VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Pickton victim to high and incoherent to testify, inquiry told
BY NEAL HALL, VANCOUVER SUN APRIL 10, 2012
VANCOUVER — An attempted murder charge was dropped against serial killer Robert Pickton in 1998 because the victim was too high on drugs to be coherent, the prosecutor who handled the case testified Tuesday at the Missing Women inquiry.
"She was nodding off and couldn't articulate the evidence — she was in bad shape," Crown counsel Randi Connor recalled of the interview with the victim, which took place days before a five-day trial was to begin against Pickton on Feb. 2, 1998.
Connor, a prosecutor since 1982, recalled she took over the criminal file against Pickton after he was charged with the knife attack on a woman in 1997.
But she said she couldn't recall specifics of her conversation with the victim because she can't find her notes.
The victim cannot be named because of a ban on publication imposed to protect her privacy. She is being referred to at the inquiry as Ms. Anderson.
Connor recalled she had difficulty reaching the victim, who didn't have a phone, so she had to contact her through her mother.
Connor arranged to interview Anderson on the morning of Jan. 23, 1998, but Anderson didn't show up until later that afternoon, which was a Friday, or the following Monday morning, the prosecutor said.
Anderson was on drugs during the interview and wasn't coherent, Connor said.
Connor said she discussed the problem with Richard Romano, who at the time was the administrative Crown but now is a judge, and he agreed that the charge approval standard — a reasonable likelihood of conviction — was no longer met.
"We couldn't proceed without her," Connor said, adding she signed the stay of proceedings on Jan. 26, 1998.
Once charges are stayed, the Crown can restore the charges for up to a year.
But Connor could not recall having any discussions about getting Anderson in a methadone program so she could testify. And she didn't recall police coming back to say the witness was off drugs.
The victim was expected to testify Tuesday at the inquiry, but inquiry counsel Art Vertlieb said that Anderson wants to get on with her life and doesn't want to relive the horror of what she went through 15 years ago.
"It's clear she has turned her life around," Vertlieb told the inquiry, adding Anderson is married and has children and is concerned about her privacy.
"She very much wants to put this behind her. We don't want to in any way to add to her burden."
He said the inquiry can meet its mandate, to examine why charges against Pickton were dropped in 1998, by calling the prosecutors who handled the case: Connor and Romano.
Cameron Ward, the lawyer at the inquiry representing 25 murdered and missing women, said his clients respect the victim's decision not to testify.
But, Ward said, his clients see the Crown's stay of charges against Pickton as a pivotal event requiring the testimony of more witnesses, including Peter Ritchie, Pickton's defence lawyer at the time.
Ward said the Crown decision is very important to the families of Pickton's victims because "19 or 20 of their loved ones were killed after that. Had he (Pickton) been prosecuted, many of their loved ones might be alive today."
Pickton had picked up Anderson, at the time a sex worker in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, on March 23, 1997 and took her to his farm in Port Coquitlam.
Pickton slapped a handcuff on one of the woman's wrists. She panicked and began throwing things at Pickton to keep him from getting her other wrist handcuffed.
The woman told police she feared for her life, so she grabbed a kitchen knife and slashed Pickton across the neck.
Pickton got the knife and repeatedly stabbed the woman.
When Pickton loosened his grip on her, she ran to the street and flagged down a passing car, she said.
The woman later died twice in hospital but was revived.
Pickton was charged with attempted murder, assault with a weapon, aggravated assault and unlawful confinement.
The inquiry's mandate is to investigate why Pickton wasn't caught by police sooner.
Pickton is serving a life sentence after being convicted of six murders in 2007. He once admitted to killing 49 women.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
Updated: August 21, 2016