VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Mother says she hopes they find bodies there
Saturday, February 9, 2002
By LEWIS KAMB AND MIKE BARBER
PORT COQUITLAM, B.C. -- Lynn Frey has made the half-day trip countless times from her home in Campbell River on Vancouver Island to the avenues of British Columbia's biggest city.
For the past four years, she and her sister have braved the sleazy streets of Vancouver's Eastside tenderloin district, questioning the unfortunate women who haunt the streets, in a lonely search for Frey's troubled daughter.
About two years ago they began hearing from drug users and prostitutes who might have known Frey's daughter, Marnie, who was 24 when she disappeared in 1997. The bits and pieces of information seemed to point to an inconspicuous, muddy pig farm 22 miles out of town.
One of the men who lived at the farm was well-known to girls who work the streets, and in 1997 had been arrested for trying to kill a prostitute, she heard. It was a dirty place on a potholed road amid a blossoming bedroom community, the girls told her. It was a place many only heard about and refused to go to even though its hosts threw great parties, lest they be left with no way back to Vancouver, Frey recalls.
The stories resonated with Frey. The swampy farm was too close to home, blocks from the home of her own sister. The pig farm seemed eerie to both of them, she said.
"It was like a magnet," alternately attracting and repelling, she said.
Yet when Frey suggested that Vancouver police investigating the disappearances of dozens of missing women in recent years look at the place, her words seemed to fall on deaf ears. Her fading hopes were buoyed, though, when a joint police task force of Vancouver police and Royal Canadian Mounted Police was formed last year to look into the disappearances of 50 women in what is believed to be Canada's most prolific string of serial slayings.
Two days ago, Frey steeled her heart again.
"The task force called me (Wednesday) night to let me know there was going to be something on the media the next day," Frey said. "I thought nothing of it. I've been in touch with the police and called umpteen times in the last four years."
On Thursday, images of the pig farm flashed across television screens and newspaper pages as the task force searched the farm amid speculation of a major break in the case. Frey felt her heart soar, then crash.
"My heart went to my stomach," she said. "I hope this doesn't sound callous, I don't know how else to say it, but I am hoping -- I'm willing to believe -- that they will find bodies.
"Over the years you get your hopes up high to find her, only to have them drop like a falling elevator. I need closure now to carry on with my life. How many times can a mother do this?"
Mothers, fathers, family and friends of many of the missing women have driven to the farm now under police seal. Like Frey, they believe police waited too long to take their fears seriously. Some say they also alerted investigators to their suspicions and tips about one of the farmers, even as the list of missing women grew.
Two brothers, Robert William and David Francis Pickton, and their sister, Linda, own the farm where they grew up. They became wealthy, by some reports, by selling off parcels for development. Rows of townhouses border the north of the farm, a golf course flanks the east, where the nearby Pitt River flows toward the Fraser River. The brothers live on the last 10 acres.
Early yesterday, investigators could be seen shoveling dirt or manure mounds in a plank barn on the property near the confluence of the Fraser and Pitt rivers.
Robert Pickton, 52, was arrested Tuesday on three weapons violations after police served a search warrant on the pale yellow house. According to the Vancouver Sun, officers found identification cards and other personal items belonging to two missing women, prompting another search.
Pickton was released from custody Wednesday, but is due in court on Feb. 28. Police yesterday declined to say if they know where he is or whether he is under surveillance. Police also declined to call Pickton a suspect in the disappearances, saying only that he is among "hundreds" of people still under scrutiny.
Asked at a news conference about the criticism that Vancouver police bungled by not looking sooner at the Pickton farm, Detective Scott Driemel, spokesman for the department, said any information gathered years ago was "shared, and whatever could be acted upon was."
"We're not about to go back and defend ourselves for something that happened years ago," he said, adding that resource constraints and time needed to track thousands of leads complicated early investigation efforts. But authorities are now "aggressively pursuing the investigation," he said.
Other officials said they have been diligent, but it takes time to examine hundreds of tips to determine what was hearsay and what was legally actionable, and that it is difficult to track down prostitutes and drug users who live a transient lifestyle, often using different names.
While the list of 50 missing women dates back to 1983, most dropped out of sight in the 1990s, including 31 since 1997.
Last fall, the new task force said the missing persons cases were being treated as multiple homicides. While task force members have consulted King County investigators looking into the Green River slayings of 49 women -- many of them prostitutes -- between 1982 and 1984, police in both countries see no link.
Neighbors say Pickton and his younger brother, David, sometimes threw late night parties and pig roasts in a makeshift, unlicensed nightclub known as "Piggy's Palace."
Over the years, the brothers raised fewer pigs, instead selling fill-dirt and gravel from the farm and dabbling in building demolition, friends said.
One woman who declined to giver her name said she has known the brothers for more than 10 years and often joined them for outings to a biker bar in Burnaby. The brothers rode Harley-Davidson motorcycles and mingled with biker gangs, she said.
She described David Pickton as generous and friendly, but said "Willy" was creepy.
"He kind of kept to himself, hanging out back there in the piggery all the time," she said.
Willy, a tall, thin man with a halo of long and curly dirty blond hair, once showed the woman how he boiled pigs in a large vat, she said.
"It kind of freaked me out," she said.
Friends and relatives of the missing women say they became aware of Robert Pickton after his name surfaced in 1997, when a prostitute and drug addict accused him of trying to stab her to death during an encounter at the farm in 1997. Pickton was charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault and unlawful confinement, but charges were later dropped. The woman, who had run screaming from the farm in handcuffs, reportedly refused to testify. Her whereabouts is unknown.
Those who know Pickton, who was also seriously wounded during the incident, have a different version of the attack. They say a prostitute pulled a knife and tried to rob Pickton, slashing him across the chin.
Yet those who tried to point police toward the farm over the years believe authorities missed their chance to stop the disappearances.
"They dropped the ball on this," said Wayne Leng, a B.C. native who now lives in California. His friend, Sarah deVries, is one of the missing women. He said he first told Vancouver police about a pig farmer known as "Willy" in mid-1998, after a man told him about an assault of a prostitute, and of finding women's clothing and identification at the farm.
"I think that more women would be alive today if they would have acted sooner," Leng said yesterday.
That authorities knew of tips and Pickton's past run-ins with the law years ago, but did not key in on the pig farmer until now "really pisses me off," said Carrie Kerr, a 28-year-old Maple Ridge woman whose sister went missing in 1997.
When Kerr's older sister, Helen Hallmark, a drug user and known prostitute, didn't show up for Christmas that year, "we knew something was wrong," Kerr said. "They knew about this guy for years, and they didn't do anything about it," she said. "How many women are dead now because of it?"
Frey, meanwhile, wonders what might have happened to her daughter. The tale of Marnie's slide into prostitution, and the battles to save her, is a familiar one to the victims' families she has met.
"Marnie was a very loving person. If a stranger walking down a street needed 50 cents and that was all she had, she'd give the last 50 cents in her pocket," her mother said.
"Marnie got mixed up with the wrong people, started doing cocaine, then heroin. She was 19 or 20 when it started. When she got on heroin, she went to the streets of Vancouver to support her heroin habit, and started living that life. We couldn't stop her."
Frey said her daughter, however, worried about her family and called several times a week to let them know she was OK. That stopped almost five years ago.
Frey and her husband, Dean, a commercial fisherman, kept their doors open to their daughter and waged a battle over the years for her life.
She came back home several times, thin, sick, vomiting, determined to clean the toxins from her body.
Once she made it into drug treatment in Victoria.
Always she bolted in less than a week, surrendering to heroin. Marnie's body would ache from withdrawal, her mother said, the shakes, vomiting, her bones aching. Her family's heart ached, too.
"The doors were never closed and they still are not," her mother said.
© 1998-2002 Seattle Post-Intelligencer
POSTED AT 10:51 AM EST Saturday,
By ROBERT MATAS
Vancouver police were told three years ago about suspicious activities at the sprawling farm now being searched for clues in the disappearance of 50 women, but they dismissed the tip as unfounded, a relative of one of the missing women says.
Joyce Lachance, whose niece Marnie Frey has not been seen since August, 1997, said she phoned back a few months after talking to police to find out what happened.
She said she was told the investigation was completed and the matter was closed. Friday she was wondering why police are now at the farm.
More than a dozen women have gone missing since she spoke to Vancouver police with some specific information, she added.
"It makes me so angry, when I think maybe this could have been stopped back then," she said.
No charges have been laid in the deaths, and the police have not identified any suspects.
But as members of a special police task force continued Friday to look for evidence of the missing women at a 11-hectare farm in Port Coquitlam, several family, friends and community activists criticized the Vancouver Police Department for what they say was a bungled initial investigation.
The special task force, set up last spring, brought the RCMP into the quest to determine what happened to the missing women. Previously, Vancouver police were doing the work.
As the number of unexplained disappearances climbed in the late 1990s, Vancouver police were under increasing pressure to launch an investigation for a serial killer. But police said the women, who were mostly drug addicts and prostitutes, might simply have moved away to start a new life without telling their friends and families. Police also said they could not do much without bodies or concrete evidence of murder.
John Lowman, a criminology professor at Simon Fraser University, called for a full public inquiry into the Vancouver Police Department to answer such questions as why police did not respond sooner to reports of the missing women.
"There can be no argument about it. The police were not quick enough off the mark," he said. "It's quite clear they did not put the resources into it; they did not do what should have been done."
Prof. Lowman said the women's lifestyles may have reduced the urgency in the minds of the police.
"If 50 women in any other category, whether housewives, women of a certain age or anyone else, went missing, believe me; the police reaction would have been entirely different."
Prof. Lowman, who is working on a book on clients of prostitutes, was critical of police for waiting until 30 women were missing before offering a $100,000 reward, for refusing to assign an officer specifically to deal with the safety of prostitutes and for ignoring the views of at least one officer who believed a serial killer was at work.
Prof. Lowman also questioned whether information was shared between police in Vancouver, where the women were last seen, and the Coquitlam RCMP detachment that polices Port Coquitlam. "It's a frequent problem in many jurisdictions," he said. "There's jealousy between [police] forces in different areas. It's a chronic problem."
Ms. Lachance said she believes police never followed up the information she gave them.
Ms. Lachance lives about a five-minute drive from the farm. She said she has been on the farm on one occasion, in August, 1999, and Robert Pickton, one of the owners, was at her house a few days later to drop off some food for a baby shower.
From late spring until December, 1999, Ms. Lachance said, she and others spent much time searching for Marnie in the Downtown Eastside.
"It was very scary, not something I should have ever done, but I did it. I wanted to know where Marnie was," she said.
Ms. Lachance said she went to places used by prostitutes to relax, freshen up and eat. She would trade cigarettes or a few dollars for information.
She said she was told about "a grungy-looking man" who would take women "far, far away" for parties.
"At first, I didn't connect it. But then it all fit together, like pieces in a missing puzzle," she said.
In early fall of 1999, Ms. Lachance said, she heard a tape-recorded phone conversation about the missing women and heard an unidentified person talk about the pig farm.
"Police should go check [it] out," she recalled the unidentified voice as saying. She told police about the information shortly afterwards.
Vancouver Police spokesman Scott Driemel said police did what they could with the resources they had. "We had a certain amount of resources. We tried to utilize what we could," he told a news conference. "For the vast past number of years, we have been pursing this as aggressively as we can, with whatever resources we have been able to pull into it."
BCs been down this road before
Friday, February 08, 2002
VANCOUVER - Bruce Northorp is a retired RCMP investigator. He knows a thing or two about serial killers.
"I had a feeling when it first came out that there had to be a serial killer or some serial killers on the move," he said.
It's a theory on the missing women's case that carries weight. Northop was the lead investigator in the Clifford Olson case - one that involved various police agencies.
"It could be ... there are similarities," he said. "Certainly, it is difficult to get some other police department interested in a missing person (from another city)."
Northorp said officers aren't motivated to look for someone who was never in their community.
Just like the Olson case, police initially didn't think there was a serial killer loose when prostitutes in the Downtown Eastside went missing. Friends and family members of the 50 missing women say they told police as far back as 1998 about a pig farm in Port Coquitlam. They blame police for not providing enough resources to the investigation and not communicating with other agencies.
"I can’t really provide a speculation as to how we might have acted if we would have had that information or how people might think or place any kind blame whatsoever," said Vancouver police spokesperson Det. Scott Driemel on Thursday.
In the Olson investigation, police said the cases weren't linked, arguing the disappearances occurred and some bodies were found in different cities.
When Northorp took over the case, he got all jurisdictions to cooperate. A month later Clifford Olson was arrested.
"I think there has to be a multi-jurisdictional task force set up that takes care of these cases," said Northorp.
He has co-written a book on his experience with Clifford Olson, one that will be turned into a docu-drama. The one lesson learned from the Olson case still applies 20 years later:
"You have to have a team of people that are working together in concert and not in conflict."
© Copyright2002 Global BC
Forensic investigations: What exactly is
Saturday, February 9, 2002
The search for clues to the disappearance of the 50 women missing from the Downtown Eastside is moving underground on a ramshackle pig farm in Port Coquitlam.
Investigators are digging with shovels in the next step of the forensic investigation after more than two-dozen officers scoured the property over the last two days.
With news cameras in the background recording their every move, police recovered a purse, a running shoe and various items around the property.
But forensic investigators and experts said Thursday the search is just beginning.
"They'll start by looking for human remains and narrow down their search using cadaver dogs, looking for any hidden and buried remains," said Dean Hildebrand, coordinator of the forensic science technology program at the B.C. Institute of Technology.
Hildebrand said investigators will grid the property like an archeological dig site and begin sifting for clues in soil.
Any remains or suspected remains will be sent to forensic labs for dental analysis and/or DNA testing.
Hildebrand said while forensic investigators at the site search for clues, police officers should be collecting the dental records of the missing women and as many DNA samples as they can.
"I'm sure police are collecting known DNA samples from the relatives, so if anything is found, it can be traced."
Hildebrand, who holds a PhD from the University of B.C. in biochemistry and molecular biology, is an expert in the recovery and analysis of DNA from calcified tissues obtained from old and degraded remains for the purposes of human identification.
While at UBC, Hildebrand participated in a large-scale search in Stanley Park after the discovery of a skull. The search is the standard forensic procedure followed in crime scene investigations. "We get about three-dozen officers lined up shoulder-to-shoulder going through small grids with sticks and looking in logs."
Behind the row of officers, Hildebrand said, people with metal detectors followed and then anthropologists to determine whether artifacts such as bones were of human or animal origin.
Ernie Crey, the brother of Dawn Crey, one of the missing women, said police have been slowly gathering blood samples from family members since the fall.
"Some DNA has been taken already by family members after police approached us and said they wanted to build a DNA profile," said Crey. "Everyone agreed and I hope that will be one of the things that can help the police get the answers we're all waiting for."
DNA samples of 24 of the women have been collected.
DNA sampling, which can be done through blood samples or swabs from the cheek, can provide valuable forensic clues about recovered human remains.
After the World Trade Center attacks, for instance, DNA was the only way to identify some of the victims because the collapse of the building was so destructive that the traditional forensic techniques of fingerprints and dental records were useless.
Crime scene investigator Richard Warrington, who worked for 19 years with the sheriff's department in Topeka, Kan., said the biggest concern about crime scenes on rural properties is contamination by animals.
"Any animal such as pigs can carry over items that they shouldn't and place it next to items that may be important evidence," Warrington said in an interview.
Warrington, who once investigated a quadruple murder at a farm property, said soil and land changes are vital clues in the investigation. In crime scenes in urban settings, such as homes or city streets, the investigation will focus on things like blood splatters, fingerprints or bullet holes.
The soil on the rural property will now provide important clues, Warrington said, if police do not locate human remains above the surface. With steel rods, police investigators can probe the ground to find out whether they are pressing into "virgin soil" that is dense and hard or freshly turned dirt that would indicate recent burials.
"In rural crime scenes, we make lines of people with these steel probes going along the property, checking to see whether the soil has been disturbed."
Cultural anthropologist Gordon Mohs of Mission, who has previously consulted with native groups on artifact preservation, said Friday the probe beneath the land will be painstaking.
"Based on probabilities, they will inspect certain areas such as the pig waste, the hog field and if there is a chipper on the property."
The soil will be sifted through fine mesh screens to find samples of bone, Mohs said.
"There's going to be a lot of grunt work in this investigation. A lot of area to cover very painstakingly."
© Copyright 2002 Vancouver Sun
‘Inch by inch’: The police search
Kim Bolan and Scott Simpson
Saturday, February 9, 2001
All the signs coming from a Port Coquitlam pig farm indicate that police investigators scouring the property in the case of 50 women missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside are hunkering down for a lengthy stay.
Vancouver police Detective Scott Driemel told reporters Friday the search of the 10-acre site will be conducted "inch by inch" and may take months to complete.
"Keep in mind that we've got to go very slow," Driemel said. "We don't want to contaminate everything, or anything. It's a matter of working through it inch by inch, foot by foot."
Driemel also said the Vancouver Police-RCMP Missing Women Task Force will give two press briefings a day, seven days a week, which suggests developments could be a long time in coming.
"We don't want to go and get ahead of ourselves and it's a matter of going through everything very methodically. We need to be as accurate and thorough as possible," he said.
The slow pace of an intensive investigation is completely understandable, a spokesman for Seattle's Green River Task Force said Friday.
Sergeant John Urquhart, of the King County sheriff's office, said it could be a long haul before the probe is complete.
Seattle police faced similar obstacles in the mid-1980s in their investigation of the murders and disappearances of 49 women, many of whom were prostitutes, hitch-hikers or runaways. The bodies of several victims were found on the banks of the Green River, earning the unknown assailant his nickname of the Green River killer.
While Seattle police had a major break in the case two months ago with the arrest of Gary Leon Ridgway in connection with four of the murders, it did not mean the work was over, Urquhart said.
In the cases for which Ridgway faces charges, there are 15 full-time investigators working on evidence and preparing for the trial, which might be two years away, Urquhart said.
And in the other 45 still-unsolved cases, the files have been reopened and another large team of investigators is following up on leads and tips.
"Not only is it a massive amount of work for the four cases where charges have been laid, but for the 45 other as well," Urquhart said.
"Certainly, at the sheriff's office down here we know what a serial killer investigation is like. It's just a very difficult investigation."
The Seattle team knows from its own experience about the frenzied and intense pace of a breaking investigation.
"When the time is right, we will talk to them," he said, echoing comments that the Vancouver team made about their Green River counterparts after Ridgway's arrest.
The Seattle team spent weeks excavating at Ridgway's house and at all of his previous residences in the search for evidence.
Most of the work on the Dominion Avenue property this week has been done by hand, with some officers shovelling dirt and other forensic identification specialists picking up items with gloved hands.
The farm, owned by two brothers and a sister, members of a long-time family of local pig farmers, the Picktons, is dotted with mounds of landfill material, construction equipment and old vehicles, as well as a home, outbuildings and barns.
Some of the police on the scene have been given the job of curtailing public access to the site, which is ringed on two sides by new housing developments on land formerly owned by the Picktons, and by temporary fencing to keep away the curious.
Advocacy groups for prostitutes are also bracing for a long investigation and a lot of anguish among the women who are still working in the sex trade and wondering what is going on in Port Coquitlam.
Raven Bowen, of the group Prostitution Alternatives, Counselling and Education, said Friday there is a lot of anxiety and concern on the streets.
"All we want to do now is support the population through this," she said, adding that support staff are spending more time with the sex trade workers. "I think we are just trying to be really supportive."
© Copyright 2002 The Vancouver Sun
Robert Pickton flabbergasted by police search
Family is willing to 'assist police' as forensic digging begins at farm
Neal Hall, Scott Simpson and Jeff Lee
Vancouver Sun, Saturday February 9, 2001
A Port Coquitlam pig farmer is "shocked" and "flabbergasted" that he has been named a person of interest in the disappearance of 50 prostitutes from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, his lawyer said Friday.
Peter Ritchie, who said he is acting for Robert William Pickton and two other family members, said they are offering police every assistance and are overwhelmed by the media frenzy surrounding the police search of their property on Dominion Avenue.
"I've spoken to the sister and two brothers," Ritchie said, breaking the silence on behalf of the family. "They spoke to me yesterday [Thursday] . . . the family is shocked by this and is trying to assist police."
The family is willing to allow the use of any farm equipment to assist police, he added. "But they're concerned about underground digging, because there are wires and gas lines and various soils stored in a certain way."
"They're flabbergasted," he said when asked what the family members thought about the media reports linking the intensive police search of the farm to the dozens of women who have gone missing from Vancouver.
"They're just stunned by the sudden media attention," Ritchie said. "I think the media intensity is frightening to normal people."
He said he chose to talk to The Sun on behalf of the family because "mostly they want to be left alone. They've had reporters showing up at all hours of the night."
He suggested the media coverage seems to have reached a frenzied pitch. "It appears to be out of hand."
Ritchie said his clients have various business interests, including a home demolition business, a used building supply company and the farm. They also buy and sell cars.
He said he didn't know if his clients were home when police executed a search warrant on the property Tuesday.
But the family doesn't want to return because of the media attention he said, referring to one news report that showed a crowd of reporters watching police fish a shoe out a ditch adjacent to the property.
The family members are living in the Vancouver area and do not wish to speak to the media, said Ritchie, who may hold a further press conference Monday. The family probably would not attend, he added.
Ritchie is part of the Vancouver law firm Gibbons Ritchie & Associates. He previously represented Pickton when the farmer was charged with an attack on a Vancouver prostitute on March 23, 1997. The four charges -- including one of attempted murder -- were stayed in 1998.
On Friday, police refused to confirm if their painstaking search of Pickton's property has yielded the remains or personal possessions of any of the 50 women, some of whom have been missing since 1983.
But Vancouver police Detective Scott Driemel told about 60 local, national and international media gathered for an afternoon news conference at a building supply store parking lot overlooking the farm that they are prepared to scour the entire 10-acre search area "inch by inch" in an investigation that may take months to complete.
Police announced Thursday that Robert Pickton has been charged with illegal possession of a firearm and related offences. He is scheduled to appear in court Feb. 28.
But RCMP missing women's task force spokeswoman Constable Catherine Galliford would not discuss on Friday whether Pickton is a suspect in the missing women investigation. Police sources, however, have told The Sun he is a person of interest in the case.
Dozens of police are involved in the search, including tactical team members charged with curtailing public access to the site, which is ringed on two sides by new housing developments on land formerly owned by the Picktons -- and by temporary fencing in an effort to keep out the curious.
On Friday, the search appeared to focus at the northwest corner of the property, where two farm buildings and a barn-sized mound of construction debris are ringed by three- and four-storey mounds of landfill -- and police acknowledged it may be necessary to use earth moving equipment as the search for evidence continues.
White-clad investigators were visible Friday as they moved around the south end of a sagging old barn that is fronted by a grey pigpen with a cream coloured roof.
Squeals of pigs were audible and members of the SPCA were seen at one point to be administering needles to at least two pigs before taking them away in an SPCA van.
On another occasion an investigator in a hooded white jump suit walked towards the pigpen carrying a white plastic bag.
There is another two-storey wooden building about 30 metres away and police could be seen moving inside that building as well.
In the vicinity are brown mounds of earth and rock with earth movers and old vehicles scattered around them.
Immediately behind the search area is a new condominium complex, part of Port Coquitlam's sprawling Riverwood development.
The condo complex, an elementary school, a park and an under-construction street of single family homes are all part of the original Pickton property. About half the original 55 acres was rezoned for development in the early 1990s.
The remainder of the land retains its agricultural zoning, which allows for the raising and processing of animals.
Galliford said none of the missing women, most of whom were involved in drugs and prostitution, has been confirmed dead, but she added that "progress is being made" in the investigation.
"We are not going to be going into any specifics with regard to what we're searching for," Galliford said. "We've got to be very circumspect about what we can release."
The police representatives declined to comment on a Sun report that police have found personal possessions of some of the missing women -- except to say that the disclosure of potential information relating to the case could be harmful to the investigation.
They announced they are clamping down on the information flow from the investigation, saying they will will be available to comment only twice a day, at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. The briefings will take place seven days a week and will continue indefinitely.
Galliford said police have been flooded with tips since news of the investigation broke Wednesday night and announced that a new tip line has been created -- 1-877-687-3377.
A brother of Dawn Crey, one of the missing women, visited the site Friday, saying he could not stop himself from going there. Relatives of other missing women have also visited the site, desperate for some sort of information about the fate of their loved ones.
"I want to know what has become of my sister," Ernie Crey said. "I never imagined that the investigation would take us to a place like this.
"I'm afraid of what may be found here. It fills me with anxiety and dread, but those feelings aside, I'm anxious to learn what it is they discover here. It's a horrifying idea to contemplate any of the women being found in these circumstances."
A former president of the United Native Nations, which serves urban aboriginals, Crey was one of the participants in a protest march last year through the Downtown Eastside to raise the profile of what many of the missing women's families believe was an unnecessarily slow investigation by Vancouver police.
The investigation picked up speed after the RCMP became involved.
Crey noted that critics of Vancouver police suggested the original investigation was hindered by the profile of the women involved -- poor, drug-addicted prostitutes --- but he declined to voice a criticism himself, saying he is mainly relieved that there seems to be a break in the case.
"All of the families are hungry for some knowledge about what became of the particular family members and if it is determined that this determination is made right here, so be it, because we want to know what became of our loved ones.
"What happens now is important, what happens tomorrow and the days to follow. I don't know that it benefits us to revisit history."
In a related development, Port Coquitlam Mayor Scott Young acknowledged Friday he attended a party at a hall dubbed "Piggy's Palace," co-owned by Robert Pickton.
But Young said that at the time of his visit in September, 1996, he was unaware that the city was in a dispute with Robert Pickton and his brother David over whether the building was a fire hazard. And he said his visit was at the request of people living in the neighbourhood who wanted to "get to know" him.
At the time, Young was a school trustee and was considering running for council. He was subsequently elected as a councillor, and won a byelection for the mayor's job last year after the death of long-serving Mayor Len Traboulay.
"I was invited there on one occasion, in September, 1996, prior to being on council," he said. "It was a neighbourhood party. I was on the school board at the time, and I was invited so people could get to know me."
Young said he was introduced to David Pickton at the party, but has never met his brother Robert.
In 1996, the city went to court seeking an order against the brothers and their "Piggy's Palace Good Times Society" to bar them from holding parties at the hall at 2552 Burns Road in Port Coquitlam.
Company records indicate the society was incorporated on June 11, 1996 and had five directors, including the two Pickton brothers. It was eventually dissolved on January 14, 2000 for failing to file its annual statements.
By that time, however, the city's attention on the property had heated up considerably after Fire Chief Randy Shaw became concerned about parties being held in the hall contrary to regulations. RCMP had also noted liquor was served at a graduation party there in May, 1998.
Young said he was not aware that the hall was operating illegally until the issue was brought to council by Shaw following his election.
© Copyright2002 Vancouver Sun
Robert Pickton's 1997 bail-hearing transcript
Saturday, February 9, 2002
Robert Pickton, the person described by police sources as a person of interest in the missing-women investigation, was released on $2,000 bail in 1997 after being charged with the attempted murder and aggravated assault of a prostitute, court documents show.
Those charges were eventually stayed.
In a transcript of Pickton's appearance in court on April 8, 1997 that was obtained by Global-BCTV News, Crown prosecutor Richard Romano said Pickton was facing "very serious allegations."
But he also said Pickton had turned himself in voluntarily to police and the Crown would be content with Pickton being released on a $2,000 bond.
Provincial Court Judge Kenneth Page agreed and released Pickton on a $2,000 cash bond, ordering him to remain at his address at 953 Dominion Ave. and not to have any contact with the alleged victim, Wendy Lynn Eistetter.
"You are to abstain completely from the use of alcohol and non-prescription drugs," Page added.
"I don't take them," Pickton replied.
The charges against Pickton were stayed on Jan. 28, 1998.
It is not clear why the charges did not go ahead.
Eistetter, 36, lives on the street in the Downtown Eastside or occasionally stays with friends.
Her mother says she's been interviewed extensively by missing-women investigators about the incident.
© Copyright 2002 The Vancouver Sun
February 9, 2002
'Shock and disbelief'
Massive search for bodies stokes fears
By PETER SMITH -- Sun Media
PORT COQUITLAM, B.C. -- Fears a pig farm here may have been
the dumping ground for up to 50 missing Vancouver women is striking terror into
children living in the homes overlooking the eerie site.
Updated: August 21, 2016