B.C. dragnet didn't heed officer's tip on hog farm

Surveillance request spurned years ago after prostitute incident, CTV report finds

Monday, March 18, 2002

VANCOUVER -- Both Vancouver police and the RCMP rejected suggestions several years ago that a suburban hog farm, currently being combed for clues to the disappearance of 50 women from the city's Downtown Eastside, be put under surveillance, according to a CTV report aired last night.

The report said one of the suggestions came from an RCMP officer who was concerned that there might be a serial predator at the farm after he investigated a violent incident involving a prostitute there in 1997.

But when he pushed for resources to keep the farm under surveillance, he was turned down, the CTV report said.

The report said the RCMP officer does not want to comment publicly on the case because he expects to be a witness if a public inquiry is called into the police investigation.

The report also quoted Kim Rossmo, an inspector-detective with the Vancouver police at the time, who told CTV that one of the farm owners, Robert Pickton, had been identified in 1999 as suspicious in relation to the disappearances.

He said there were many "good suspects".

But surveillance of the farm and its owner was rejected because it was too expensive and required too many people, Mr. Rossmo said.

"Obviously, one possible scenario was that bodies could have been put through [a] meat grinder. Another scenario was bodies could have been buried somewhere over 10 acres associated with the farm," Mr. Rossmo told CTV.

"To deal with this is not straightforward. It requires surveillance. It requires a number of sophisticated techniques that are expensive."

The CTV report also quoted police sources that they subsequently had information that a woman had seen another woman's body in one of the barns at the farm.

Mr. Pickton, 52, one of three owners of the Port Coquitlam farm, was charged Feb. 22 with murdering two of the missing women, Mona Wilson and Sereena Abotsway.

Ms. Wilson disappeared in November while Ms. Abotsway was last seen in August.

The CTV report may increase pressure for an inquiry into early police efforts to investigate the missing women and their response to suggestions that a serial killer might have been responsible.

At least a dozen women have disappeared since the end of 1998.

Surrey-Newton MLA Tony Bhullar has already filed a formal request with the police complaints commissioner for a judicial inquiry into the matter.

Now, Mr. Rossmo and Doug MacKay-Dunn, another former member of the Vancouver Police Department, have joined the call for an investigation to avoid similar tragedies in the future.

"It should not be a show trial with a lot of posturing," Mr. MacKay-Dunn said yesterday.

"There should be a proper investigation by skilled investigators appointed by the Solicitor-General and it should happen now, not later, so this kind of thing doesn't happen again."

Now retired, Mr. MacKay-Dunn, who worked the Downtown Eastside and was involved early on in the police investigation, said more resources should have been put into the case from the beginning.

"I would have been going to City Hall, banging the table and saying 'This is serious. I need money to do this properly.' "

He said he asked Mr. Rossmo to apply his celebrated, but controversial, geographic profiling skills to the disappearances and agreed with his conclusion that a serial killer was likely at work.

"He said: 'Doug, something is going wrong here. . . . Something was going on.' I agreed with him that the case had to be resourced and it should have been," Mr. MacKay-Dunn said.

"But there was a tight budget and a power struggle going on within the police department. There was also a lack of confidence in Rossmo's methodology."

Mr. Rossmo also called for an investigation into police handling of the missing women's case.

"We've got a situation unprecedented in the history of this province, if not the country. The reality of this is horrible," he told CTV.

"For anyone to say we should wait until after the case is over . . . is nonsense. It could be years."

The CTV report quoted relatives of one of the missing women who said their own investigation into her disappearance turned up numerous accounts of women going missing after partying at the farm in suburban Port Coquitlam.

They informed police. But when the women phoned back a few months later to ask whether the matter had been looked into, they were told that police had investigated and there was nothing more to be said, according to the report.

In testimony about the missing women's case during his recent wrongful dismissal case, Mr. Rossmo said that he suggested the police department issue a press release expressing concern about the possibility of a serial killer operating in the Downtown Eastside.

He said sex-trade workers and the public should be warned.

Mr. Rossmo said the number of missing women during an 18-month period in 1997-'98, with no bodies turning up, was far beyond the norm. The vast majority of missing people in Vancouver are found within a couple of days and virtually all within two weeks, he told the court.

"There was a problem; there was an anomaly," he testified. "We had to explain why we had these . . . [reports of missing people] and why we didn't have them in the past. Why they were localized in this area. Why it affected only females . . . and why there were no bodies."

Rossmo sought unit to probe women's deaths-June 26, 2001



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Updated: August 21, 2016