VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Police lawyers 'coming out of the woodwork,' missing women inquiry hears
BY NEAL HALL, VANCOUVER SUN JANUARY 25, 2012
VANCOUVER — A lawyer representing victims' families complained Wednesday at the Missing Women's inquiry that there are now so many lawyers representing police that the whole probe into the shortcomings of the investigation into serial killer Robert Pickton could be "derailed."
Cameron Ward, who represents 25 families of murdered women, noted that there are now 19 lawyers representing the interests of police.
"The public interest is not well served if the public is paying for all these lawyers," Ward told inquiry Commissioner Wally Oppal.
Ward said police were "lawyering up at this late stage" and he suggested it was a calculated strategy by Vancouver police the RCMP to "derail" the inquiry process.
"There is no legitimate reason for the lawyers to be coming out of the woodwork now," Ward told the inquiry, which began hearings on Oct. 11.
He made the remarks when David Neave announced he was at the inquiry on behalf of former Vancouver police Insp. Fred Biddlecombe, who was in charge of major crime in 1998 and rejected the theory that a serial killer was behind the disappearance of 27 women by that point.
Oppal, however, said he had to be fair and allow Biddlecombe to have a lawyer at the inquiry.
"If I had my way, we'd have no lawyers in here and we'd get it done quicker," Oppal quipped.
Neave said he wants to have the current witness on the stand, former VPD officer Kim Rossmo, return at a later date for cross-examination.
Tim Dickson, representing the Vancouver police department, took issue with Ward's allegation that the VPD was trying to derail the inquiry process.
"Nothing can be further from the truth," the lawyer added.
Biddlecombe retained a lawyer after the testimony of Rossmo, who wanted to issue a public warning in 1998 that a possible serial killer was preying on women in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
Rossmo testified Biddlecombe had a "hissy fit" and kiboshed the idea at a meeting on Sept. 22, 1998.
"The community should have been warned," Rossmo testified Wednesday.
He said Biddlecombe's negative attitude — he was angry and felt there was no evidence to support the serial killer theory — effectively killed a VPD "working group," which included Rossmo, that was trying to look into the problem of a growing number of missing women.
Rossmo, an internationally known serial crime expert, at the time was the first police officer in Canada with a PhD in criminology.
Rossmo is now a professor at Texas State University, where he is the director of Geospacial Intelligence and Investigation.
He served 20 years with the Vancouver police, including two tours of duty in the Downtown Eastside.
Former VPD inspector Gary Greer is also at the inquiry Wednesday, with a lawyer, listening to testimony.
In 1998, Greer was in charge of District Two, which includes the Downtown Eastside.
Rossmo testified that Vancouver police had a duty to protect all citizens, including the vulnerable street prostitutes who went missing.
If the same number of women went missing in a wealthy area of Vancouver, he said, it would have got more attention and more resources.
More detectives should have been assigned to the missing women case sooner, Rossmo said. And he blamed police managers for not taking ownership of the problem.
Instead, he said, police managers remained disengaged because of the lack of political pressure.
Rossmo testified the police denial of the serial killer theory was just one of a number of classic mistakes that have been made in other serial killer cases.
Rossmo is expected to continue testifying until Friday.
Oppal reiterated Wednesday that inquiry is not looking to find "scapegoats" to blame but is trying to learn about the systemic problems within the VPD and RCMP investigations of Pickton, who wasn't arrested until 2002.
The inquiry will also probe why the Crown dropped attempted murder charges against Pickton in 1998.
The charges stemmed from a 1997 knife attack on a Vancouver prostitute at Pickton's farm in Port Coquitlam.
The woman stabbed Pickton and ran to the street, where she flagged down a passing car.
The woman, who cannot be named, testified at Pickton's trial in 2007.
Pickton, who is serving a life sentence in prison for the murder of six women, once confided he killed 49 women.
He was facing a second trial for the murder of another 20 women.
But after he lost all appeals on his first six murder convictions, the Crown elected not to proceed with a second trial, which upset the families of those victims.
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Updated: August 21, 2016