VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Missing Women Inquiry, Former sex worker claims Pickton confessed killings to her
BY JAMES KELLER, THE CANADIAN PRESS MAY 17, 2012
VANCOUVER — A former sex worker says she found herself sitting in a vehicle next to serial killer Robert Pickton almost two years before his arrest, but when she reported the encounter to police, she was dismissed.
The sex worker was testifying Thursday at the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry into the Pickton investigation, where the Vancouver Police Department immediately attempted to cast doubt on much of what she said, including her claim that the man she encountered confessed to killing sex workers and burying them on his property in Port Coquitlam.
A lawyer for the force said there were no records of the call the woman said she made to police and argued it never happened.
The woman, who testified anonymously and sat in the witness box wearing large dark sunglasses, told the inquiry she turned to street prostitution for about six months in 2000 to support her addiction to crack cocaine and heroin.
She said sometime in the fall of 2000, she was working the street in Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, several kilometres south of the notorious Downtown Eastside.
A grey cube van approached her and she got inside, where she encountered a man who propositioned her to come to a biker party at his farm in Port Coquitlam, B.C., the woman testified.
She told the inquiry she declined the offer because she had heard a warning at the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre not to get into a vehicle with a man offering to bring women to Port Coquitlam.
“So when I had the conversation with Mr. Pickton, he had said, ‘Do you want to go out to the biker party,’ and I said, ‘No,’ and he said, ‘Why not?’ and I said, ‘Because I know what you’re doing out there — these women are missing,”’ the woman told the inquiry.
“And he said, ‘Yes, all of them are on my property, I killed them.”’
The woman said she demanded to get out of the van and threatened to go to associates in the “criminal side of life” if he didn’t let her go. She said she jumped out of the moving vehicle, which then sped away.
She later phoned the police, she told the inquiry.
“I reported it,” she said.
“I said, ‘I’ve just gotten out of a man’s car who’s admitted to me to killing the women.’ ... And they said, ‘Basically, we don’t believe your story, and we’re doing the best we can on keeping an eye on him.”’
Sean Hern, a lawyer for the Vancouver police, attempted to cast doubt on the woman’s story, telling the inquiry his department could not locate any records connected to such a call.
“I can tell you that (the woman’s) name has been searched in order to identify any incident,” said Hern.
“I can only assume that if that call occurred — and I’ll argue and suggest it didn’t — it must not have generated an incident report.”
Hern noted the woman referred to contacting “the task force,” but he said the RCMP-led joint missing women investigation known as Project Evenhanded wasn’t launched until the following year.
However, the woman never said she talked to the RCMP and acknowledged she didn’t know which police department she reached after dialling 911. Hern neglected to mention the Vancouver police department’s own missing women review team was still up and running in the fall of 2000.
The woman, who is 38, said she entered rehab in December 2000 and has been clean ever since. She later went to school and is now employed, she said.
The inquiry is examining why the Vancouver police and the RCMP failed to catch Pickton as he was murdering sex workers in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
The inquiry has heard Pickton was well-known among women working the streets of Vancouver, and the former sex worker who testified Thursday said she heard rumours about a pig farmer during her half-year in prostitution.
“Through a group of women in the women’s centre, they sat me down and told me what was happening with these women and where they had gone,” she said.
“They said, ‘No matter what, don’t go out there,’ and I remembered that.”
Bonnie Fournier, a street nurse who worked in a mobile van in the Downtown Eastside in the 1990s, said she, too, was familiar with Pickton.
“I dealt with people who were injured by Willie Pickton, but they wouldn’t go to the police,” said Fournier. “Why? Because they didn’t trust them.”
Pickton was arrested in February 2002.
He was eventually convicted of six counts of second-degree murder.
The remains or DNA of 33 women were found on his property. He once told an undercover police officer that he killed 49.
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Updated: January 01, 2007