Police asked to review MLA's complaint: Commission sends missing-women claim to Vancouver department for comment

The Vancouver Sun
Mar 2002

Kim Bolan
Vancouver Sun

The police complaints commission has referred a complaint about the Vancouver police handling of the missing women's case to the department for a response, deputy commissioner Barb Murphy said Tuesday.

And because of the controversial nature of the department's original investigation of the case, the matter will probably be turned over to another police department for further review, Murphy said.

"Nothing has been decided yet," she said in an interview. "With this level of controversy and the type of issue that is going on there, ultimately it will probably . . . go to an outside police agency."

Surrey-Newton MLA Tony Bhullar filed the third-party complaint Friday against the Vancouver police department, alleging to the commission that the department did not follow up on information received years ago in the investigation of the disappearance of dozens of women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Bhullar told The Vancouver Sun that he wanted an inquiry that would look at systemic problems in the department that led to delays and deficiencies in the original missing women investigation, started by Vancouver police in 1998.

A year ago, the case was taken over by a joint Vancouver police-RCMP task force.

In February, Port Coquitlam pig farmer Robert (Willy) Pickton was charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of two of the missing women --Sereena Abotsway, 29, and Mona Wilson, 26.

Solicitor-General Rich Coleman, Vancouver Mayor Philip Owen and others have said that a public inquiry could not take place while the criminal investigation continues.

But Bhullar said an inquiry would focus on the process, not on any evidence or specific details related to the current charges.

Murphy said the complaint is being handled, as all are, by first being passed to the police department for an assessment of the type of complaint it is -- a service and policy complaint or a complaint against a specific officer's conduct.

"They have the opportunity to review it and a decision has to be made on how it is going to be characterized," Murphy said.

"It is a decision that is made by them and can be endorsed and/or changed by us."

She said there is no time limit for the Vancouver police response, but she expects it will be prompt.

"We expect that it will be dealt with as quickly as possible."

Murphy said that, like most third-party complaints, Bhullar's does not have a lot of detail and must be fleshed out by Vancouver police as the department involved.

Murphy said any time it is determined that the conduct of the police chief is part of the probe, "then it would automatically go outside."

She said that at the early stage of the complaint process, she can only speak in "very broad strokes."

Murphy said Bhullar's complaint was the first into the entire missing women's investigation.

But an earlier complaint had been filed involving the Vancouver police probe into the disappearance of one of the missing women.

On July 28, 1999, Deborah Jardine, whose daughter Angela disappeared in late 1998, wrote to the police complaints commission.

Jardine alleged the detectives working on Angela's case did not adequately follow up when her daughter disappeared in November, 1998.

She said they didn't even collect critical information about her appearance and clothing and declined her offer to send a recent photograph of her daughter for the first missing women's poster printed in early 1999.

Then when she received the poster, the photo was "outdated and a poor likeness of Angela," she wrote in her complaint letter.

She said she was not notified of her daughter's disappearance, but learned of it when she contacted police two months after Angela disappeared.

But the police complaints commission responded that the two detectives in question had "exemplary police records" and that Jardine's concerns were the "only complaint received from any of the families of the missing women." 

Mayor: No Reward-April 9,1999



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

Updated: August 21, 2016