VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Missing women's resting place marked
December 11, 2007
Their names were read aloud as roses representing 65 missing women were thrown into the last excavated pit on Robert Pickton's farm before it was filled with dirt.
A tribute to those missing will be forever buried deep in the ground on the Port Coquitlam farm, where the DNA of 29 women was found. Pickton has been convicted of murdering six of those women, and is charged with killing another 20.
The farm was divided into 216 grids which were all excavated, and a large group of anthropology students sifted through the dirt looking for human bones.
Before the final pit was filled in, the students wanted to remember the women who had vanished, said now-retired RCMP Insp. Don Adam, who was then the leader of the Missing Women Task Force.
"They got a white rose with a card with each one of the missing's name on it and they had a ceremony," Adam said. "We put the rose in the bottom of the final hole and called out their names, and went through every single one and buried it all."
Along with the students, hundreds of police officers spent months searching the farm, eventually finding partial body parts in Pickton's workshop freezer, as well as inside and outside the slaughterhouse.
Police tore down every building on the farm while searching for evidence, and when the slaughterhouse was demolished a RCMP piper was there.
"They had a ceremony and he played the pipes ... a farewell dirge for the missing. Nobody should get confused about how much those people cared," Adam said.
Victims' relatives have repeatedly complained that Vancouver police didn't act promptly in the 1990s when women disappeared, and that Pickton should have been targeted years earlier than he was. Adam has promised police will account for any mistakes that were made, once Pickton's second trial is over.
But the 34-year veteran, who timed his retirement last week to coincide with the end of Pickton's first trial, insists the officers and civilians who worked for his task force cared about the victims while searching the "moonscape" of Pickton's cluttered, debris-covered farm.
Adam is cautious not to reveal information that will compromise Pickton's second trial, but his accounting of the work done on the farm gives some insight into the challenging conditions under which searchers were finding gruesome evidence.
The task force first learned about evidence linked to missing women being on Pickton's farm because a rookie Mountie, Const. Nathan Wells, got a search warrant after being tipped about illegal firearms.
Adam, however, said Pickton was already among a group of suspects the task force was targeting because officers knew victim Andrea Joesbury was associated with Dinah Taylor, a good friend of Pickton's.
"We would have got Willie Pickton, but thank heavens Nathan did that search warrant because what you can say is we got Willie Pickton before he killed again," Adam said.
After Pickton's arrest in 2002, Adam interrogated him. He disagrees with the defence theory that Pickton is weak-minded and was overwhelmed by police.
"Willie Pickton is a chameleon. Let's not be confused about his capabilities... He got every break in the world and people underestimated him," Adam said.
"I was left sitting there looking into his eyes with a real sense of sort of malignant evil. I had just the smallest sense he was playing with me and what it must have been like for those women when they were in his control."
He said not enough has been done to improve the Downtown Eastside, despite the high-profile trial. "Do you think Willie Pickton just entered this picture out of the blue? I mean we created a pool that nobody cared about and he went to it," Adam said.
© The Vancouver Sun 2007
Updated: August 21, 2016