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Warning would not have changed women's behaviour: officer

Inspector in charge of major crimes in 1998 decided issuing news release about possible serial killer 'was inflammatory'

NEAL HALL, VANCOUVER SUN  November 8, 2011

The decision by the Vancouver police department to not issue a public warning in 1998 that a serial killer was possibly preying on Downtown Eastside prostitutes likely wouldn't have changed the behaviour of the women who were killed, the Missing Women Inquiry was told Monday.

"While it might have been misguided not to put the press release out there, I don't think it would have changed behaviour," Vancouver police Deputy Chief Doug LePard testified.

"I don't think it would hurt putting it out because that's what the community thought was going on," LePard said, referring to the belief in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside that a serial killer was preying on prostitutes.

The addiction of the women involved in street prostitution was so powerful, a warning would not have kept them from working the streets, he said.

LePard is the first police officer to testify at the inquiry, which is probing why it took so long to catch Robert Pickton, who wasn't arrested until 2002.

LePard recalled that a VPD serial crime specialist, then Inspector-Detective Kim Rossmo, wanted the police department to issue a public warning about a possible serial killer in September 1998.

Rossmo drafted a plan to map out a "strategic blueprint" to find out how many disappearances of women were possibly linked, LePard said.

It also contained a public warning that the Vancouver police were considering the possibility of a serial killer.

LePard said then Insp. Fred Biddlecomb, who was in charge of the major crimes section at the time, decided the news release should not be issued because he felt there was no evidence pointing to a serial killer.

"Insp. Biddlecomb did not feel it was appropriate," LePard told the inquiry.

"He thought it was inflammatory."

He added: "He believed, wrongly, that these women were transient and would reappear."

Earlier in the day, LePard testified that there had been complaints about the civilian clerk, Sandy Cameron, in the missing person unit.

He recalled that Vancouver police Sgt. Bob Cooper conducted an investigation of the complaints.

Commission lawyer Art Vertlieb read out a portion of LePard's interview with Lori Shenher, who was added as a second detective in the missing person unit in 1998 when the force realized the number of missing women was a problem.

Shenher told LePard that the clerk would not take the calls of a mother of one of the women reported missing.

Cameron made racial comments about callers, Shenher told LePard.

For example, Shenher said, Cameron was talking one day to an Asian woman on the phone and told the woman: "Speak English. This is Canada."

Shenher recalled she confronted Cameron about being racist.

"She denied it and said 'If they can't speak English, they should go back to their country,'" Shenher told LePard in 2002, after Pickton was arrested.

The inquiry heard earlier testimony from families of Pickton's victims that they were treated dismissively by the clerk who worked in the Vancouver police missing person unit.

LePard will continue his testimony today.

Live streaming of the testimony is

available on the inquiry website:

www.missingwomeninquiry.ca

nhall@vancouversun.com

 

Email: wleng#missingpeople.net 

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

Updated: August 21, 2016