Victim of Pickton attack in 1997 was furious with Crown dropping charges, inquiry told


VANCOUVER - The victim who survived a vicious attack in 1997 by serial killer Robert Pickton was furious with the Crown decision to drop the charges, the Missing Women inquiry was told today.

The victim learned from her mother that prosecutor Randi Connor had decided to stay the charges of attempted murder and aggravated assault against Pickton.

The inquiry was told that the victim asked her mother for the prosecutor's phone number and called Connor at home, saying: "How f---ing dare you drop those charges."

The victim, whose name has been banned, recalled that Connor said at the time she was having dinner with her family and asked the victim to call her at her office.

But Connor testified Wednesday that she believed that conversation never took place.

"I can't imagine it ever taking place," Connor testified.

She added she had dealt with upset victims many times when charges didn't proceed or there was an acquittal.

"That's a common reaction," Connor told inquiry Commissioner Wally Oppal, a retired Appeal Court judge and former attorney general.

But Connor said she had no notes to jog her memory because the Crown file on the 1997 Pickton case was destroyed by mistake.

The Crown's file retention policy was that all serious criminal files should be kept for 75 years.

Len Doust, the lawyer representing the Criminal Justice Branch at the inquiry, told Oppal that the matter was investigated and the Pickton file was in one of the 71 boxes of files that were destroyed.

Doust said an affidavit was being prepared to explain how the file was destroyed by mistake.

Connor testified a day earlier that she decided to stay the charges against Pickton because when she interviewed the victim days before the five-day trial, set for Feb. 2, 1998, she was too high on drugs to be coherent.

She said the victim, referred to as Ms. Anderson at the inquiry, was a heroin addict who was nodding off during the interview.

Connor said Anderson was the Crown's entire case and with her being unable to articulate the evidence, the case could not proceed.

Connor said she did not tell Anderson that the case would not proceed because Anderson was in no shape to testify.

The prosecutor said she communicated with the witness through her mother because Anderson was a drug addict living on the street and didn't have a phone.

"You considered her a second-class citizen," suggested Cameron Ward, the lawyer at the inquiry representing the families of 25 murdered and missing women.

"That is completely, completely unfair," Connor said.

"I've been a prosecutor for 30 years and wouldn't ever ever take that attitude," she added.

Ward pointed out that Anderson was able to testify at Pickton's preliminary hearing on murder charges in 2003.

Connor said she was aware of that and believed police managed the witness to make sure she was able to testify.

She said the Crown cannot force people to enter rehab to get off drugs before testifying - that's the job of police.

Ward pointed out that another Pickton witness, Lynn Ellingsen, also had a drug problem but was able to testify for the Crown.

Ward told the inquiry that he has commissioned Dennis Murray, a former senior Crown and assistant deputy attorney general, to prepare an expert report on the Crown's decision in 1998.

Ward said the Crown decision to drop charges against Pickton on Jan. 26, 1998, was significant to the families of Pickton victims.

Had Pickton been prosecuted in 1998, the lawyer said, Pickton may not have gone on to murder another 19 women, Ward said.

Anderson was scheduled to testify this week but she had a last-minute change of heart.

Commission counsel Art Vertlieb announced Tuesday that Anderson had turned her life around - she is now married with children - and doesn't want to relive the horror of what she went through 15 years ago.

At that time, the woman was a drug addict and prostitute picked up by Pickton in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and took her to his farm in Port Coquitlam the night of March 23, 1997.

Once at the farm, Anderson freaked out when Pickton put a handcuff on her wrist.

She told police that she fought for her life to try to keep Pickton from handcuffing her other wrist.

She began throwing things at him and eventually grabbed a kitchen knife and slashed him in the neck.

Pickton got the knife and repeatedly stabbed Anderson.

When Pickton lost his grip - he was trying to stop the blood flow from his neck wound - Anderson fled and ran to the street, where she flagged down a passing car.

Anderson's heart stopped twice in hospital while on the operating table, but she was revived and survived.

Pickton ended up in the same hospital and the handcuff key was found in his pocket, which was used to remove the handcuff from Anderson's wrist.

Anderson gave a police statement in hospital, which was recorded.

The recording will be played at the inquiry.

Pickton was charged with attempted murder, assault causing bodily harm, aggravated assault and unlawful confinement.

Attempted murder carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Connor testified the Pickton attack was coded a "red file" because it was so serious and deemed a top priority.

The inquiry is probing why Pickton wasn't caught until Feb. 5, 2002.

Pickton, now 62, is serving a life sentence after he was convicted of the murders of six women, who were all drug-addicted sex workers who disappeared from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Pickton was facing a second trial on another 20 murder counts but the Crown chose not to proceed after Pickton exhausted all his appeals on his first murder convictions.

Pickton confided to an undercover officer, posing as a cell mate, that he killed 49 women and planned to kill more.




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

Updated: August 21, 2016