VPD mangers felt DTES officer suffered from Stockholm Syndrome, inquiry told


VANCOUVER -- Senior Vancouver police managers thought Const. Dave Dickson, the officer who first brought a list of missing women to their attention, suffered from Stockholm Syndrome because he worked with activist groups in the Downtown Eastside.

"Most of the bosses thought he had been Stockholmed," retired Vancouver police Staff Sgt. Doug MacKay-Dunn recalled today at the Missing Women inquiry.

The managers felt that Dickson, who was the VPD's community liaison officer for Vancouver's Downtown Eastside (DTES), had worked too long in the district and begun to identify more with the activist groups he dealt with.

Senior VPD managers felt that Dickson suffered Stockholm Syndrome, a term used to describe a psychological condition in which kidnapped hostages begin feeling empathy for their kidnappers.

MacKay-Dunn was trying to explain why the original list of missing women wasn't taken seriously.

Another factor, he said, is that an activist group had earlier presented a list of missing women, but police had investigated and accounted for all the women.

So police managers didn't want to take Dickson's list seriously and allocate resources until it could be proved they were really missing and not another false alarm.

"It wasn't believed, which was a problem," MacKay-Dunn recalled.

He said he took the list seriously, mainly because Dickson said the list of women had stopped picking up their welfare cheques. Dickson felt the women had met foul play, and MacKay-Dunn said he held the same view.

"I thought he was invaluable," he said of Dickson's work in the DTES.

MacKay-Dunn said he asked Kim Rossmo, who was in charge of the department's geographic profiling unit, to look at the issue of missing women to prove it wasn't a figment of Dickson's imagination.

Rossmo found that there was a suspicious spike in the number of women being reported missing in the DTES. He wanted the VPD to issue a warning that there was a possible serial killer preying on women.

But the warning was nixed by Insp. Fred Biddlecombe, then in charge of the homicide squad and the missing persons unit.

Biddlecombe, who will testify next week, felt there wasn't any evidence of a serial killer.

MacKay-Dunn testified that if two dozen women had been reported missing from a wealthy neighbourhood such as Shaughnessy, there would have been political pressure from city council and the mayor, who is chairman of the police board, to solve the problem.

But there was a pervasive attitude among senior VPD managers that the women reported missing were "just hookers" who were transient and would be found eventually, he said.

Police assigned only one officer, Constable Lori Shenher, to try to find the missing women. The VPD later added two detectives to the investigation but it became stalled, the inquiry was told.

Vancouver police received credible tips in 1998 and 1999 about Robert (Willie) Pickton, who had a farm in Port Coquitlam. Police were told Pickton kept bags of bloody women's clothing and women's identification in the trailer where he lived.

The tips suggested Pickton could be responsible for the missing women, mainly drug-addicted sex trade workers who continued to disappear from the DTES.

One of the tips said a woman had been on Pickton's farm one night and she had witnessed Pickton butchering a woman's body in a barn, where Pickton often butchered pigs.

Vancouver police passed along the tips to Coquitlam RCMP Cpl. Mike Connor, who had investigated a Pickton attack on a Vancouver prostitute in 1997. The woman stabbed Pickton and ran to the street, where she escaped by flagging down a passing car.

The inquiry is probing why it took so long to catch Pickton, who was arrested in 2002 when a rookie RCMP constable executed an unrelated search warrant on Pickton's farm for illegal guns.

Police found the guns but also found personal items and identification belonging to the missing women.

Police then applied for a new search warrant to search for evidence of murders. The search of the farm became the largest forensic search in Canadian history and went on for 18 months.

Police found the DNA of 33 women on the farm but Pickton once confided that he killed 49.

He was convicted at his first trial in 2007 of six murders. After Pickton lost all his appeals, the Crown decided not to proceed with a second trial involving another 20 murders.

Starting Monday, the inquiry will hear from a panel of four Vancouver police managers: Insp. Fred Biddlecombe, Insp. Dan Dureau, Sgt. Geramy Field and Deputy Chief Brian McGuinness.

The inquiry will take a one-week break starting March 19. It expects to finish hearings by the end of April and submit its report and recommendations to government by the end of June.




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

Updated: August 21, 2016