her because they didn't consider the matter serious enough.

One matter involved a person pulling a knife on Allan and the 911 operator felt it was not a large knife so didn't warrant immediate police attention, she said.




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

Updated: August 21, 2016