VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Sun series prompted police to 'step up'
Stories in the fall of 2001 set the number of missing women at 45, not the 27 earlier stated
Thursday, January 11, 2007
On a rainy day in March 2000 families and friends of Vancouver's missing women gathered with police officers at a downtown park to dedicate a monument in honour of the disappeared.
Many of the mourners believed they'd never see their loved ones again or ever know what happened to them.
The police were also frustrated. A team of five detectives and two civilian members from the Vancouver city police continued to examine the files and check leads.
But there was little progress. More sex-trade workers were disappearing in the Downtown Eastside. And the cases had slipped from the spotlight.
A year later, in the spring of 2001, the authorities decided more needed to be done. The RCMP joined with the Vancouver police to form a joint task force and to review all files connected to dead or missing sex-trade workers.
The issue of the police response was examined in an 11-part series by The Vancouver Sun that ran between September and November 2001. Reporters Lindsay Kines, Kim Bolan and Lori Culbert established that the number of missing women was 45, many more than the 27 the public had been told about.
The series also revealed the flaws in the original police investigation -- that the file had been handled by inexperienced and overworked officers without the time or resources to do a thorough job.
It also showed that the investigation had been hobbled by police infighting, and that there were data entry problems with the computer system used to manage information about the case.
Two months after The Sun revealed the number of women missing was much higher than police had said, police released the names of 18 additional women, saying they were investigating the disappearance of 45 women.
Families of the newly identified women were pleased the fate of their loved ones was being examined, but wondered why it took so long to get the names released.
Not long after The Sun reports appeared, the Vancouver police and RCMP assigned more officers to the probe and stepped up their investigation.
Daisy Kler, an official with Vancouver Rape Relief, said the 2001 series "played a role in galvanizing the police to work harder. . ."
On Feb. 5, 2002, officers armed with a search warrant entered a Port Coquitlam pig farm owned by Robert William Pickton and his brother. Two weeks later, Pickton was charged with two counts of murder.
Pickton now faces 26 charges of murder -- six of which will be dealt with in a trial scheduled to begin Jan. 22. Pickton is to face the remaining 20 murder charges in a later trial.
Sun reporter Bolan believes the newspaper's stories in late 2001 "led to a lot of attention and additional resources being given to police."
Bolan added that "it was satisfying to think our series made a difference. But it was also frustrating to think of how many women died unnecessarily.
"Even as our stories continued through the fall of 2001, the body count rose."
PRELUDE TO PICKTON TRIAL
Second of 11 parts
© The Vancouver Sun 2007
Vancouver Sun - Part 1
Updated: August 21, 2016