VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
VPD officer testifies of frustration at casual dismissal of her serial killer suspicions
BY SAM COOPER, THE PROVINCE JANUARY 30, 2012
The lone investigator in Vancouver’s missing women cases testified Monday that she still can’t understand why evidence from the one victim who escaped Robert Pickton — a drug-addicted sex worker — was discarded by the justice system.
Det. Const. Lori Shenher told the Missing Womens’ Commission of Inquiry that as a junior constable she was given the whole job of investigating a number of women missing from the Downtown Eastside in 1998, having never investigated a murder or led a major investigation. No one else even applied for the job, and there was little or no strategic oversight, according to her testimony.
Shenher said as soon as she started investigating in July 1998 she came across a tip that made her say “bingo.”
The tip came from Bill Hiscox, a man who had done some work for Pickton and his brother Dave Pickton in their demolition business P & B Salvage.
Hiscox said one of the missing women on her list, Sarah de Vries, was killed by Pickton. Pickton was picking up prostitutes in Vancouver and taking them to his Port Coquitlam farm, Hiscox said, where he kept women’s purses, bloody clothing and ID.
Hiscox told both the VPD and later Coquitlam RCMP that Pickton had been heard saying he put bodies through a grinder.
Hiscox said he knew that Pickton had tried a year earlier to kill a Vancouver Downtown Eastside sex trade worker, and was still trying to hire people to find her and bring her back to be killed. The woman — known to the inquiry as “Ms. Anderson” — broke free from handcuffs at Pickton’s trailer and escaped after a bloody knife fight with him.
RCMP collected Pickton’s blood-spattered clothing, a used condom, handcuffs and bandages, but never had them tested for DNA. Charges of attempted murder were stayed.
Shenher said she interviewed the woman in July 1998, and she said “they told me I wasn’t credible ... on account of me being an addict.”
“I’ve never come to know why these charges were stayed,” Shenher said. “I felt it incredibly frustrating that her evidence wasn’t heard.”
Shenher testified that in August 1998 she wrote her first memo on the investigation to brass, indicating she believed a serial killer was at work, but management did not respond.
In September 1998 a nascent missing women “working group” involving up to 14 investigators with specified tasks got cancelled after several tense meetings.
Shenher was left in charge, but “old guard” investigators didn’t think the serial killer theory was worth exploring, she said.
Asked what would have happened if she “banged the table” in meetings and warned something serious was occurring, Shenher said: “I have struggled with that for 13.5 years. I felt that if I had banged the table, I don’t think I would have been taken seriously.”
It would be like “you’ve read too many detective novels.”
Shenher admitted that she did not specifically refer to her source information from Hiscox in early meetings. Her testimony continues this week, and the hearing continues daily until April.
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Updated: August 21, 2016