VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Failures of Pickton investigation similar to Bernardo probe, inquiry told
BY NEAL HALL, VANCOUVER SUN JANUARY 16, 2012
VANCOUVER - There was a systemic communication breakdown between the RCMP and Vancouver police in the investigation of serial killer Robert Pickton, the Missing Women investigation was told today.
And it was similar to the systemic failure in the investigation of Ontario serial killer Paul Bernardo, testified Peel Regional Police Deputy Chief Jennifer Evans.
Senior police managers of Vancouver police and the RCMP also failed to take ownership of the investigations and make sure enough resources were devoted, Evans testified.
"There was a breakdown in communication at the management level, which is not good for an organization," she told Commissioner Wally Oppal.
She said the management failure began in the VPD Missing Person unit, which had no senior management overseeing the unit and providing supervision.
And it continued on through the Vancouver police investigation and the subsequent RCMP investigation.
She said senior police managers should have been properly supervising the investigation to make sure it was moving forward.
Instead, the investigation became stalled at times. Evans said.
She pointed out that two VPD detectives were showing photos to women working the streets of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and the women identified Pickton as frequenting the area.
But that information wasn't being shared with other investigators, she said.
"I think it is so critical for investigation teams to share information," Evans told the inquiry.
She said Bernardo was a multi-jurisdictional rapist and killer, so that investigation had similar problems of failing to share information between police forces.
She said police managers should have ensured information was being shared in the Pickton investigation.
She suggested Vancouver's police chief could have picked up the phone and called chiefs of neighbouring jurisdictions to form partnerships.
"Police leaders need to be accountable not only for their authority but for the community they serve," Evans said.
At one point, she found that then Vancouver police major crime Insp. Fred Biddlecomb's conduct was unprofessional when he chastized another officer in front of other officers, including RCMP members.
Evans said commanding officers in the VPD needed to fully understand the missing women problem and make sure investigators had enough resources and tools to do the job.
She said Biddlecomb, Insp. Gary Greer and Deputy Chief Brian McGuinness should have been having better communication to keep senior management full informed of the problem, Evans said.
She found the lack of leadership and police oversight was "inexcusable."
Evans also found in the RCMP file a mention in April 2000 by an officer who said that if Pickton was eventually found to be a serial killer, there would be a public inquiry.
At the time, the RCMP's investigation of Pickton had stalled. It was not considered a top priority and tasks were set out but were not completed, Evans found.
For example, police surveillance followed Pickton to West Coast Reduction in east Vancouver but no one followed up and investigated what was in the barrels that Pickton was observed dumping at the rendering plant.
An informant had told police that Pickton bragged that he used a meat grinder to get rid of bodies.
Another informant said he was told by a woman who had been on Pickton's farm when she saw Pickton butchering a woman's body in a barn at the Pickton farm in Port Coquitlam.
Evans testified that one of the most compelling documents in the police file was written by a 22-year-old data entry summer student in August 2001, when he suggested Pickton was a serial killer was responsible for women still going missing.
The inquiry is probing why it took so long to catch Pickton, who was arrested on Feb. 5, 2002.
Cross-examined by lawyer Cameron Ward, who is representing 25 families of murdered and missing women, Evan was asked if the reason why the Pickton case wasn't investigated sooner was because the missing women were seen by male police managers as disposable because they were only "hookers."
"No, I saw no evidence of that," she said.
Ward suggested the investigation was affected by a male-dominated police culture of sexism and misogyny.
"I saw no evidence of that," Evans replied.
A number of senior lawyers turned up this morning at the Missing Women inquiry to represent senior Mounties and members of the Vancouver police.
The lawyers appeared at the inquiry in anticipation of Evans' testimony.
Evans was asked by the inquiry to review the Pickton investigations done by the Vancouver police and RCMP.
Before she began her testimony today, Richard Peck appeared at the inquiry and told Commissioner Wally Oppal that he was representing the interests of Gary Bass, the former commanding officer of the RCMP in B.C.
Lawyer David Butcher also appeared for Brock Giles, a former Vancouver police staff sergeant.
"I'm not ready to cross-examine the witness this week," Butcher told Oppal.
The lawyer said he first wanted to hear the testimony of Evans.
Lawyer Ravi Hira told Oppal he was representing Earl Moulton, the former RCMP inspector who oversaw the Pickton investigation by the Coquitlam RCMP in 1998 and 1999.
Former Vancouver police inspector Gary Greer also has retained a lawyer to represent him at the inquiry.
Greer was involved in overseeing the missing women investigation and the handling of three informants who suggested in 1998 and 1999 that Pickton had killed one or more women at his Port Coquitlam farm.
Vancouver police passed along the information to the Coquitlam RCMP to investigate possible murders taking place at the Pickton farm.
Pickton once confided he killed 49 women and planned to kill more.
He was convicted in 2007 of six counts of murder.
After Pickton exhausted all appeals, the Crown decided not to proceed on a second trial on another 20 murder counts.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
Updated: August 21, 2016