VICTORIA — For the first time, the Vancouver Police Department is openly backing
calls for a public inquiry into the investigation of the missing women case that
began more than a decade ago.
In an e-mail to the sister of one of the missing women, Deputy Chief Doug LePard
says that she has the department's support in pressing for a full public
"I am responding on behalf of Chief Const. Jim Chu and myself in stating that
the Vancouver Police Department does support a public inquiry into the missing
women case," LePard writes in the letter, which was made available to the
Victoria Times Colonist.
"We believe a public inquiry is clearly in the public interest, and that this
inquiry should be held at the earliest opportunity after the criminal matters
regarding Robert Pickton are concluded."
Pickton, a Port Coquitlam, B.C., farmer, was found guilty on Dec. 9, 2007, and
sentenced to life in prison for murdering six of the women who vanished from
Vancouver's Downtown Eastside from 1978 to 2001.
Pickton's lawyers have appealed his second-degree murder convictions to the
Supreme Court of Canada. If a new trial is ordered, he could be tried on an
additional 20 counts.
Maggie de Vries, who first began calling for an inquiry in 2002, said she was
astonished to receive LePard's note Thursday. Her sister Sarah de Vries
disappeared in 1998 at the age of 28, and her DNA was found at Pickton's farm in
2002. "I find it amazing," de Vries said. "It's down there in black and white in
a formal e-mail that, obviously, he expects not just me to read."
De Vries said she doesn't understand why the police are going public now. "But
I'm very encouraged by it."
De Vries received LePard's note after sending a letter to Attorney General Mike
de Jong last week, asking him to commit to launching an inquiry as soon as the
publication bans related to the Pickton case are lifted. De Vries copied the
letter to Premier Gordon Campbell, NDP Leader Carole James and a number of
organizations, including Vancouver police, with a covering e-mail asking for
LePard confirmed the department's support for an inquiry in an interview Friday.
He said it was adopted "quite some time ago," but there was no reason to make it
"We knew that nothing could happen until after the criminal matters were
concluded in any case."
However, he said the department has made its position clear in private
correspondence over the years with solicitors general John Les and Kash Heed.
LePard, who spent years investigating the department's handling of the case,
said his book-length review is finished and will be made available once court
The department spoke to Crown counsel about releasing the report prior to the
end of court matters, he said. But prosecutors determined the report could
violate a number of publication bans that remain in place and possibly
jeopardize a new trial, should one be necessary.
LePard said the report contains extensive recommendations for improving policing
in B.C. The ones relating to the Vancouver department have all been acted upon,
In her letter, de Vries said she believes LePard's report contains details of
where the Vancouver police and RCMP went wrong during the missing-women
"That report, I understand, contains recommendations that have the power to save
lives, but it sits under lock and key, unavailable even to VPD investigators for
training purposes," she writes.
Meanwhile, she said, marginalized women continue to disappear and die across the
country, while police departments continue to make errors in their
De Jong was asked about an inquiry following a Supreme Court decision last week.
But he gave no indication that government plans to change course and commit to
"At this stage, we are still focusing our efforts and resources on the
prosecution of the matter," he said.
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