VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Investigator questioned whether officials were warned Pickton was a prime suspect
BY SAM COOPER, THE PROVINCE FEBRUARY 01, 2012
Cameron Ward, lawyer for 25 families of murdered women, grilled the VPD’s lead missing women investigator on whether B.C.’s top justice officials were warned that Robert Pickton was the prime suspect, at a series of meetings starting in April 1999.
Det. Const. Lori Shenher’s last two days of testimony at the Missing Women Commision of Inquiry suggested badly flawed efforts by the VPD and RCMP, which possibly allowed drug-addicted prostitutes to die needlessly.
On Wednesday Shenher testified that after she and RCMP investigators homed in on Pickton in the spring of 1999, an “inertia” fell onto the investigation, and somewhere up the chain in the RCMP a decision seemed to be made to halt the joint-forces investigation into Pickton in the fall of 1999.
In cross-examination, Ward suggested to Shenher that for five years Pickton was permitted to bring as many as 49, “maybe many more” women to his farm and kill them, and asked her why.
“I don’t believe it was a lack of management will at VPD,” Shenher said. She said it was “a total lack of someone picking up a phone and going to someone in authority in RCMP (to) move (the Pickton case) forward.”
Ward pressed Shenher for details about a meeting involving then Attorney-General Ujjal Dosanjh, a number of cabinet ministers and aides, plus a handful of the most senior officers from the RCMP and VPD, which occurred on April 9, 1999. Pickton was the focus at that meeting, as well as another multi-department meeting on May 13, 1999, according to Shenher.
Shenher in a previous statement said she believed her memo sent to Dosanjh and distributed at the April meeting, specifically included Pickton’s name, but that a copy of the memo that is reproduced for evidence in the current hearing appears to have been altered.
However, under cross-examination from Ward she said she now believes the memo was not altered.
Shenher said she can’t recall if the aides or officers present took notes of her presentation at the April meeting.
Inquiry Commissioner Wally Oppal clashed with Ward on the relevance of who attended the meeting and what was recorded at the meeting.
Ward charged that Oppal’s commission has so far failed to produce documents, and it is crucial to know whether the top justice officials in B.C. who were in attendance “all knew about Pickton but didn’t motivate any response.”
“This committee has had an ongoing duty to get the notes,” Shenher said. “We should have records of that meeting.”
Ward questioned Shenher on flaws in her own investigation, and why Pickton was not stopped sooner given what police knew about him.
Ward asked Shenher if Coquitlam RCMP Cpl. Mike Connor, who investigated Pickton for years starting with an attempted murder charge in 1997, had told her that the RCMP knew that Pickton and his brother Dave were involved in illegal activity and associated with members of the Hells Angels motorcycle club.
Shenher said she was aware. She said that starting in July 1998 she drove by the Pickton farm with her source Bill Hiscox, and Connor, several times. She described a number of earth mounds on the property about 15 feet high and 30-40 feet across, and said she considered whether Pickton was keeping live women captive in the earth formations.
“It made me think of a bunker, torture chamber type place,” she said.
Ward suggested that Shenher had actually entered the property on one occasion with Hiscox, and she denied that she did.
Shenher was also asked why, when she claimed to have been traumatized by the case, she wrote a book on the case which was put forward to a publisher, and worked on scripts for the CBC crime show Da Vinci’s Inquest, prior to 2003.
Shenher said the writing was “cathartic.”
Ward said if the book manuscript is disclosed as he has demanded, he will ask to re-examine Shenher on the contents.
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Updated: August 21, 2016