Thousands of tips investigated in search for Vancouver's missing women

Canadian Press

Thursday, February 15, 2007

An artist's drawing shows Robert Pickton in a video holding up a finger to his mouth to indicate 'hush' while interacting with a RCMP undercover officer while he was in jail. (CP PHOTO/ Artist-Jane Wolsak)

NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. (CP) - What started as a local police matter involving 27 missing Vancouver women quickly ballooned into a massive investigation that generated two million pages of information, jurors in the Robert Pickton trial heard Thursday.

RCMP Sgt. Margaret Kingsbury testified the RCMP became involved in the investigation early in 2001 and by August of that year it became apparent there were double the number of missing women than Vancouver police had originally thought - 45 instead of the initial 27.

Jurors also heard that it wasn't until the middle of 2001 that police decided to take a proactive approach in their investigation.

"What that was was a body of people who would go down to the Downtown Eastside and speak to sex trade workers and determine who was a good date, who was a bad date," Kingsbury said.

Most of the missing women were prostitutes and some had been reported as missing as early as the 1980s.

Kingsbury told that jury that the Green River killer in the U.S. was among the at least 500 people considered of interest to police in their investigation.

Gary Ridgeway was eventually convicted of murdering more than three dozen prostitutes in Washington state.

Kingsbury was a field investigator with the Missing Women's task force, also known as Project Evenhanded.

Jurors heard that her work encompassed everything from creating a databank of the women's DNA to reviewing old case files and unidentified human remains.

Police focused on assaults against sex trade workers and hitchhikers, eventually sorting through 3,000 sexual assault files from Vancouver alone.

Kingsbury said in reviewing the existing information on the missing women, they tried to keep an open mind.

"We looked at what Vancouver city police had done to attempt to find these 27 missing women over a period of time and the checks they made," she said. "We assumed that these women weren't missing any longer but they were deceased but we did keep an open mind."

As the volume of information grew, police switched the database they used to the one designed for the Swiss Air disaster in Nova Scotia.

The Evidence and Report database, as it was called, held every single scrap of information generated in the case.

Eventually, Kingsbury testified, it would come to list 12,700 items on the police's investigative to-do list and over 100,000 actions that had been taken in connection with those items.

"If one was to print the whole Evenhanded database it would be over two million pages," Kingsbury said.

Pickton is being tried on six counts of first-degree murder.

He has been charged with 26 murders in total.

 The Canadian Press 2007

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