Saturday, May 28

‘Not waiting for police,’ says missing woman’s family

By: Gabrielle Giroday

Posted: 05/28/2011 1:00 AM |


Bernice and Wilfred Catcheway are criticizing the RCMP’s communication skills as the police launch Project Devote.

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JOHN WOODS/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Bernice and Wilfred Catcheway are criticizing the RCMP’s communication skills as the police launch Project Devote.

There were two groups in Winnipeg dealing with the issue of murdered and missing women Friday.

One was at the RCMP headquarters, a highly orchestrated announcement featuring the top brass of both the Winnipeg Police Service and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The other was a quieter and less controlled gathering of families that have been impacted by those crimes, like Bernice and Wilfred Catcheway, who sat in the lobby of a city hotel pouring their hearts out over their endless search for their missing daughter Jennifer.

Winnipeg Police Service Chief Keith McCaskill and RCMP Assistant Commissioner Bill Robinson told reporters they're planning to continue the work of a joint task force originally struck in August 2009 dedicated to cases of murdered and missing women.

The Catcheways, by contrast, said they hadn't been told about the police announcement and don't plan to wait on officers to find their missing daughter.

"We just go on searching," said Bernice Catcheway, who spent $10,000 to excavate a dump in Grand Rapids in the search for the Portage la Prairie teen after she went missing in June 2008.

"We're not waiting for the police. They say, 'Oh, we're with you, we're with you.' We don't see that, we have no communication," said Bernice Catcheway.

Their daughter's case garnered intense media coverage after it happened, with the family organizing searches and gathering tips. Their experience with police had been frustrating, they said, and that frustration continues.

"For myself, for ourselves, I don't think enough is being done as far as communication. The only time I hear from the RCMP is when I phone to give information on things that I've heard, so there's no communication. They don't call me to say where they're at. Never, not once," said Bernice Catcheway.

Seven officers and two civilian analysts had been dedicated to work on the task force. Police said the task force will now move into another phase called Project Devote, where officers will take information gathered from the task force's review and apply it to investigating unsolved cases.

There's been some success so far. In July, police announced they'd made an arrest of 40-year-old Theodore Herntier for the 2004 homicide of sex trade worker Divas Boulanger.

"I want you to know that our commitment to the victims, their families, and the community at large remains steadfast," said Robinson at the news conference at D Division headquarters.

"The entire Project Devote team is sensitive to the families' distress and frustration, and understands the families' need for ongoing communication."

An announcement by both police forces last February said the task force had uncovered similarities among 84 cases. However -- more than a year later -- police did not say the number of cases they're now pursuing, or identify specific cases where they're looking for leads from the public.

The Catcheways, for example, said they don't know if their daughter's case is included.

"By designating a number to this, an offender who may or may not be watching this, may think, 'Well, gee, they may not be looking at the case that I may or may not be responsible for,' " said Robinson.

Friday, May 27

Where are Manitoba’s missing women?

Global News: Friday, May 27, 2011 5:12 PM

For the past year and half, police have been sifting through paperwork, reviewing dozens of cases of missing and murdered women in Manitoba, some of which date back to 1926.

"We really want to bring closure to these families as much as we possibly can,” said Winnipeg Police Chief Keith McCaskill

Now, they’re ready to take the next step in their investigation.

"We are now preparing to move into the investigative stage, which we have called, ‘Project Devote,’” explained RCMP Commissioner Bill Robinson.

So far, 84 cases have been reviewed by Manitoba’s Integrated Task Force, but police won’t say how many of those cases will move onto the next phase, and be probed even further, because they fear it could jeopardize the investigation.

“By designating a number to this, an offender … may think, ‘Well gee, you know, they may not be looking at the case that I may or may not be involved,’” Robinson explained Friday.

“I wouldn’t want to give that number out because we’re in a situation where, given the number 84, we want to do our priority-setting,”

“Project Devote” will focus on cases where foul play is suspected, involving exploited women.

But some family members say the task force hasn’t been open enough about their missing loved ones, so far.

"I was really hopeful in the beginning when they did announce it, but then there was no transparency in terms of communication with families,” said Bernadette Osborne.

Her sister, 21-year-old Claudette Osborne, has been missing since the summer of 2008, when she was working on the streets. Her family says she was a bubbly young mother who planned on turning her life around.

“I just love her and miss her so much, she’s like a piece of my heart is missing.”

Relatives of Mildred Flett, who has been missing since last year, are also frustrated.

"They haven’t investigated, they haven’t even got to the point to know exactly where the last time Milly was seen,” said Terry Nelson, chief of the Roseau River First Nation, where Flett lived.

Authorities say they plan to add more officers to the unit when the Project Devote lauches in the fall.


© Copyright (c)

Thursday, May 26

Funding refusal for missing women inquiry shows what B.C. thinks of probe


Robert "Willie" Pickton had plenty of government-funded lawyers for his serial-killing trial. In the Missing Women Inquiry, groups representing the populations from which Pickton chose his victims, won't get one publicly funded lawyer.

Photograph by: Global TV, CanWest News Service

VANCOUVER — Willie Pickton had more than 10 government-funded lawyers for his serial-killing trial.

In the Missing Women Inquiry intended to prevent such crimes from happening again, groups representing the populations from which Pickton plucked his victims will get not a single publicly funded lawyer. Families of the women Pickton murdered will share one government-funded lawyer. Government and police agencies will have more than a dozen.

The B.C. government's unprecedented decision to refuse funding to official inquiry stakeholders shows it puts a very low value on this probe.

Pickton is serving life for murdering six women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, but had boasted to a police officer of killing 49. Many of his victims were native.

No. 1 on the list of the inquiry's "terms of reference" is a probe of the police investigations from 1997 to 2002 into disappearances of women from the Downtown Eastside. Highly paid police lawyers will defend the conduct of officers and commanders during controversial Vancouver police and RCMP investigations. Without legal representation for women's and First Nations groups working in the Eastside, the probe will be little more than an echo chamber for back-patting and inter-jurisdictional finger-pointing.

No. 2 on the inquiry's list is a determination of why the B.C. government's Criminal Justice Branch decided to stay attempted-murder, assault with a weapon, forcible confinement and aggravated-assault charges against Pickton, after he attacked a prostitute in his trailer in 1997. Without hard questions from lawyers representing non-government organizations, the province will escape accountability for this decision, which freed Pickton to carry on his killing spree.

The province's move to deny legal funding to these stakeholders defies public-inquiry convention, and defies inquiry commissioner Wally Oppal, who recommended the province fund lawyers for 13 groups to whom he'd given official standing.

"My intention was to ensure that no group with standing before the inquiry would be denied legal counsel at the evidentiary hearings due to lack of funds," Oppal said in a statement this week. Oppal later told Vancouver Province reporter Suzanne Fournier that it would be "really unfortunate if only the policing side was there."

Oppal, who should be receiving the full support of the B.C. government, is instead engaged in damage control, trying to preserve the credibility of the inquiry by highlighting public-input opportunities during the informal "study-commission" gatherings at which anyone can speak.

"People at the study commission don't need to cross-examine witnesses," Oppal told Fournier.

No, lawyers at the inquiry table need to cross-examine witnesses, and those lawyers must include representatives of groups who have in-depth knowledge of what was happening in the Eastside as women were going missing, and who have similar awareness of what is happening there now, and in Northern B.C., where almost 20 women have been murdered or disappeared along the "Highway of Tears" between Prince George and Prince Rupert.

Vancouver Province

© Copyright (c) The Province

Wednesday, May 25

Marginalized B.C. groups withdraw from Missing Women Inquiry over lack of funding


Critics are calling on Commissioner Wally Oppal, seen in the January 2011 file photo, to "speak up" to ensure maginalized groups are funded to participate in the Missing Women Inquiry.

Photograph by: Gerry Kahrmann, PNG

The B.C. government’s refusal to fund the groups most affected by the deaths of marginalized women calls into question the credibility of the upcoming Missing Women Inquiry, community groups charged Wednesday.

Inquiry head Wally Oppal, a former judge and B.C. Attorney General, “must speak up” to tell the government the inquiry will be meaningless without full participation, says the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA).

Therefore, all of the groups representing women, First Nations, sex-trade workers and the BCCLA have announced they are pulling out of the inquiry.

“Without public interest groups there to represent the very people this Inquiry is designed to protect, it is starting to feel like another case of the police investigating themselves and calls into question the legitimacy of this inquiry,” said Douglas King of the Pivot Legal Society.

The groups are calling on Oppal to stand up to the B.C. government, saying it is unprecedented for an inquiry head’s funding requests to be denied.

BCCLA director David Eby agreed. “As Marlene George (of the Feb. 14 Women’s Memorial March group) said this morning (Wednesday), the denial of funding has just replicated the barriers to marginalized women that led to these deaths in the first place,” said Eby.

“There will be large numbers of top lawyers representing the RCMP, Vancouver police and the B.C. Criminal Justice branch and on the other side there will be Cameron Ward representing some victims’ families,” said Eby.

The police and justice branch lawyers all are paid out of public funds.

“The groups most likely to critique the police or government’s behaviour have been shut out of the inquiry. They have to be at the table and we need Commissioner Oppal to step up and tell the government to heed his advice.”

B.C. Attorney General Barry Penner said last week that only the families of women killed by serial murderer Robert Pickton will get funding to share one lawyer, Cameron Ward.

Oppal did recommend to Penner that 18 groups get full funding for legal counsel for the evidentiary hearing but that recommendation was ignored.

“My recommendation to the provincial government was to fund all the groups that satisfied me that they would not be able to participate fully without financial support,” Oppal said in a statement Tuesday.

“My intention was to ensure that no group with standing before the inquiry would be denied legal counsel at the evidentiary hearings due to lack of funds.”

However, Oppal has not yet responded to the announcement that all groups except the lawyer for a few of the victims will boycott his inquiry.

Oppal did say that he has asked commission counsel Art Vertlieb to again meet with groups denied funding “to see what can be done to meet their clients’ needs.”

Oppal’s inquiry had hoped to head up to northern B.C. in June to hold study sessions, which are not part of the recorded evidentiary hearings.

The formal hearings are slated to begin in September, 2011 and Oppal hopes to report to government by the end of 2011, covering the police handling of the disappearance and death of at least 69 marginalized women.

Serial killer Robert Pickton, convicted in the death of six women, has beenlinked by DNA to the death of at least 32 women.

Pickton preyed at will for decades on desperate and drug-addicted Downtown Eastside sex trade workers, disposing of their remains at a rendering plant and on his Port Coquitlam property.

© Copyright (c) The Province

Tuesday, May 24

Growing caseload a challenge for task force


Sgt. John Respet at Project Kare's headquarters in Edmonton.

Photograph by: Leah Hennel, Calgary Herald, Calgary Herald

Inside Project Kare's downtown Edmonton operations room, the many faces of a killer stare out at police investigators.

Stamped across the collage of Thomas Svekla headshots reads the word "CONVICTED" in red letters.

The capture and conviction of Svekla, a suspected serial killer sentenced to life in prison in 2008 for the murder of Theresa Innis but acquitted in the death of Rachel Quinney, is Project Kare's greatest triumph.

Two more Edmonton area men -Joseph Laboucan and Michael Briscoe -are charged with first-degree murder and are awaiting trial.

But despite those successes, many more of the task force's cases of 70 dead or missing people -including about a dozen from the Calgary area -remain unsolved.

"Certainly, we would like to have more (cases solved). I don't think there's any secret about that," said RCMP Insp. Bob Williams.

"These files are very complex and we're working on different areas."

Last Monday, RCMP and Edmonton police were seen searching a densely wooded Edmonton park for evidence related to an ongoing Project Kare investigation.

Police stayed tight-lipped about what they were looking for during the three-day search, or which case it relates to.

Task force investigators won't say which Calgary area cases they have included in their database.

They say they want to give families privacy and not offer false hope.

But the silence is unbearable for some.

"I would say there needs to be a more clear disbursement of resources in Alberta," said Dawn Pepper, whose cousin, Jennifer Joyes, is believed to be on the list.

"What's the allocation? What's fair? We thought we'd hear of more success. I would like my mother to know that Jennifer's case is still being investigated and that someday her family would see justice. I want to see that for her."

"I'm not sure that's going to happen."

The task force grew out of a 2002 high-risk missing persons project after Alberta police watched with growing horror the scope of Vancouver's investigation into missing and murdered women on Robert Pickton's pig farm.

Since 2006, the year of Svekla's arrest, Project Kare has been bolstered by $16.8 million. The task force makes use of about 20 investigators.

Funding for Project Kare comes from existing RCMP funding under the provincial policing service agreement. Alberta covers 70 per cent of the cost of the RCMP while the federal government covers the remaining 30 per cent.

While it originally intended to catch killers responsible for multiple slayings of high-risk women in the Edmonton area, Project Kare has expanded its mandate to create an integrated RCMP and Edmonton Police Service homicide unit in a permanent capacity to investigate unsolved historic homicides, missing high risk persons, and serial offenders.

With provincial dollars paying for much of the task force, victims' advocates wonder how much, if any, attention is given to the unsolved historic southern Alberta cases.

"I think it's a great start but I don't think it's what we could be seeing," said Suzanne Dsuz, an organizer for the Memorial March for Missing and Murdered Women Calgary.

© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

Advocacy groups challenge B.C.’s decision to refuse missing women inquiry funding


B.C. Civil Liberties Association executive director David Eby

Photograph by: Ian Smith, PNG files

VANCOUVER -- The B.C. Civil Liberties Association is calling on B.C. Attorney-General Barry Penner to fund the participation of survival sex trade workers, aboriginal people and residents of the Downtown Eastside in the missing women inquiry.

The move follows a controversial decision the government made late last week to only fund legal fees for the families of the murdered and missing women.

The inquiry, headed by former attorney-general Wally Oppal, is examining the police investigation leading up to the arrest of Robert Pickton, who preyed on women living in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Penner announced on Thursday that only families of murdered and missing women will receive government funding to participate in the inquiry, despite Oppal's recommendations the government provide financial support to 13 applicants that had been granted legal standing to be included in the inquiry.

The decision has drawn the ire of the BCCLA which claims groups such as the Coalition of Sex Worker-Serving Organizations and the Native Women's Association of Canada, among others, must be represented for a fair inquiry.

The BCCLA will hold a news conference Wednesday to release its official response to Penner's decision to provide funding only to the families of Pickton's victims.

David Eby, executive director for the BCCLA, said on Tuesday he was still communicating with the groups that had applied for funding to see which ones would not be able to participate in the inquiry and what their response would be. He said they would be drafting a letter to be delivered to the attorney-general Wednesday.

Oppal had granted the groups legal standing to participate in the inquiry but Eby said most of them won't be able to because they need funding to hire lawyers or experts to represent them.

"They need to be at the table. I mean the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre, for example — these are women who are still at risk," he said.

"There's no point in holding a murdered and missing women inquiry if the women at risk don't get to participate."

On May 3, Oppal recommended that the provincial government provide various levels of funding to 13 applicants who asked for financial support to fund their participation in the inquiry.

However, Penner said, in a news release Thursday, that funding the families would be consistent with past practices and that there was no legal requirement for the government to fund all the groups.

However, Eby argues that legal representation in the inquiry is unbalanced.

"On the one side there are 15 to 30 government lawyers who are all arguing that nothing went wrong, or that it has all been fixed and on the other side you have lawyer Cameron Ward representing 10 of the families," he said.

Taxpayer-funded lawyers are already participating for various government groups, Eby noted, including current and former Vancouver police officers, the RCMP, the criminal justice branch and the commission.

"It was a real shock that everyone on the government side would be funded but nobody on the advocacy side would be funded."

Meanwhile Tuesday, the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre and the Women's Memorial March Committee Challenge released a joint statement saying they would also challenge the government's decision to turn down their funding request.

Marlene George, chair of the Feb 14th Women's Memorial March Committee, said the two groups, both of which were given legal standing to participate, would provide critical context necessary for the inquiry because "we knew the women and their lives and their struggles."

In March, the government broadened the scope of the inquiry to include more voices from northern B.C.

The government decided to grant a request by inquiry commissioner Wally Oppal to add a study commission after he wanted to include more people living along the so-called Highway of Tears, where many women have been reported missing or were found murdered over the years.

The commission is expected to spend two weeks in June hearing submissions from people living in four or five cities along Highway 16, including Prince Rupert, Hazelton and Prince George.

The inquiry will then move into its second phase — the hearing commission — in September.

Among other issues, the hearing commission will review the January 1998 decision by the criminal justice branch of the attorney-general's ministry to stay charges against Pickton for the assault of a Downtown Eastside sex trade worker.

Pickton was suspected of being involved in the disappearance of more than 60 women, many of them drug addicts and impoverished sex-trade workers.

He was convicted of killing six of the women.

Murder charges involving 20 others were stayed after Pickton lost his final appeal.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Friday, May 20

Legal fees paid for families of missing women


The families of women who vanished from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside a decade ago will receive government money to participate in a public inquiry probing the murders and disappearances.

Attorney General Barry Penner said Thursday the government has agreed to assist with the families' legal fees. There is no legal requirement to fund participants in public inquiries, but helping the families is consistent with past practice, he said in a release.

Former judge and attorney general Wall Oppal is heading the inquiry into the disappearances and murders from 1997 to 2002.

© Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Colonist

Tuesday, May 17

How serial killer Robert Pickton slipped away

New revelations show why he was able to prey with such impunity

by Ken MacQueen on Friday, August 13, 2010 8:45am - 0 Comments


Long before Robert Pickton became an infamous household name, but years after he began prowling Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, a local advocacy group conducted a survey of the city’s prostitutes. It helps explain how a simple-minded pig farmer—the very definition of the banality of evil—got away with what police now believe is the largest serial killing spree in Canadian history.

The organization, the Prostitution Alternatives Counselling and Education (PACE) Society, interviewed 183 sex trade workers between 1999 and 2001. It found, not surprisingly, that 58 per cent worked to support a drug habit, and that violent “bad dates” were a frequent occurrence. More than half said they had been robbed while working the streets; 39 per cent said they had been kidnapped or confined; one-third said they had survived attempts to murder them. Remarkably, 40 per cent of those who claimed to have been targets for murder said they didn’t report the incident to police. The survey found a “gulf between acts of violence suffered and acts of violence reported”—indicative of a profound distrust of authorities.

It was the perfect combination of vulnerabilities for an urban predator. Pickton cruised  into the city, offered money and drugs to women working the Eastside “low track,” then drove them to the grotty, cluttered farm in suburban Port Coquitlam he shared with his brother Dave. If he was dead certain their disappearance would go unnoticed by authorities, it was with good reason. Trial information released last week shows Pickton skated on an attempted murder charge in 1997—freeing him to kill a further 21 of the more than 30 women investigators now believe were murdered and butchered at the farm.

With the Supreme Court of Canada upholding his six murder convictions and the Crown deciding not to proceed with 20 other murder charges, the courts were able to release testimony that wasn’t admitted at trial. Taken together, it helps show how Pickton was able to hunt humans with such impunity that he bragged to an undercover-police cell plant after his arrest in 2002 that he’d killed 49 women and was aiming for an even 50.

The most damning evidence jurors never heard was of a woman’s narrow escape from Pickton’s farm in 1997. She testified at the preliminary hearing he paid her $100 to accompany him to the farm for sex. She said she fought for her life after Pickton stabbed her and tried to handcuff her. Both suffered serious wounds and massive blood loss in the resulting knife fight. She escaped naked, with a handcuff dangling from a wrist.

The two were treated in adjoining operating rooms at Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster.

Doctors found the key to remove the handcuffs in a pocket of Pickton’s clothing. A subsequent charge of attempted murder against him was stayed in early 1998—apparently because heavy drug use by the woman, whose name remains protected, made her an unreliable witness.

Tragically, that decision not to proceed came at enormous cost. Police now believe Pickton had killed at least five women at the farm by the time of the stabbing. All six women he was subsequently convicted of killing died after the 1997 stabbing, as well as 15 others he was charged with killing. Yet, Pickton remained above suspicion largely because of a refusal by the senior ranks of the Vancouver Police and the RCMP to believe that women were systematically being murdered. (Women like Sarah deVries, who worked the streets to feed her addiction, often railed at the indifference that met the disappearance of those around her. In one poetic diary entry she wrote: “Just another Hastings Street whore / sentenced to death / No judge, no jury, no trial, no mercy / The judge’s gavel already fallen / Sentence already passed.”)

Sadly, Pickton’s bloody clothing from the 1997 stabbing held the key, literally and figuratively, to solving both past and future murders. Police had seized the items but they weren’t tested for DNA until 2004, seven years after the stabbing and two years after Pickton’s arrest. (The results revealed the DNA of two women who vanished in early 1997, evidence kept from the jury because they were among the 20 women named in what was to be a separate trial. Nor did the jury hear that the DNA of 10 women was found in freezers in Pickton’s workshop.)

Despite the rising count of missing women, police refused to say that a serial killer was at work, or even to speculate that the women were dead. Their sluggish response has fuelled calls for an inquiry into the investigation now that the trial is over. An internal police review of the matter was forwarded to the provincial government last week.

There is much to answer for. As early as 2005 a police missing-women’s poster held the faces of 65 women (though some were found alive and others weren’t linked to Pickton). Had police seriously entertained the possibility of a serial killer, Pickton would certainly have been a prime suspect. Not only would a test of his clothing have yielded DNA of two of the women, but former Vancouver police officer Kim Rossmo later revealed police were tipped in 1998 that Pickton had a stash of women’s purses and ID.
They lacked either the will or the manpower to check it out. The missing women’s investigation started that year with just one Vancouver detective, though it grew into a joint city-RCMP task force. That summer, Rossmo, then head of the department’s geographic profiling unit, raised the possibility of a serial killer—an idea rejected by his superiors. Police were denying the possibility of a serial killer as late as June 2001, in part, Rossmo later charged, because the women’s low social status made them a lesser priority. It wasn’t that simple, former Vancouver mayor Larry Campbell, the chief provincial coroner at the time, would later write. “We never had any bodies. We never had a crime scene.”

Pickton was finally arrested in February 2002 after a rookie RCMP officer, acting on a weapons complaint, discovered articles at the farm belonging to a missing woman. The task force was called in and began a massive search of the property. It was an overdue bit of luck that came too late for Sarah deVries. She vanished in 1998, age 28, her DNA subsequently discovered on the farm. She’s one of 20 women that a convicted serial killer will never have to answer for. No judge. No jury. No trial.

Monday, May 9

Project Kare conducts search in Edmonton river valley


EPS spokeswoman Clair Seyler talks to the media in front of a map showing a search area in Edmonton's river valley near Henrietta Muir Edwards Park on May 9, 2001. Project Kare has received information that may relate to an ongoing investigation.

Photograph by: Candace Elliott,

EDMONTON - RCMP and Edmonton police began searching Henrietta Muir Edwards Park on Monday, scouring the densely-wooded area for evidence related to an ongoing Project Kare investigation.

Police began a scheduled three-day search of the wooded park near the Edmonton Queen Riverboat launch as part of an active investigation by Project Kare, a joint task force investigating the cases of 70 dead or missing people, including 13 prostitutes.

“Information has been received by Kare investigators to indicate that the park may have potential evidence in relation to an ongoing Project Kare investigation,” said RCMP spokesman Sgt. Tim Taniguchi.

Taniguchi called the search “unique,” but wouldn’t say what tipped police off. He was notified about the investigation three weeks ago.

“We go where the evidence leads us,” said Taniguchi.

Snow and other factors delayed the search until this week, said Taniguchi. The search of the approximate four-acre area is slated to run until Wednesday.

Police say the search has no relation to the highly-publicized disappearance of soldier Master Cpl. Richard Curnow on Thursday.

The scene is hilly and heavily wooded. Yellow tape cordons off a large wooded area north of 98th Avenue, stretching from the Edmonton Queen boat launch to 96A Street. Pedestrian access has also been blocked to a footbridge over 98th Avenue and the larger footbridge across the river. No roads will be blocked.

Command posts and police tents have been set up on the east side of the parking lot. A large contingent of Edmonton police officers and RCMP members, including tactical officers and forensics teams, along with teams with Canadian Search Dog Association, is at the scene.

Project Kare was originally set up to examine the deaths of several high-risk missing persons who were found in rural areas surrounding Edmonton, but has since expanded its mandate to include cases of murdered or missing high-risk people from all parts of Alberta.

© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal

Tuesday, May 3

Horrified stepmom learned Pickton victim stashed as ‘ground meat’


Robert (Willie) Pickton seen here in a file photo.

Photograph by: File, Vancouver Sun

VANCOUVER — Cindy Dawn Feliks was a pretty blond toddler who overcame abandonment, first by her birth mother and then her father, to become a popular high school student in Vancouver's Kitsilano neighbourhood with the usual pastimes of boys and parties.

She ended up as packaged meat in Robert (Willie) Pickton's freezer.

As a young woman, Feliks became a mother who dabbled in drugs and graduated to addiction, supported by petty theft and the sex trade. But she was much-loved and her disappearance in 1997 was grieved by the only mother she knew, stepmother Marilyn Kraft.

The snapshots of Feliks as a demure little girl in school and a mother with her own blond baby on her lap still fill Kraft's Calgary home, standing as the memories Kraft wishes she could cling to, especially after one brutal day when Marilyn screwed up her courage to attend the preliminary inquiry of serial killer Pickton.

In an airless courtroom in Port Coquitlam, B.C., Kraft listened in dawning horror to a police witness testify that her once-beautiful blond daughter had been murdered and turned into six packages of "ground meat."

No one had prepared Kraft for what she heard in court, not even the three victims-services workers from the B.C. Solicitor-General's Ministry who attended court virtually every day but hadn't briefed any of the victims' families.

"When I was at the trial that week, I found out through the DNA expert and the Crown prosecutor how they got my stepdaughter's DNA," Kraft wrote in an outraged letter to then-Vancouver police chief Jamie Graham.

"They found ground meat in one of the freezers, like hamburger, and checked it for DNA and, yep, you got it, it was my stepdaughter, six packages of her. Do I sound bitter? You're damn right I am. Another insult to injury I didn't need, but I listened, and stared and hated Mr. Pickton even more. Talk about being traumatic."

Feliks was only five years old and had just seen her birth mother for the last time when Marilyn Kraft married Feliks' father, Don Feliks, and became an instant mother to four challenging kids: Cindy; Richard, the second-eldest; Terry who was just three years old; and Audrey, the baby.

When Kraft's marriage to the children's father foundered a few years later amid domestic violence and the revelation that Don Feliks had a male lover, Kraft became sole parent to the four kids she considered her own.

"Cindy was a cute little girl and a very high-spirited teenager, but no real trouble until she was 16," recalls Kraft.

Retired from the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Kraft moved to Calgary.

In an interview in her tidy northeast Calgary duplex, Kraft smokes cigarette after cigarette as she recalls Feliks' life.

"When she was 16, she felt she wanted to meet her father, so she went all the way to Florida on her own to meet him where he was living in some trailer park," recalls Kraft. "Some father he was — seeing this pretty blond teenager, he told her that the only way to really get to know him was to have sex with him."

Feliks returned home distraught and angry.

After that, Kraft says she believes Feliks moved from marijuana and beer on occasion to hard drugs by her late teens.

By the time Feliks married Terrence Mongovius, a successful Surrey car dealer, she had a recreational hard-drug habit, but it was well-managed and she invariably looked like the well-dressed successful young woman, says Kraft.

Soon pregnant, Feliks used drugs throughout her pregnancy and her daughter, Theresa, was born addicted in 1979.

Mongovius raised Theresa, who suffered from learning difficulties and was often sad and angry, especially when the promised visits from her mother invariably fell through.

When Theresa was old enough to go out with boys, Mongovius followed her one night, determined to intervene and prevent her from following her mother's path.

A fight between Theresa's friends and her father turned ugly and Mongovius, badly beaten, later died in hospital.

It was DNA from Mongovius, obtained post-mortem from his hospital records, and the DNA of Theresa Mongovius, who has followed her mother's path into the sex-trade, that helped police identify the remains of Cindy Feliks at the Pickton farm.

On Nov. 27, 2002, more than seven months after the freezers in Site D yielded their grisly find of human heads, hands and feet in buckets, investigators finally began to examine the packaged goods left behind in the same freezer, XD-2.

Several RCMP officers and forensic identification officer Ghislain Cormier, a civilian with the RCMP crime lab, donned Tyvek "bunny suits," respirators and latex gloves and began taking packages from a refrigerated unit on the farm.

Each package — some wrapped in plastic, others in brown butcher's paper — was drilled with an electric drill to produce a core sample, which was packaged, labelled and sent for testing.

"Some of them had the appearance of ground meat, some of them had the appearance of a piece of meat . . . not ground up," testified Cormier, noting the samples were frozen solid but generated little "shavings" of meat as they were drilled, which fell onto the wax paper placed under each fresh sample.

Many of the tests were conducted by David Morrissette, a DNA expert with the RCMP lab, who also testified at the preliminary inquiry on March 24 and 25.

Two of the packages, Cormier and Morrissette testified, were determined to match the DNA of Inga Hall, who was Count 15, the last first-degree murder charge laid against Pickton before the preliminary inquiry began.

Six packages of the ground meat, which Crown counsel Derrill Prevett began referring to as "ground tissue" in response to the shudders from the courtroom audience and the obvious distress of Marilyn Kraft, were matched to DNA provided by Terrence Mongovius and Theresa Mongovius, the husband and daughter of Cindy Dawn Feliks.

© Copyright (c) The Province

Missing women commission grants standing to 18 groups including victims’ families


Missing Women inquiry commissioner Wally Oppal at a community forum in Vancouvers' Downtown Eastside on Jan. 19, 2011.

Photograph by: Gerry Kahrmann, PNG files

All of the applicants who applied for standing before the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry will be given an opportunity to participate in the evidentiary hearings, Commissioner Wally Oppal announced Tuesday morning.

The commission is examining events before the arrest of serial killer Robert Pickton, who preyed on women living in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Oppal granted full participation to 10 applicants including the families of Dawn Crey, Cara Ellis, Cynthia Dawn Feliks, Marnie Frey, Helen Mae Hallmark, Georgina Papin, Dianne Rock and Mona Wilson, who will all be represented by A. Cameron Ward. The Vancouver police department and the Government of Canada were also granted full participation, as were seven other groups.

"These groups are closer to the facts at issue," Oppal said. "Most of these groups were front line lobbyists for public attention to the missing and murdered women and, ultimately, for the establishment of a public inquiry. I am also mindful that many of these organizations have limited resources and their involvement in this Commission may provide a unique opportunity for their voices and perspectives to be heard."

Full participants will be able to take part in the hearings including cross examining witnesses and making submissions, and they will have access to all of the documents disclosed to the commission.

Limited participation was granted to eight applicants including the BC Civil Liberties Association, Amnesty International and PIVOT Legal Society.

Limited participants will have to apply to cross examine individual witnesses, the release states.

"These groups will be extremely valuable in assisting the commission make recommendations for missing women and homicide investigations and the coordination of investigations by multiple police forces," Oppal said.

Oppal also recommended that the provincial government give funding to 13 applicants who asked for financial support to fund their participation in the inquiry, the commission said in a news release.

Twenty-three applicants applied for standing, but the number was reduced to 18 after Oppal asked applicants to group together.

Pickton was charged with 27 counts of first-degree murder. He was convicted by a jury in 2007 on six counts of second-degree murder. The Crown decided not to proceed with a second trial on the murders of another 20 women. One charge involving an unknown victim, called Jane Doe, was quashed by the trial judge.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Sunday, May 1

Times Colonist reporters nominated for award


Lindsay Kines, left, and Les Leyne broke news of report.

Photograph by: Darren Stone &amp, Postmedia News

Times Colonist reporters Lindsay Kines and Les Leyne have been nominated for an award for their investigation into the police's handling of the murders by serial killer Robert Pickton.
Their piece, The Pickton Report, is on the shortlist in the "scoop" category of the Canadian Association of Journalists awards.
The article, published last August, revealed that a probe by the Vancouver Police Department found officers had compelling evidence pointing to Pickton in August 1999 -years before his eventual arrest.
Kines and Leyne broke the news of the draft report by the city's deputy police chief that said the deaths of dozens of women "could potentially have been averted." It pointed to RCMP "mismanagement" and said that by 1999 investigators already knew Pickton had been charged with trying to kill a prostitute at his farm, among other horrific pieces of evidence.
The association has 800 members. The awards winners will be announced in Ottawa on May 14.