RCMP managers should have done more in Pickton probe, senior Mountie tells inquiry


VANCOUVER - A senior Mountie told the Missing Women inquiry today that RCMP managers should have done more to ensure that serial killer Robert Pickton was properly investigated.

Alberta RCMP Supt. Bob Williams, who did an external review of the RCMP investigation of Pickton, testified that more work should have been done with a witness who had told a friend that she saw Pickton butchering a body on his farm.

The woman, Lynn Ellingsen, was interviewed by two senior officers but Ellingsen denied making the statement.

She also denied telling two other people, who also became Vancouver police informants, that Pickton had bragged he could dispose of bodies and that he had "trophies" at his home that he kept as keepsakes of one or more murders of women he had committed.

When interviewed by police in August 1999, Pickton denied making the statements to the three police informants.

"I would have done some more work," Williams said, adding a manager should have looked at taking another strategy with Ellingsen.

"I personally would have taken other steps to satisfy whether she was telling the truth or not telling the truth, the witness told inquiry commissioner Wally Oppal.

"I would have pressed her on it," Williams added.

"It wasn't sufficiently managed to the extent that I would have handled it," said the officer, who has been with the RCMP for more than 44 years -- the second longest serving Mountie in Canada.

Williams said he would have put a team together, including a female officer to create a bond with Ellingsen.

"I would have gone a long way to build a relationship with her," he told the inquiry.

He also said more planning should have been done before the first RCMP interview with Pickton in 2000, when the serial killer told police they could search his farm, but the Mounties failed to do so.

Williams said he was asked to do an external review of the RCMP handling of the Pickton file to prepare for civil litigation against the RCMP in B.C.

He said he began the review Sept. 16, 2002 and completed his report on Nov. 6, 2002.

Williams only interviewed senior Mounties who were "decision-makers" on the file but did not interview anyone from Vancouver police.

His report concluded the the RCMP acted appropriately and followed up investigative leads.

Williams was asked by commission counsel Art Vertlieb if he held the same conclusion 10 years after writing the report and knowing new information that has come to light.

"I would say there was some room for improvement," Williams told the inquiry about the RCMP's handling of the case.

"Do you concede that If some of those things had been changed, Pickton would have been arrested sooner?" Vertlieb asked.

"Perhaps," Williams replied.

He is expected to continue testifying until Friday.

Next Monday, the inquiry is expected to hear a new witness - Peel Regional Police Deputy Chief Jennifer Evans.

Evans was asked by the inquiry to review the Pickton investigations done by the RCMP and Vancouver police.

Williams is the first RCMP officer to testify at the inquiry, which began Oct. 1 and resumed today after taking a three-week break.

The inquiry, which is probing why Pickton wasn't caught sooner, was initially supposed to deliver its report to B.C.'s attorney general by Dec. 31, 2011, but has been given a six-month extension.

Pickton was arrested on Feb. 5, 2002 and was eventually charged with 27 counts of first-degree murder of women who had disappeared from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

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

Pickton confided to an undercover officer that he had killed 49 women and planned to kill more.

The murder charges were divided into two trials by the trial judge.

Pickton, 62, was convicted at his first trial in 2007 of six counts of murder.

After exhausting all appeals, the Crown decided not to proceed on a second Pickton trial, which upset many victims' families.

Williams testified an supervisor should have asked for more officers to investigate whether Ellingsen was telling the truth.

Or the detachment commander could have asked RCMP headquaters for more resources, he said.

Williams also said the officer who called Pickton to arrange an interview should not have accepted Pickton's brother suggesting the brothers were too busy and police should wait for the rainy season.

A supervisor should have caught that, he said.

When the Pickton interview finally happened months later, Williams said, police should not have allowed Pickton to have his friend Gina Houston with him during the interview.

The inquiry heard earlier that Pickton was the prime suspect of Vancouver police after three informants supplied shocking information about Pickton in 1998 and 1999.

The Vancouver police department passed along the information to the RCMP, which had jurisdiction to investigate because Pickton lived in Port Coquitlam, where the murders allegedly occurred and the area was policed by the RCMP.



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

Updated: August 21, 2016