VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Lead investigator on Pickton case believed woman aided serial killer, inquiry told
BY NEAL HALL, VANCOUVER SUN FEBRUARY 9, 2012
VANCOUVER - The lead investigator in the Robert Pickton serial killer case believed in 1999 that at least one woman had assisted Pickton in a murder.
Mike Connor testified today at the Missing Women inquiry that in August 1999 he wrote a draft affidavit to obtain a wiretap to secretly listen to the calls of Lynn Ellingsen.
The retired Mountie said information from an informant, Ross Caldwell, suggested that she helped bring a woman to Pickton's farm and she ended up dead in a barn.
Lawyer Jason Gratl, representing Vancouver Downtown Eastside interests, suggested Ellingsen was a target of Connor's investigation at that point.
"That was my belief -- she was involved in criminal offences with Pickton," he told the inquiry, which is probing why police didn't stop Pickton's killing spree sooner.
"That's what we intended to find out -- whether she was involved or she was going to be a witness," Connor said.
The officer, who retired last year after 35 years with the force, recalled he had also tried to look into a police computer entry suggesting Pickton had been involved in a sexual assault of a Surrey sex trade worker in 1990.
Connor testified that the computer showed that Don Adam had been involved in the Surrey investigation, but when Connor phoned Adam, he couldn't recall the incident and couldn't find anything in his notes.
Adam later became the team commander of the joint forces investigation, code named Project Evenhanded, of the missing women case.
Questions have been raised at the inquiry why Adam, when heading Project Evenhanded, went on vacation for two months, suggesting there was no sense of urgency.
Adam will testify later at the inquiry.
Connor testified that while he was investigating Pickton, the suspect became aware that he was the target of police surveillance and knew police were talking to acquaintances of Pickton, asking questions about the missing women.
Connor, asked if he thought this compromised the investigation, said he didn't think so..
He said he thought Pickton "would slow down and stop what he was doing."
Connor was referring to the fact that Pickton continued killing women until his arrest on Feb. 5, 2002.
Gratl also raised a tip to police from an informant that a Hells Angels member had been killed, who had worked at a "booze can" across the street from the Pickton farm, and the man's body had been chopped up at the farm, put through a meat grinder and fed to the pigs.
Oppal questioned how that was relevant to the inquiry.
Gratl said his clients in the Downtown Eastside (DTES) have asked him to explore Pickton's connection to bikers.
"The bikers were well known to run the drug trade in the DTES," the lawyer Pickton's connection to bikers led to the fear of the women to report information to police.
Connor agreed with Gratl that Tony Terezakis, an associate of the Hells Angels, had worked as a bouncer at Piggy's Palace, the nightclub run by the Pickton brothers on property near their Port Coquitlam farm.
Terezakis was convicted of being involved in the drug trade and violent assaults of drug dealers working in the DTES.
Gratl also questioned Connor about New Westminster police investigations of assaults on sex trade workers where Pickton was a suspect.
Connor recalled the sex trade worker victims failed to identify Pickton as the assailant.
But other sex trade workers did identify Pickton as a "bad date" -- a term used in the trade for a bad customer.
Pickton was finally arrested on Feb. 5, 2002.
Police found the remains or DNA of 33 women on the farm.
He once said he killed 49 women.
He was convicted at his first trial of six murders.
After exhausting all appeals, the Crown decided not to proceed on the second trial involved another 20 murders.
Connor testified earlier that he began investigating Pickton after a knife attack on a Vancouver prostitute on March 23, 1997.
Pickton had picked up the woman in Vancouver and she agreed to go to his farm to have sex for money.
But after having sex, Pickton refused to pay the woman or drive her back to Vancouver.
As the woman was making a phone call, Pickton slapped a handcuff on her wrist.
The woman told police she began throwing things at Pickton and fighting for her life.
She grabbed a knife on the kitchen counter, slashed Pickton across the neck and tried to flee, but Pickton took the knife and stabbed her several times.
As Pickton lost consciousness from losing blood, the woman ran to the street and flagged down a passing car.
Pickton was charged with attempted murder and unlawful confinement, but days before trial in 1998 the crown dropped the charges because the victim was back addicted to heroin and was considered unreliable and not credible.
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Updated: August 21, 2016