Senior Mountie declines to apologize for RCMP failures in Pickton investigation, deferring to managers


VANCOUVER - The second longest-serving Mountie in Canada declined to apologize for the shortcomings of the RCMP investigation of serial killer Robert Pickton.

Supt. Bob Williams, testifying at the Missing Women inquiry, said he wasn't in a position to offer an apology during cross-examination by Cameron Ward, the lawyer representing 25 families of murdered and missing women.

Williams said it would be up to management of the RCMP in B.C. to offer an apology or the new commanding officer of the RCMP in Canada, Commissioner Bob Paulson, a former B.C. officer who worked on the Pickton case.

"I would like to defer to them," he told inquiry commissioner Wally Oppal.

The Vancouver police earlier offered an apology to the victims' families and said the police department could have and should have done more to catch Pickton sooner. The RCMP has never offered an apology.

The inquiry is probing why it took so long to catch Pickton, who wasn't arrested until Feb. 5, 2002, despite tips to Vancouver police in 1998 and 1999 suggesting Pickton had killed one or more of the dozens of women who had disappeared from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

The Vancouver police considered Pickton the prime suspect and passed along the tips to the RCMP to investigate the allegations of murder taking place on Pickton's farm in Port Coquitlam, which was policed by the RCMP.

The Coquitlam RCMP had also earlier investigated a 1997 knife attack on a Vancouver prostitute on Pickton's farm. The woman, with a handcuff dangling from her wrist, ran to the street and flagged down a passing car, which took her to hospital.

Pickton was charged with attempted murder and unlawful confinement but the charges were later stayed by the Crown.

Williams testified that he was told that the charges were dropped because the victim became uncooperative with police.

But in cross-examination by Ward, who produced documents showing the witness had arranged an escort to court to testify at trial, Williams agreed it appeared the victim was "ready, willing and able" to testify.

Williams, who has been a Mountie for 44 years and heads major crime operations in Alberta, was asked in 2002 to do an "external" review of the RCMP investigation to prepare for lawsuits against the RCMP filed by families of Pickton's victims.

The report, completed in Nov. 6, 2002, concluded the RCMP acted appropriately.

But under cross-examination, Williams admitted there were shortcomings in the investigation and said he would have done things differently.

And if things would have been done differently, "perhaps" Pickton would have been caught sooner, he conceded.

Vancouver police had received tips in 1998 and 1999 from an informant who said that Lynn Ellingsen, a woman who lived for a time on Pickton's farm in Port Coquitlam, had confided she saw a woman being butchered in a barn on the Pickton farm.

Two other informants told Vancouver police investigators that Ellingsen told them Pickton had "trophies" on his farm from missing women and bragged about his ability to dispose of bodies.

While not admitting that the RCMP made mistakes, Williams conceded more work should have been done with Ellingsen, who was interviewed in August 1999 by two senior officers; Ellingsen denied making the statements to the informants and at the last minute declined taking a polygraph on the advice of her lawyer.

Williams also said an officer who tried to contact Pickton for an interview in 1999 should not have put off the interview until 2000 after Pickton's brother, Dave Pickton, told the officer that the Pickton brothers were too busy working on a job and suggested the officer wait until the "rainy season."

When interviewed by police, Pickton denied he had killed anyone and offered to allow police to search his farm, which wasn't done at the time.

Williams is the first RCMP officer to testify at the inquiry, which began Oct. 11 and resumed Wednesday. He is expected to finish his testimony Friday.

On Monday, the inquiry is expected to hear a new witness: Peel Regional Police Deputy Chief Jennifer Evans, who was asked by the inquiry to review the Pickton investigations done by the RCMP and Vancouver police.

Pickton was charged with 27 counts of first-degree murder of women who disappeared from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

An exhaustive 18-month search of Pickton's farm found the DNA of 33 women.

Pickton, now 62, confided to a cell mate in jail - an undercover officer posing as a criminal - that he killed 49 women and planned to kill more.




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

Updated: August 21, 2016