VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Victim Services issues guide for families at coming Pickton murder trial
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
VANCOUVER (CP) - The father of one of the women Robert Pickton is accused of killing is angry about the way families will be treated during the upcoming trial.
Rick Frey said he and other families were given a handbook from Victim Services that outlines what they are entitled to during the mammoth murder trial. The handbook divides family members into two groups. The first group allows a maximum of two eligible family members "per missing or murdered woman" who live within 50 kilometres of the courthouse.
These people are eligible for five free lunch vouchers and five days of bus tickets or five days of parking, depending on their means of travel.
The second group applies to relatives who live more than 50 kilometres from the courthouse. They may apply for paid travel by air, bus or ferry to the courthouse only once for five consecutive days. All their meals would be paid.
All family members will be accommodated at a well-appointed riverfront hotel within walking distance of the courthouse.
The funded travel does not include lost wages, child-care expenses or medical insurance.
The trial has been estimated to last as long as a year.
Frey called the handbook "a real crock."
He complained that only two family members are covered and families have no way of knowing when evidence in their loved one's cases will come up.
But while Frey complained about the handbook, he acknowledged that Victim Services has previously paid for 24 counselling sessions for he and his wife.
Pickton is to stand trial Jan. 22 in the deaths of six women and a later trial will be held on charges he murdered 20 other women.
Although Victim Services, a division of the Public Safety Ministry, is allowing family members five consecutive days with expenses paid, the trial only sits four days a week.
Susanne Dahlin, a spokeswoman for the program, said the fifth day would be used as a "debriefing day." Expenses for family members that have to travel some distance would be covered on the Saturday.
Nearly all of the long and complicated legal proceedings since Pickton was arrested almost five years ago have taken place under a publication ban.
Marilyn Kraft, whose daughter Cynthia Feliks is named as one of the 20 victims on the second indictment against Pickton, suggested the handbook contained little helpful information she hadn't heard before.
"If you don't have any brains it would be all right," said Kraft, who lives in Calgary and likely won't attend the first trial.
She calls the five consecutive days situation "really weird."
A few years ago, when she attended one of the meetings for family members, she was critical of the expenses.
"I was looking after my granddaughter and I wasn't going to leave her alone so I put in for expenses and never got paid."
The handbook tells readers under a section called Call Outs that important information will be relayed to family members by phone.
But neither Kraft nor Frey got a phone call when the trial was recently postponed to Jan. 22 from Jan. 8.
Frey and his wife Lynn received calls from the media when the trial date was changed.
"I e-mailed them (Victim Services) and was told, 'We didn't know ourselves. We thought someone else was going to phone you guys.' "
Kraft said she can't remember the last time anyone from the Crown, police or Victim Services called her.
Dahlin said calls about the postponement were made to the "primary contacts for each of the 26 charges. Those were identified at the beginning of the case."
The handbook advises family members not to talk to others about the case or distribute the handbook to anyone, said Frey.
"They (Victims Services) are trying to throw the fear of God into the families," said Frey. "They don't want us to talk to anybody. They like to keep you in the dark."
Frey said he couldn't believe a section in the handbook that said the Missing Women Task Force, set up in 2001 to investigate the disappearance of women, was comprised now of more than 100 full-time personnel.
But RCMP spokesman Sgt. John Ward insisted the figure was accurate and that the investigation was still active.
The unit is made up of police officers, civilian members, and temporary, casual employees, he said.
"Many of them are retired police officers that are working on this."
He estimated there are still 50 police officers working on the investigation full-time.
"They are moving forward. But these are not easy investigations to do."
© The Canadian Press 2007
Updated: August 21, 2016