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Coquitlam Mounties should have asked sooner for help on Pickton, inquiry told

BY NEAL HALL, VANCOUVER SUN  JANUARY 13, 2012


VANCOUVER -- The Coquitlam RCMP should have asked for help sooner from Vancouver police to investigate allegations that serial killer Robert Pickton was killing women on his Port Coquitlam farm, a senior Mountie testified today.

Alberta RCMP Supt. Bob Williams told the Missing Women inquiry that not enough "resources," meaning officers, were assigned to the investigation by April 18, 2000.

He said the Coquitlam RCMP detachment was very busy with other homicides and investigated Pickton when it could, but should have asked for more detectives from RCMP headquarters in B.C.

"They would investigate, stop and would go to another priority, stop and go back to the Pickton investigation," Williams told inquiry Commissioner Wally Oppal, who is probing why it took so long to catch Pickton, who admitted he killed 49 women.

"I would have sought resources from wherever, including the Vancouver police department."

Williams was asked in 2002 to do an "external review" of the RCMP investigation of Pickton to prepare for lawsuits filed by families of Pickton's victims, who believe police didn't do enough to solve the case and allowed Pickton to continue killing until his arrest on Feb. 5, 2002.

The witness agreed under cross-examination by lawyer Tim Dickson, representing Vancouver police, that little was done by the RCMP after two officers interviewed Pickton in January 2000, when Pickton denied killing anyone but offered to allow police to search his farm, which was never done.

A joint forces operation with Vancouver police, code-named Project Evenhanded, didn't begin until Nov. 21, 2000.

But Evenhanded spent many months reviewing paper files and trying to determine whether Pickton was linked to three other serial murders in the Fraser Valley.

Police eventually learned Pickton's DNA didn't match the forensic evidence from the Valley Murders, Williams said.

Police also began looking at other suspects, with the suspect pool eventually reaching a peak of 60 men, which took considerable time, he said.

Williams, however, said there was no negligence on the part of the RCMP or Vancouver police, saying it was a difficult investigation, given the circumstances -- police had no bodies, only information from three informants who told Vancouver police that Pickton had killed one or more women at his farm.

In a surprise move today, lawyer Janet Winteringham appeared at the inquiry to cross-examine Williams.

She told the inquiry she is representing Don Adam, the retired RCMP officer who was team commander of the joint forces Pickton investigation.

Adam, who is expected to testify later at the inquiry, interrogated Pickton and got him to make incriminating statements following his arrest in 2002.

Neil Chantler, who is co-counsel for the families of 25 murdered and missing women, objected to Winteringham being allowed to question Williams.

He said the inquiry has imposed time constraints on lawyers to question witnesses and he was concerned that each of the 42 witnesses might have lawyers appear to represent them.

"Has there been notice of misconduct?" Oppal asked commission counsel Art Vertlieb.

"That's confidential," Vertlieb replied.

The inquiry took a short break so Vertlieb could discuss the matter with Chantler.

When the inquiry resumed, Oppal said he would allow Winteringham to question the witness because of allegations made at the inquiry.

Under questioning by Winteringham, Williams agreed that the RCMP offered to assist Vancouver police to review the missing women files when the VPD investigation was in its infancy, but the VPD never took the RCMP up on its offer.

At the time Project Evenhanded began, Williams said, Adam and others believed that more than one serial killer was operating in Vancouver.

"Yes, they believed there were two serial killers operating in Vancouver," said the witness, who finished his testimony before noon today.

On Monday, the inquiry will hear the evidence of Peel Regional Police Deputy Chief Jennifer Evans, who was asked by the inquiry to review the Pickton investigations done by the RCMP and Vancouver police.

nhall@vancouversun.com

 

 

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Updated: August 21, 2016