Bill Hiscox: "Twenty-two of those women would still be alive today if they would
have listened to me in 1998. I mean, what did they take me for, some kind of an
Photograph by: Bruce
Of all the people calling for a public inquiry into Vancouver's Missing Women
case, few have a more compelling reason than Bill Hiscox.
Twelve years ago, he gave police information that pushed Robert Pickton to the
top of their suspect list and triggered an investigation of the Port Coquitlam
But, to this day, Hiscox has no idea why it took police 31/2 years to arrest
Pickton -- a period of time during which more than 20 women vanished from
Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
"Twenty-two of those women would still be alive today if they would have
listened to me in 1998," he said this week. "I mean, what did they take me for,
some kind of an idiot or what? I just don't understand that."
Hiscox, 49, now lives in Victoria, where he is struggling to get back on his
feet after battles with drugs and alcohol, and his own scrapes with the law. But
back in 1998, he was working for Pickton's P and B Salvage company in Surrey,
and occasionally visiting the farm where Pickton lived.
A woman who cleaned Pickton's trailer told Hiscox at the time that she had
noticed bags of bloody clothing and women's identification there.
"We sat down one night and [she] told me, 'You know what, Billy, I think that's
where all the girls are going, right there.' I said, 'You know what? I've got
the same friggin' feeling.' And she says, 'Well, what are we going to do about
it?' And I said, 'Well, somebody's going to need to make a ... phone call here,
and I guess I'm going to have to do that.' And I did."
In July 1998, Hiscox not only called police, he contacted Wayne Leng, who was
searching for his friend, Sarah de Vries, and had left his telephone number on
posters around the Downtown Eastside.
Leng would later give a copy of his taped conversation with Hiscox to police,
and it's chilling to see the accuracy of Hiscox's information back in 1998,
according to the excerpts published by Province reporter Suzanne Fournier in
On the tape, Hiscox tells Leng that Pickton had been charged earlier with trying
to kill a prostitute at the farm, but that the charges were dropped, Fournier
Hiscox also says that the charge is an odd coincidence "with all the girls that
are going missing, and all the purses and IDs that are out there in his trailer
and stuff. He has a 25-acre farm, a lot of heavy-duty machinery out there and
stuff, you know, easy places to hide things out there. And you know, he's quite
the strange character, eh, very, very strange. His name's Willie. He's the owner
of P & B Salvage here in Surrey. They salvage crap from old houses and stuff
like that. He's a really strange character."
"He's got a farm out in Port Coquitlam and you know he frequents the downtown
area all the time, for girls. Everything started clicking on me you know, about
Hiscox also tells Leng that a friend of his also knows Pickton, but doesn't want
to get involved, The Province reported. "She's kind of scared about it. But she
told me, 'Billy, you wouldn't believe the IDs and shit out in that trailer.
There's women's clothes out there, there's purses. You know, what's that guy
doing, it is like really weird.' "
Though Hiscox's story has been told before, the assumption has always been that
police did nothing with his information. Police officers familiar with the case,
however, say the truth is even more disturbing -- investigators took the
information seriously, but were blocked from carrying forward with the case in
the fall of 1999 for reasons that have yet to be fully explained.
Vancouver police and Coquitlam RCMP investigators spoke with Hiscox a number of
times through 1998, though police sources say he was difficult to contact at
times, and didn't show for some of the interviews.
Meanwhile, Hiscox's female friend, who had first-hand information about the bags
of bloody clothing, had ties to the bikers and was believed to be "anti-cop,"
further hampering the investigation.
Then, in mid-1999, investigators received a second tip about another woman who
was telling people that she had seen a body hanging in Pickton's barn. Police
now had two sources telling them about two women who, independently of one
another, claimed to have seen incriminating evidence at the farm.
Police talked of getting a wiretap and running an undercover operation, but the
investigation stalled in August 1999. Though she would later become a star
witness at Pickton's trial, the woman who had told people about seeing a body at
the farm, denied that in interviews with police. Some officers thought she was
telling the truth, while others suspected her of lying, but the police probe
into Pickton seems to have sputtered to a halt.
It wasn't until a rookie RCMP constable got a search warrant to look for weapons
that police finally got onto the farm in February 2002 and discovered items
linked to the missing women.
Hiscox says none of it makes any sense to him, and that only a public inquiry
will get to the bottom of what happened.
"I would like an inquiry, too, to find out why they didn't act on all this
information, why they didn't do what they were supposed to do," he says.
Instead, it's Hiscox himself who, at times, has been subjected to scrutiny and
ridicule. One media report during Pickton's trial portrayed Hiscox as a
toothless misfit with a criminal past who was angling for reward money.
A look at the case chronology, however, shows that Hiscox came forward to assist
police in July 1998 -- almost a full year before the Vancouver police board
approved a $100,000 reward in the case.
Hiscox, who grew up in foster care on Vancouver's tough east side, readily
acknowledges that he's no angel. But despite his flaws, he says, he was trying
to do the right thing in 1998.
"When I came forward, I came forward to just put closure behind these families,
not for people to sit back and look at my life and chew it apart and judge me
for who the hell I am," says Hiscox, who declined to provide details of his life
in Victoria today except to say: "I've been struggling since then."
Vancouver lawyer Michael Mines, who has represented Hiscox in various brushes
with the law over the past 15 years, says his client has been hurt, at times, by
his portrayal in the media and the focus on his own misdeeds.
"This has weighed hugely on him," Mines said. "Quite frankly, I think, more than
anything, he's been looking for some validation that, 'You did the right thing,