Inquiry report into serial killer Robert Pickton to be made public on Dec. 17
Keller, The Canadian Press
December 6, 2012
VANCOUVER - The families of the women Robert Pickton plucked from Vancouver's
Downtown Eastside will finally see the results from a public inquiry on Dec. 17
— more than a decade after the serial killer's arrest — but the release of the
final report will likely do little to satisfy critics who have dismissed the
process as flawed.
Commissioner Wally Oppal's final report will be made public on the afternoon of
Dec. 17, while the families of missing and murdered women who had standing at
the hearings will have a copy four hours before that, according to a letter that
was distributed to those families on Thursday.
Oppal will make a presentation that day that will be streamed live over the
Oppal heard from 80 witnesses between October 2011 and June of this year,
including relatives of Pickton's victims, current and former police officers,
Crown prosecutors, sex trade workers, advocates, and academics, among others. He
handed in his 1,448-page report last month after several deadline extensions.
The report is expected to detail why the Vancouver police and the RCMP failed to
catch Pickton, despite receiving evidence years before his February 2002 arrest
linking him to the disappearance of sex workers, and make recommendations to
prevent history from repeating itself.
But his findings will likely be scrutinized through the lens of the harsh
criticism the inquiry has faced since its inception.
A long list of critics, including the victims' families and advocacy groups,
have argued the inquiry's terms of reference were too narrow because they were
primarily focused on the role of police and prosecutors rather than examining
why the women ended up in the Downtown Eastside — impoverished and many addicted
to drugs — in the first place.
They said Oppal, a former provincial attorney general, was too connected with
the current Liberal government to be impartial, and they complained the inquiry
ended too quickly without hearing important pieces of evidence. Those concerns
prompted a number of advocacy groups that had received participant status to
boycott the inquiry.
Last month, even before Oppal handed in his report, several groups that
boycotted the hearings held a news conference denouncing the document, sight
Lawyers for the victims' families have bluntly wrote off the inquiry as an
abject failure, though they continued to participate in the hearings.
Even before the details of the report were released, Ernie Crey, whose sister
Dawn's DNA was found on Pickton's farm, sent a letter to Premier Christy Clark
over his concerns that families wouldn't be included in the public event on Dec.
Neither the letter sent to families nor a news release issued Thursday offered
any details about the actual event or whether families will be invited to
attend. Attorney General Shirley Bond did not make herself available for an
interview Thursday, and a ministry spokesman was unable to clear up those
The province covered expenses for family members who attended the hearings in
Oppal has repeatedly pleaded with his critics to work with him and asked them to
reserve their judgment until they actually see the report.
His recommendations will likely focus on how police should investigate major
cases that spread across jurisdictions, particularly those involving serial
killers and sex workers. Oppal has already suggested he'll recommend
improvements to services for prostitutes in the Downtown Eastside, including a
drop-in centre for survival sex workers.
The inquiry heard allegations that police officers and civilian workers with the
Vancouver police and the RCMP in Port Coquitlam, where Pickton lived, ignored
reports of missing sex workers and failed to put together evidence implicating
Pickton. There were allegations that some of those failures were the result of
racism and sexism.
The Vancouver police and the RCMP have each offered qualified apologies,
admitting they didn't do enough to catch Pickton but insisting their officers
did the best they could with the information they had.
Instead, the two police forces focused on shifting blame to one another. The
Vancouver police said the RCMP botched its investigation into Pickton, while the
RCMP said Vancouver police failed to notice a serial killer was operating in
their own city.
Police received the first tips implicating Pickton in the murder of Downtown
Eastside sex workers in 1998, but he wasn't arrested until February 2002, when
RCMP officers armed with a search warrant related to illegal firearms raided his
farm in Port Coquitlam.
Pickton was subsequently convicted of six counts of second-degree murder and
sentenced to life in prison, where he remains today.
The remains or DNA of 33 women were found on his farm. He once told an
undercover police officer that he killed 49.
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