Tuesday, January 31

Police had a tip that Robert Pickton was a serial murderer years before he was arrested.

Published On Tue Jan 31 2012

The heartbreak just never ends for family and friends of Robert Pickton’s murder victims. This week Vancouver Police Det. Const. Lori Shenher provided some of the most graphic testimony yet that police had Pickton squarely in their sights as a potential serial killer for years before he was finally charged.

The force got Crime Stoppers tips back in 1998 about a pig farmer named Willie Pickton who might be responsible for the missing women, 3 ½ years before he was arrested in 2002, Shenher told the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry headed by former British Columbia Attorney General Wally Oppal. The tipster said Pickton claimed he could dispose of bodies by putting them through a grinder on his farm in Port Coquitlam.

“When I heard grinders, I thought Bingo! This is the kind of guy we’re looking for,” Shenher testified. Women from the city’s shabby Downtown Eastside were going missing, but no bodies were turning up. This was a chance to put a serial killer out of business.

It didn’t happen. Even though police had Pickton in plain sight, he kept on luring sex trade workers to his farm and killing and butchering them until his arrest. Ultimately Pickton was convicted in 2007 of six murders and sentenced to life. The remains or DNA of 33 women were on his farm. He also told an undercover cop he killed 49 in all.

Const. Shenher’s testimony came just days after Royal Canadian Mounted Police Assistant Commissioner Craig Callens formally apologized for letting the families and victims down. “With the benefit of hindsight … the RCMP could have done more,” he acknowledged. Vancouver police, too, apologized back in 2010.

Given all this, what’s the point of raking over old wounds? Because it’s important that the inquiry determine exactly why the two police forces failed to stop Pickton sooner. There’s a tangled tale to unweave of police not taking the disappearances seriously enough, of discounting leads, of under-resourced and poorly coordinated investigations, of police crudely dissing victims and dismissing witnesses as not credible, of bungling and of investigators being reassigned.

Victims’ families deserve the truth, however painful. And the public needs to know that police have learned the appropriate lessons.

© Copyright Toronto Star 1996-2012

http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/article/1124387--police-had-a-tip-that-robert-pickton-was-a-serial-murderer-years-before-he-was-arrested

Officer 'grief-stricken' over Pickton probe delay, inquiry hears

BY SAM COOPER, POSTMEDIA NEWS JANUARY 31, 2012 3:06 PM

Det. Cst. Lori Shenher attends missing women inquiry, in Vancouver on Monday, January 30, 2012.

Photograph by: Glenn Baglo, PNG

VANCOUVER — After detailing a broken police culture in the Vancouver Police Department and the RCMP that may have allowed women to die needlessly in the city's Downtown Eastside, Vancouver Police Det. Const. Lori Shenher broke down on the stand at the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry Tuesday.

After completing her testimony, Shenher gave an emotional personal impact statement. Shenher told the hearing about her personal grief and shock upon hearing that Robert Pickton's pig farm was finally being searched, long after an investigation into him apparently had gone stale due to communication problems, a lack of resources and turf wars within the VPD and the RCMP, according to her testimony.

Shenher, who started as a lone investigator into Vancouver's missing women in 1998 and left the unit in the fall of 2000, said when she heard Pickton's farm was being searched in February 2002, she "went through a very difficult phase."

"I can't even tell you how in shock I was. (I thought) anyone but him," Shenher said. "If it had been someone tricky or skilled. But the fact it was this person that was so in my sights . . . all the time."

"I was counting how many women went missing (after) we closed in on him (in summer 1999)," Shenher said. "I felt very grief-stricken."

Shenher said she hopes police culture in general will be changed so that "out of the box" thinkers will be able to work within a system that she has described as rigid and close-minded.

She was to be cross-examined later Tuesday.

scooper@theprovince.com

© Copyright (c) The Province

Officer 'shocked' when detectives didn't believe key witness in Robert Pickton case

BY NEAL HALL, VANCOUVER SUN JANUARY 31, 2012 12:47 PM

Vancouver police Const. Lori Shenher attends missing women inquiry, in Vancouver on Monday, January 30, 2012.

Photograph by: Glenn Baglo, PNG

VANCOUVER - A Vancouver police investigator in the missing women case testified today that she was shocked when detectives interviewed a key witness and made a decision that derailed Robert Pickton as a serial killer suspect.

"I was shocked," Const. Lori Shenher told the Missing Women inquiry.

"We were frustrated."

She said the Coquitlam RCMP Cpl. Mike Connor was also upset after two detectives from the Unsolved Homicide Unit interviewed Lynn Ellingsen and believed her story that she never saw Pickton with the dead body of a woman.

Shenher recalled she had interviewed a police informant, who said Ellingsen had told friends she had been at Pickton's farm one night and walked into a barn and was horrified to find Pickton butchering a woman's body.

The informant also told Shenher that Ellingsen was extorting money from Pickton to stay quiet about what she saw.

Ellingsen told the detectives that she never saw a woman's body in the barn, so the detectives concluded that they didn't believe the veracity of the dead-body story.

After that, Shenher said, the investigation of Pickton as a suspect stalled and lost momentum.

"We felt it died and we couldn't understand why," she told the inquiry, which is probing why police didn't catch Pickton sooner.

Connor is scheduled to testify next at the inquiry, which began Oct. 11.

Shenher testified earlier that the Vancouver police felt Pickton was the most compelling suspect.

"We couldn't say this man wasn't responsible for all the missing women," she recalled about Pickton.

Shenher received tips from informants in 1998 and 1999 who suggested Pickton may be a serial killer.

They said Pickton had bloody clothing in bags, women's identification and purses, and he had bragged about how he could dispose of bodies.

Vancouver police passed along the information to the RCMP because Pickton lived in Port Coquitlam, the jurisdiction of the RCMP.

Shenher saId the decision regarding Ellingsen affected the morale of the investigators working on the missing women case.

Women continued to go missing until Pickton was arrested on Feb. 5.

Pickton, now 62, was eventually charged with killing 27 women.

He was convicted at his first trial in 2007 of six murders and now is serving a life sentence.

After Pickton lost all his appeals, the Crown decided not to proceed on a second trial on the remaining murder charges.

Pickton once told an undercover officer that he killed 49 women.

nhall@vancouversun.com

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

A 'paper squad' and the missing women

by The Canadian Press - Story: 70376
Jan 30, 2012 / 7:59 pm

A Vancouver police officer who raised red flags about women disappearing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside says her concerns were dismissed by the "old guard" within the department.

And Det. Const. Lori Shenher told the inquiry into the investigation of serial killer Robert Pickton that a group formed to look into the missing women was merely window dressing.

"There were a lot of things that were going on at that time under chief (Bruce) Chambers that were on paper and I felt this was very much a paper squad," she testified.

"It was a bit of a shell game. I don't think it was really going to turn into actual investigators actually doing this work."

Shenher, who was working the missing persons unit at the time, testified she communicated to her superiors that these women weren't seeing their families, weren't picking up their cheques and there was a problem.

"So that was hard because somehow that message just wasn't getting (through to the) old guard, if you want to call it that. That was definitely a problem," Shenher told the inquiry.

"It seemed as though the more experienced people there were around the table, the less appreciation there was that we were dealing with a serial killer."

The theory was brushed off as if those raising the possibility had read too many detective novels or seen too many movies, she said.

Shenher said then-Det. Insp. Kim Rossmo was a good example of how senior officers dismissed an opinion if that person bypassed the chain of command.

Rossmo told the inquiry last week that his serial killer theory was dismissed by an "arrogant" and "egotistical" Vancouver Police Insp. Fred Biddlecombe.

Shenher said she involved Rossmo in some of the theories of the missing women case knowing that she would get a hard time from some of the other investigators.

"But I felt like those were the kinds of stones we need to not leave unturned, we need to try and use the resources that we have.

"I took that risk knowingly and thought that if anything good were to come from his information, then it was worth the risk."

One of Shenher's first jobs was working in the Downtown Eastside, trying to make contact with the prostitutes in the area while also conducting undercover operations to arrest men trying to buy sex.

Shenher got to know many of the women, and made a special connection with Sereena Abotsway and Angela Jardine, two of the women who would later appear on the missing women's list.

It was their disappearance that really cemented her suspicions, she said.

"These were people who were very much of a fabric of the Downtown Eastside. They drew all their support and sustenance from the community and I couldn't conceive of either one of them voluntarily leaving that community."

A tip in July 1998 led Shenher right to Pickton's door.

She began investigating the Port Coquitlam, B.C. pig farmer and found that a charge of attempted murder had been stayed against him.

A sex-trade worker told police she was picked up in the Downtown Eastside and offered $100 for sex back at Pickton's farm. The woman was attacked and stabbed, but made it out to the road where a couple passing in a vehicle helped her.

"Honestly, my thought was this is the kind of guy we were looking for," she said. "The idea that he had a large property and that he had what seemed quite clear to me was the ability to dispose of bodies."

Shenher said she was very mindful that they weren't finding any bodies up to that point, so they were looking for someone who could get rid of the evidence. Her tipster told her Pickton had a "grinder" to get rid of the bodies.

"I thought 'bingo."

Shenher later interviewed the woman who was allegedly attacked by Pickton and was even more convinced that he should be moved to the top of the suspect list.

The woman, whose name is protected by a publication ban, told Shenher that Pickton clapped a handcuff on her wrist while they were in his trailer and she began fighting for her life. The woman slashed Pickton and then he stabbed her before she ran to the road for help.

"It was exactly the kind of scenario I had envisioned. It was frustrating as well."

The woman told Shenher she was told the charges were stayed because the woman was a drug addict.

But Shenher said she never came to know the true reasons for why the charges were stayed against Pickton in connection to that attack.

"I'm sure this commission will find that out."

She recalled discussing the case with the investigating RCMP officer and learned that the woman had almost died on the operating room table a few times during surgery.

"As morbid a thought as it is, had she died, we probably would have had a slam-dunk murder conviction without her testimony."

The Canadian Press

B.C.'s Pickton inquiry reveals an epic tale of police bungling | Full Comment | National Post

B.C.'s Pickton inquiry reveals an epic tale of police bungling | Full Comment | National Post:

'via Blog this'

Monday, January 30

'This is what a serial killer looks like,' VPD officer tells Missing Women inquiry

BY NEAL HALL, VANCOUVER SUN JANUARY 30, 2012 5:25 PM

Vancouver police Const. Lori Shenher attends missing women inquiry, in Vancouver on Monday, January 30, 2012.

Photograph by: Glenn Baglo, PNG

VANCOUVER -- The first Vancouver police officer assigned to investigate the missing women case testified today that when she received informant tips suggesting Robert Pickton may be a serial killer, she felt the information was very credible.

"I was thinking 'This is what a serial killer looks like," Const. Lori Shenher told the Missing Women inquiry, which is probing why the serial killer wasn't caught sooner.

She said she was told by informants that Pickton lived on a farm, had the means to dispose of bodies and had bags of women's bloody clothing, identification and purses at his home, located on a farm in Port Coquitlam.

One of the informants said Pickton had said he had a meat grinder to dispose of bodies, she said.

"When I heard about the meat grinder, I thought, 'Bingo. This is the kind of guy we're looking for'," Shenher testified.

Another informant said she was told by a friend that she stumbled on Pickton one night butchering a woman's body in a barn.

The informant said one woman had escaped in 1997 and Pickton was wanting someone to lure her to the farm so he could kill her.

Shenher said she talked to Coquitlam RCMP Cpl. Mike Connor about Pickton's 1997 knife attack on the Vancouver prostitute who survived.

She tracked down and interviewed the woman on Aug. 21, 1998. At the time, the woman was in jail after stealing a police car and crashing it in Gastown; Shenher heard about the incident over the radio and heard the woman's name.

She found the woman's story about the Pickton attack very credible, she told the inquiry.

The woman, whose named is banned, recalled that Pickton stabbed her after he tried to put handcuffs on her and she resisted and fought for her life.

The woman stabbed Pickton, then ran to the street and flagged down a passing car.

Pickton was charged with attempted murder and unlawful confinement but the charges were dropped by the Crown in 1998.

Shenher recalled the woman said she never got a chance to testify because the Crown felt she wasn't credible because she was a drug addict.

"I found it incredibly frustrating that her evidence was never heard," Shenher testified.

She recalled telling the woman: "I think you're the only one who got away."

The woman agreed, suggesting Pickton "must have done this before," Shenher said.

She also told the woman, based on the informant information, that Pickton tried to get others to lure the woman to the farm so he could "finish her off."

Shenher recalled that the woman who survived the knife attack by Pickton actually died on the operating table at hospital but was revived.

"Had she died, we probably would have had a slam dunk murder conviction," she told the inquiry.

Shenher said she passed along the information to Connor, a seasoned investigator who had handled a number of homicides.

She testified when she was first assigned to the Missing Person unit in July 1998, a detective told her: This could very well turn into a serial killer investigation."

Shenher recalled she had previously tried to develop relationships with prostitutes when she was the liaison officer working with the street sex trade, which also involved posing undercover as a prostitute in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside as part of a "John" sting

that targeted prostitution customers.

One night while working undercover, posing as a sex trade worker, she recalled getting a scare as she was grabbed by a man in a car.

The man wouldn't look at her while he talked to her, Shenher said, and when they had negotiated sex for $50 through an open window of the man's car, she recalled looking away to signal other officers nearby working as her "cover team" when the man grabbed her arm.

It shocked her, even though she had a gun under her coat, she said.

When the man was arrested, police found the man had a gun on the front seat of the car and was wanted on a Canada-wide warrant for robbery, Shenher said.

She also talked to many of the women working the street sex trade.

"It's a very lonely life, a very difficult life," Shenher recalled about street prostitution. "Standing in the shadows in industrial areas."

Most women working the survival sex trade become drug dependent "because of the day to day horror of this work," she told the inquiry.

Shenher said she developed relationships with some of the women working the streets, including Angela Jardine and Sereena Abotsway - two of the women who disappeared.

"When the two of them went missing, I knew very definitely that we had a problem," she testified

By August 1998, she wrote a memo to then detective-inspector Kim Rossmo, a geographic profiler and expert in serial crime.

In her memo, Shenher suggested the women who had gone missing may have met foul play and the person responsible "has the means to dispose of bodies."

She testified that she tried to relay her concerns about a possible serial to her superiors, who felt the missing women would eventually show up.

The male police managers had an outdated view of the sex trade in Vancouver, believing the women worked a circuit in Western Canada, Shenher said.

But she told the male managers that the missing women hadn't cashed their welfare cheques, hadn't contacted their children and "they weren't at the Calgary Stampede."

She was asked what would have happened if she had banged on the table and told her bosses "There's something serious going on here."

"I've thought about that for 13 and half years," Shenher said.

She said she didn't want to be dismissed as a zealot and felt she had to work hard to try to find the evidence.

She also saw how Kim Rossmo was treated when he wanted to issue a public warning that a serial killer may be responsible for the dozens of women who had gone missing from the Downtown Eastside.

Rossmo, a former Vancouver police serial crime expert now teaching at Texas State University, testified last week that the inspector in charge of major crime, Fred Biddlecombe, who also oversaw the major crime squad, which included the missing person unit, had a temper tantrum when Rossmo wanted to issue his press release.

Instead, Biddlecombe directed Shenher to locate the missing women.

Shenher said she felt she would be treated the same way as Rossmo because she was not very experienced, so continually consulted with more seasoned homicide detectives.

"I probably drove the homicide detectives crazy, running things by them," she told the inquiry.

Shenher worked on the case tirelessly until she was granted a transfer in 2000 out of the missing person unit.

Women continued to go missing until Pickton was arrested on Feb. 5, 2002. He was eventually charged with 27 counts of first-degree murder.

Pickton, who now is serving a life sentence, once admitted to killing 49 women.

Vancouver police Deputy Chief Doug LePard, who did an analysis of the police failures in the case, blamed senior managers for not taking the case more seriously and devoting more human resources.

The VPD had repeatedly apologized for not catching Pickton sooner.

Last Friday, the commanding officer of the RCMP in B.C. apologized for the Mounties not doing more.

Two key RCMP investigators - Connor and Don Adam - are expected to testify this week.

nhall@vancouversun.com

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

VPD officer testifies of frustration at casual dismissal of her serial killer suspicions

BY SAM COOPER, THE PROVINCE JANUARY 30, 2012 4:50 PM

Det. Const. Lori Shenher testifies at the Missing Womens' Commission of Inquiry on Jan. 30, 2012.

Photograph by: Glenn Baglo, PNG

The lone investigator in Vancouver’s missing women cases testified Monday that she still can’t understand why evidence from the one victim who escaped Robert Pickton — a drug-addicted sex worker — was discarded by the justice system.

Det. Const. Lori Shenher told the Missing Womens’ Commission of Inquiry that as a junior constable she was given the whole job of investigating a number of women missing from the Downtown Eastside in 1998, having never investigated a murder or led a major investigation. No one else even applied for the job, and there was little or no strategic oversight, according to her testimony.

Shenher said as soon as she started investigating in July 1998 she came across a tip that made her say “bingo.”

The tip came from Bill Hiscox, a man who had done some work for Pickton and his brother Dave Pickton in their demolition business P & B Salvage.

Hiscox said one of the missing women on her list, Sarah de Vries, was killed by Pickton. Pickton was picking up prostitutes in Vancouver and taking them to his Port Coquitlam farm, Hiscox said, where he kept women’s purses, bloody clothing and ID.

Hiscox told both the VPD and later Coquitlam RCMP that Pickton had been heard saying he put bodies through a grinder.

Hiscox said he knew that Pickton had tried a year earlier to kill a Vancouver Downtown Eastside sex trade worker, and was still trying to hire people to find her and bring her back to be killed. The woman — known to the inquiry as “Ms. Anderson” — broke free from handcuffs at Pickton’s trailer and escaped after a bloody knife fight with him.

RCMP collected Pickton’s blood-spattered clothing, a used condom, handcuffs and bandages, but never had them tested for DNA. Charges of attempted murder were stayed.

Shenher said she interviewed the woman in July 1998, and she said “they told me I wasn’t credible ... on account of me being an addict.”

“I’ve never come to know why these charges were stayed,” Shenher said. “I felt it incredibly frustrating that her evidence wasn’t heard.”

Shenher testified that in August 1998 she wrote her first memo on the investigation to brass, indicating she believed a serial killer was at work, but management did not respond.

In September 1998 a nascent missing women “working group” involving up to 14 investigators with specified tasks got cancelled after several tense meetings.

Shenher was left in charge, but “old guard” investigators didn’t think the serial killer theory was worth exploring, she said.

Asked what would have happened if she “banged the table” in meetings and warned something serious was occurring, Shenher said: “I have struggled with that for 13.5 years. I felt that if I had banged the table, I don’t think I would have been taken seriously.”

It would be like “you’ve read too many detective novels.”

Shenher admitted that she did not specifically refer to her source information from Hiscox in early meetings. Her testimony continues this week, and the hearing continues daily until April.

scooper@theprovince.com

twitter.com/scoopercooper

© Copyright (c) The Province

Police ignored sex worker's Pickton warning, cop tells inquiry

BY SAM COOPER, POSTMEDIA NEWSJANUARY 30, 2012 6:44 PM

Vancouver police Const. Lori Shenher attends missing women inquiry, in Vancouver on Monday, January 30, 2012.

Photograph by: Glenn Baglo, PNG

VANCOUVER — The lone investigator in Vancouver's missing women cases testified Monday that she still can't understand why evidence from the one victim who escaped serial killer Robert Pickton — a drug-addicted sex worker — was discarded by the justice system.

Det. Const. Lori Shenher told the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry that as a junior constable she was given the whole job of investigating a number of women missing from the city's Downtown Eastside in 1998, having never investigated a murder or led a major investigation. No one else even applied for the job, and there was little or no strategic oversight, according to her testimony.

Shenher said as soon as she started investigating in July 1998 she came across a tip that made her say "bingo."

The tip came from Bill Hiscox, a man who had done some work for Pickton and his brother Dave Pickton in their demolition business P & B Salvage.

Hiscox said one of the missing women on her list, Sarah de Vries, was killed by Pickton. Pickton was picking up prostitutes in Vancouver and taking them to his Port Coquitlam, B.C., farm, Hiscox said, where he kept women's purses, bloody clothing and ID.

Hiscox told both Vancouver police and later Coquitlam RCMP that Pickton had been heard saying he put bodies through a grinder.

Hiscox said he knew that Pickton had tried a year earlier to kill a Vancouver sex trade worker, and was still trying to hire people to find her and bring her back to be killed. The woman — known to the inquiry as "Ms. Anderson" — broke free from handcuffs at Pickton's trailer and escaped after a bloody knife fight with him.

RCMP collected Pickton's blood-spattered clothing, a used condom, handcuffs and bandages, but never had them tested for DNA. Charges of attempted murder were stayed.

Shenher said she interviewed the woman in July 1998, and she said "they told me I wasn't credible . . . on account of me being an addict."

"I've never come to know why these charges were stayed," Shenher said. "I felt it incredibly frustrating that her evidence wasn't heard."

Shenher testified that in August 1998 she wrote her first memo on the investigation to her superiors, indicating she believed a serial killer was at work, but management did not respond.

In September 1998 a nascent missing women "working group" involving up to 14 investigators with specified tasks got cancelled after several tense meetings.

Shenher was left in charge, but "old guard" investigators didn't think the serial killer theory was worth exploring, she said.

Asked what would have happened if she "banged the table" in meetings and warned something serious was occurring, Shenher said: "I have struggled with that for 13 1/2 years. I felt that if I had banged the table, I don't think I would have been taken seriously."

It would be like "you've read too many detective novels," she said.

Shenher admitted that she did not specifically refer to her source information from Hiscox in early meetings. Her testimony continues this week, and the hearing continues daily until April.

© Copyright (c) The Province

Officer who investigated missing women got scare while posing as prostitute

BY NEAL HALL, VANCOUVER SUN JANUARY 30, 2012 12:18 PM

Vancouver police Const. Lori Shenher attends missing women inquiry, in Vancouver on Monday, January 30, 2012.

Photograph by: Glenn Baglo, PNG

VANCOUVER - The officer first assigned to investigate the missing women recalled today that got a scare while posing undercover as a prostitute.

Vancouver police Const. Lori Shenher said she did "John" stings in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and, while posing as a sex trade worker, was grabbed by a man in a car.

The man wouldn't look at her while he talked to her, Shenher told the Missing Women inquiry.

And when they had negotiated sex for $50 through the open window of the man's car, she recalled looking away to signal other officers nearby working as her "cover team" when the man grabbed her arm through the window.

She said it shocked her, even though she had a gun under her coat.

When the man was arrested, Shenher said, police found the man had a gun on the front seat of the car and was wanted on a Canada-wide warrant for robbery.

She also talked to many of the women working the sex trade on the street.

"It's a very lonely life, a very difficult life," Shenher recalled about street prostitution. "Standing in the shadows in industrial areas."

Most women working the survival sex trade become drug dependent "because of the day to day horror of this work," she told the inquiry.

Shenher said she also developed a relationship with some of the women working the streets, including Angela Jardine and Serena Abotsway -- two of the women who disappeared.

"When the two of them went missing, I knew very definitely that we had a problem," she told the inquiry, which is probing why it took so long to catch serial killer Robert Pickton.

Shenher was assigned to the VPD's Missing Person in July 1998, when she had seven years with the force.

By August 1998, she wrote a memo to then detective-inspector Kim Rossmo, a geographic profiler and expert in serial crime.

In her memo, Shenher suggested the women who had gone missing may have met foul play and the person responsible "has the means to dispose of bodies."

She testified that she tried to relay this to her superiors, who felt the missing women would eventually show up.

She said the male police managers had an outdated view of the sex trade in Vancouver, believing the women worked a circuit in Western Canada.

But Shenher stressed to the male managers that the missing women hadn't cashed their welfare cheques, hadn't contacted their children and "they weren't at the Calgary Stampede."

She was asked what would have happened if she had banged on the table and told her bosses "There's something serious going on here."

"I've thought about that for 13 and half years," Shenher said.

"I was thinking 'This is what a serial killer looks like. It's not a man with horns."

She said she didn't bang on the table because she didn't want to be dismissed as a zealot.

She felt she had to work hard to try to find the evidence.

She also saw how Rossmo was treated when he wanted to issue a public warning that a serial killer may be responsible for the dozens of women who had gone missing from the Downtown Eastside.

Rossmo testified last week that the inspector in charge of major crime, Fred Biddlecombe, who also oversaw the missing person unit, had a temper tantrum when Rossmo wanted to issue his press release.

Instead, Biddlecombe directed Shenher to locate the missing women.

Shenher said she felt she would be treated the same way as Rossmo because she was not very experienced, so continually consulted with more seasoned homicide detectives.

"I probably drove the homicide detectives crazy, running things by them," she told the inquiry.

She recalled the missing person files were all on paper, in binders and were not computerized.

Shenher recalled she had to ask for a computer to organize the files.

She also handled three key informants who contacted police in 1998 and 1999, who suggested Pickton had killed one and possibly all of the missing women.

One of the informants told police that a woman had witnessed Pickton with a body of a women in a barn on the Pickton farm in Port Coquitlam.

Shenher passed along the information to the Coquitlam RCMP, which had jurisdiction to investigate possible murders on the Pickton farm.

Shenher worked on the case tirelessly until she was granted a transfer in 2000 out of the missing person unit.

Women continued to go missing until Pickton was arrested on Feb. 5, 2002.

Vancouver police Deputy Chief Doug LePard, who did an analysis of the police failures in the case, blamed senior managers for not taking the case more seriously and devote more human resources.

The VPD had repeatedly apologized for not catching Pickton sooner.

Last Friday, the commanding officer of the RCMP in B.C. apologized for the Mounties not doing more.

Two key RCMP investigators - Mike Connor and Don Adam - are expected to testify this week.

nhall@vancouversun.com

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Missing women cases dismissed by 'old guard,' officer tells inquiry

By: The Canadian Press

Posted: 01/30/2012 1:28 PM | Last Modified: 01/30/2012 1:33 PM

VANCOUVER - A Vancouver police officer who raised red flags about women disappearing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside says her concerns were dismissed by the "old guard" within the department.

Det. Const. Lori Shenher, who was working the missing persons unit at the time, says she communicated to her superiors that women weren't seeing their family, weren't picking up their cheques and there was a problem.

But she told the public inquiry looking into the police investigation of serial killer Robert Pickton that the information wasn't taken seriously by her superiors.

Shenher says she got to know two of the victims on the missing women's list well and says when Sereena Abotsway and Angela Jardine vanished, she knew something was definitely wrong.

Shenher says those women were such a part of the fabric of the community, she couldn't conceive of them voluntarily leaving the Downtown Eastside.

She told the inquiry she never bought into the notion held by some officers that these women — in the so-called survival sex trade — were off to ply their trade elsewhere.

Missing women inquiry enters new phase

VANCOUVER/CKNW(AM980)
Marcella Bernardo | Email news tips to Marcella
1/30/2012
A public inquiry aimed at finding out why serial killer Robert Pickton wasn't caught sooner enters a new phase Monday.

Most of the evidence heard so far has been analytical.

The next witness is expected to provide details about the early days of the Vancouver Police investigation... when dozens of women were disappearing from the downtown eastside.

Lori Shenher, who's testimony should last all week, was a member of the missing persons unit in 1998.

That year, she received a tip about victims being butchered at Pickton's farm in Port Coquitlam, which falls under the RCMP's jurisdiction.

It's believed more than a dozen victims were killed between 1998 and February of 2002 when Pickton was finally arrested.

On Friday, nearly ten years after Pickton's arrest, BC's top mountie issued a formal apology for the RCMP's failure to catch Pickton sooner.

Assistant commissioner Craig Callens also talked about lessons learned in the past decade.

"Anyone who understands the business knows that at the conclusion of a major criminal investigation, you will almost always be able to identify things that you could have done differently and you use those to inform future practices."

Former RCMP corporal Mike Connor is slated to testify after Lori Shenher.

In 1998, she met with him to discuss the tip she received about Pickton.

© Corus® Entertainment Inc. 2012

Missing Women Commission of Inquiry

Sunday, January 29

One woman's disappearance became a focus

Doug Ward

Vancouver Sun

Sarah de Vries is shown here reading to her daughter, one of her two children.

CREDIT:

Sarah de Vries is shown here reading to her daughter, one of her two children.

" Will they remember me when I'm gone, or would their lives just carry on? "

From the journal of Sarah de Vries, 29, who vanished in the spring of 1998.

She had worked as a prostitute on the Downtown Eastside and was last seen on the corner of Princess and Hastings.

- - -

She wasn't forgotten.

The quote from her journals kicked off a feature in The Vancouver Sun on March 3, 1999 -- a two-part story by reporter Lindsay Kines about de Vries and the disappearance of sex-trade workers.

The fate of de Vries and of other missing women on the Downtown Eastside eventually shocked a city and a nation.

A cluster of disappearances sparked a police investigation and media coverage that culminated in the 2002 arrest of Robert (Willie) Pickton, who is scheduled to go on trial Jan. 22 for the murder of six women. He is to face a second trial in connection with the first-degree murder of 20 additional women.

Prostitutes have always experienced violence in Vancouver, and newspaper accounts about murdered sex-trade workers were not uncommon in the '70s and '80s.

But de Vries' disappearance in 1998 was part of an alarming rise in the number of missing sex-trade workers. She was one of 16 women reported missing in 1996, 1997 and 1998.

Kines's first stories on missing prostitutes were about Janet Henry, who vanished in 1997. A year later, Kines wrote a news story about other missing women, including de Vries.

A friend of de Vries, Wayne Leng, told Kines there was growing concern in the Downtown Eastside about the disappearance of many other women involved in drugs and the sex trade.

"This was the first hint I had that there were more missing women. It's what prompted me to start asking around the Downtown Eastside," Kines, who is now a Victoria Times Colonist reporter, said in an interview Monday.

"Then I found that the police were concerned about the number who were missing."

In September 1998, the Vancouver police department set up a team of officers to review unsolved missing women cases dating back to 1971. Vancouver police geographic profiler Kim Rossmo began reviewing missing women files.

And the media, including The Vancouver Sun, began to profile prostitutes who had disappeared. The phrase "missing women" became a familiar phrase as reporters attempted to give the alarming statistics some humanity.

In a two-part report in 1999 entitled Missing on the Mean Streets, which included his profile on de Vries, Kines reported: "With each passing month, the list of the disappeared continues to grow.

"Vancouver police have 20 outstanding files on missing 'street-involved' women since 1995 -- 11 from last year alone."

Kines's stories were confirming what was being said on the street, recalled Elaine Allen, who worked at a drop-in centre for prostitutes in the late '90s.

"The women at the drop-in centre were talking back in 1998 about friends and relatives who had gone missing."

And they were talking with a sense that nobody was listening, recalled Allen.

"There was no sense that help was on the way or that anybody in authority was listening."

But reporters such as Kines were listening and their coverage helped turn the case of the missing women into a major issue.

"There's no question that the stories put tons of pressure on the mayor and the police chief," Allen said.

DeVries' friend Leng similarly said that Kines's early coverage helped place the spotlight on the missing women and the police investigation.

Leng praised Kines and other Sun reporters for "handling the issue carefully and not sensationalizing it." He said The Sun helped the public see the victims as "missing women" as opposed to prostitutes with drug habits.

"Many people looked at prostitutes as throwaways who deserved what they got. But those of us who knew them -- we knew they were so much more. Sarah [de Vries] was a wonderful person."

In 1999, the police added detectives to a team of officers investigating the disappearances and sought assistance from authorities involved in major serial killer cases in the U.S. Also that year, the Vancouver police board approved a $100,000 reward to aid in the probe.

America's Most Wanted did a show on the missing women case in 1999.

But progress was slow, women continued to disappear and many in the Downtown Eastside believed there would have been a greater public outcry and police response if the missing women had been middle-class rather than prostitutes working in Vancouver's most impoverished neighbourhood.

THURSDAY: The number of missing women continued to climb in the new century. An 11-part Vancouver Sun series in 2001 examined the police investigators' lack of progress. Shortly after the series, more officers were attached to the probe.

You can now listen to every Vancouver Sun story on our new digital edition.

Free to full-week print subscribers or sign up for a 7-day free trial. www.vancouversun.com/digital.

PRELUDE TO PICKTON TRIAL

First of 11 parts

© The Vancouver Sun 2007

Stolen lives: The stories of three women

Lori Culbert

Vancouver Sun

A photograph shows Mona Lee Wilson as a young girl. She is among 26 women Robert (Willie) Pickton is accused of killing.

CREDIT: Richard Lam, Canadian Press, files

A photograph shows Mona Lee Wilson as a young girl. She is among 26 women Robert (Willie) Pickton is accused of killing.

Georgina Papin was remembered by friends and family at a service in September 2002 at First United Church.

CREDIT: Ian Lindsay, Vancouver Sun, files

Georgina Papin was remembered by friends and family at a service in September 2002 at First United Church.

Mona Lee Wilson hated wearing dresses or putting her hair in ribbons to go to church.

As a young girl, she much preferred playing with the animals on her foster family's hobby farm in Langley, and even tried to smuggle chicks into her bedroom to sleep with them.

"She'd lay right down in the mud with them, and play with them, and have them in her pockets. You had to check her when she came in the house because in her coat pockets there would be a couple of chicks, and in her boot you'd have another," Greg Garley said with a kind laugh as he recalled his late foster sister.

"We'd take her to church but, oh, getting Mona into a pink dress -- that was an ordeal. Frills and bows weren't for her . . . . She didn't like being a girl. When she got home [from church], off came that dress and on went the jeans and boots."

Wilson is one of 26 women whom Port Coquitlam pig farmer Robert (Willie) Pickton is accused of killing. His first trial on six of those murder charges begins Jan. 22.

On the opening day, the public will hear for the first time the Crown's grim allegations of how these six women died: Sereena Abotsway, who vanished just days before her 30th birthday; Marnie Frey, who was 24 and left behind a young daughter; Andrea Joesbury, who was 23 and trying to straighten out her life; Georgina Papin, who was 37, outgoing and had many friends; Brenda Wolfe, who was 30, kind and well-liked; and Wilson, who disappeared when she was 26 years old.

The trial judge, Justice James Williams, warned the jurors selected in December that the evidence they will hear will be "graphic and distressing."

That disturbing information will dominate headlines and newscasts for months. What should not be forgotten during that time, say the victims' relatives and friends, is that the women had moments of youthful innocence and adult accomplishments that should be celebrated.

Many faced challenges in their lives that undoubtedly led them down the turbulent road to drug addiction and, in most cases, prostitution to support their habits.

But along that journey, they left behind many positive memories and touched the lives of people who continue to grieve for them today.

---

Mona Wilson was a terrified eight-year-old girl when she came to live with the Garley family: Mom Norma, dad Ken, their four biological children, and so many other foster kids that Greg lost count over the years how many there were.

After enduring horrific sexual and physical abuse as a child, Wilson was seized from her family and received psychiatric care in a hospital. The Garleys were her first long-term foster parents, and she lived with them until age 14.

"I'll tell you, of all the kids she stayed in our hearts and our minds," said Greg Garley in a recent interview.

That scared girl grew to love playing with the dogs, cats, chickens, turkeys and peacocks on the hobby farm.

"She was sort of like a tomboy," said Greg Garley, who was a few years older than Wilson. "Digging in the garden, feeding the chickens, getting the eggs."

Attending school and other regular childhood routines were sporadic for Wilson in her earliest years, but in the Garleys' home she went to class and was taken on family vacations -- including one to Disneyland.

"There was nothing she liked better than going camping, going fishing," Garley said. "An awfully good girl. We just absolutely love her."

The Garleys operated an "emergency" foster home, which meant they took in some of the most troubled children -- many of them babies born with drug addictions.

Wilson's behaviour started to worsen at puberty, but Greg Garley said his family was upset when the ministry removed the troubled teen from their house. At her new foster home, Wilson's problems increased, Garley said.

She was placed in "independent living" when she was about 16 years old, which meant the government found her a place to live in east Vancouver and gave her some money to live, he said.

"A survivor of such horrors -- and then they just gave her a cheque and let her loose in Vancouver. What did anyone think would happen to a vulnerable girl like that on her own in a big city?" Garley asked.

He said Wilson phoned his parents regularly, even after they retired to the Okanagan.

"She stayed in touch with us until her death, every single month we got a phone call from her and it was just wonderful. She was always going to come and visit, but always had an excuse as to why she couldn't."

Garley said his family didn't know anyone involved in drugs or prostitution, but would have tried to help Wilson if they'd known she was mixed up in that world.

"I try not to think about that stuff because that's not who we knew. The way she talked on the phone, she was still the Mona we knew. So, right up until the month before they found her . . . she was still pretending to be the same girl."

Wilson was 26 years old when she was reported missing by her boyfriend in November 2001.

Foster mother Norma Garley was concerned something was wrong when she didn't receive her monthly phone call that December.

Then in February 2002, the family was horrified when Wilson was named in one of the first two murder charges against Pickton.

"My parents are in their mid-70s and I've watched them visibly age through this whole thing. So many sleepless nights, and nightmares, and not eating, losing weight," Greg Garley said.

Garley, who now lives in Parksville, is upset about the process that was set up to help the victims' families prepare for and attend the trial.

He said it favours biological relatives, and doesn't treat foster families equally.

"She's as close to blood as you can get. I went through my teen years with her, we loved her as much as anyone else," said Garley.

"It's just a very difficult thing to imagine this happening to someone you know and love."

- - -

Maggy Gisle is haunted by the memory of the last time she saw her friend Georgina Papin in March 1999. They were both drug-free and at a baby shower in Mission, where Gisle was celebrating the birth of her daughter.

But Papin, 37, was in a less celebratory mood. The mother of at least six children, she was devastated by a recent court ruling prohibiting her from getting custody of her kids, who were in government care.

"She said she was going to go downtown. I asked her to stay overnight with me . . . I was really, really upset. And I told her that I had lost many friends when they had relapsed," recalled Gisle, who now lives with her daughter on the Sunshine Coast, where she works as a nurse.

"She insisted that she wasn't going to use drugs, that she was just going to drink. And she was going and I couldn't stop her. I told her if she had to [then] be safe and come back. And she didn't come back," Gisle said, her voice breaking with emotion.

"About a week and a half after she left, she just disappeared off the face of the Earth."

Gisle, who spent 16 years on the streets of the Downtown Eastside before getting sober in 1998, checked with drop-in centres and needle exchanges but found no sign of her friend. The police would not accept a missing person report from her because she was not a relative.

The heartache of losing a friend was not unfamiliar to Gisle, who says she knew 54 of the 65 names on the police list of those missing from the Downtown Eastside.

Papin had a troubled life growing up in Alberta, bouncing from foster homes to group homes to residential schools. She began experimenting with drugs at age 11, and was under the control of a pimp shortly thereafter, her brother Rick Papin said in an interview in 2001.

She moved to Las Vegas, got married and had a baby girl in her early 20s, and then returned to Canada, where she had at least five more children. However, she struggled with relationships, drugs and incarceration.

Gisle first met Papin in 1994 at a recovery house in New Westminster, where they were roommates. Gisle was drawn to Papin's honesty, boundless energy and constant offers of assistance to vulnerable women.

"She was very outgoing, she was very motherly, and she took people underneath her wing," Gisle said in a recent interview. "She taught me about native culture, she drummed, she sang. . . She did traditional beading and native crafts."

They remained friends through the 1990s, when they both struggled through cycles of getting clean, then falling back into drugs again.

However, even in her darkest hours, Gisle said, Papin did not live in the Downtown Eastside, as she kept an apartment in Mission. She also maintained that Papin was not a sex-trade worker but instead an "opportunist" who would use her outgoing personality to get alcohol or drugs from others.

Gisle said Papin was a good mother who phoned her children and had regular visits with them when they were in care -- which made her disappearance all the more suspicious.

"When she relapsed, her getting clean was always about her kids. That's why I was so adamant about looking for her sooner because I knew it wasn't in her character to let go of her kids and have absolutely no contact," she said.

Gisle's faint hope of finding her friend alive was dashed in 2002 when Pickton was charged with her murder.

- - -

Jack Cummer, a kind retired salesman from Nanoose Bay, remembers vividly his last phone call with his beautiful granddaughter

Andrea Joesbury, who ran away from a difficult childhood on Vancouver Island to the Downtown Eastside when she was just 16 years old.

The conversation was just before Joesbury disappeared in June 2001, at the age of 23. In those seven years on the streets she had experienced a lifetime of pain, but she was upbeat on the phone because she was completing a methadone program to kick her heroin habit and was hoping to move back to the island.

"She was a very happy young lady whose life was in a starting mode. .... Our conversation ended with our love to each other," Cummer wrote in a recent e-mail to The Sun.

"I did say goodbye."

But he did not realize then it would be for the last time.

Joesbury loved drama and sports as a young girl, but struggled in school. She mostly lived with her troubled mother, and occasionally stayed with her grandparents, Jack and Laila Cummer.

She had a good relationship with her grandparents, but they couldn't stop the vulnerable teenager from running away to pursue her dream of finding a husband and having a baby.

"She went to Vancouver because she was looking for love. And she found this guy, and she fell in love with him. She's a young, naive girl, 16 years old, not knowing what's going on," Cummer said in an earlier interview.

"Eventually she phoned and let me know he was 15 or 20 years older than she was, so it gave her two things: A man she loved and a father figure. [But] she was put on the streets because he was a drug dealer."

Cummer tried to convince his granddaughter many times to come home, but she stubbornly said it was the life she had chosen and wouldn't leave Vancouver until she was ready, he recalled.

Joesbury did have the baby she yearned for, and Cummer came to visit after the birth. He said his granddaughter was "worn to a frazzle" trying to provide for the baby on a limited budget, but the little girl was healthy and receiving good care.

However, social services would eventually seize the child and put her up for adoption, which caused Joesbury to spiral back into her life on the streets.

"She tried to make a new life for herself and baby but was forced to give up her child and [had] nowhere else to return to but the man causing all her heartbreak," he said in his e-mail.

In that final phone call, Joesbury told Cummer she had the support of a caring Downtown Eastside doctor who was helping her with the methadone, and would come home to Vancouver Island when she was clean of her habit.

"Her dream was to come and search for the baby," Cummer wrote.

But she disappeared before ever seeing her daughter again.

Joesbury kept in regular contact with her grandfather through her collect calls, so when the phone didn't ring again, Cummer knew something was wrong.

The Cummers were devastated when police knocked on their door in 2002 to say Pickton had been charged with her murder.

"She is missed by the family and dearly loved," Cummer wrote in his e-mail. "Our Andrea is safe in God's arms and He is a wonderful, understanding person. He is helping us to be the same."

Saturday: Relatives, foster families and friends remember Sereena Abotsway, Marnie Frey and Brenda Wolfe.

lculbert@png.canwest.com

© The Vancouver Sun 2007

Lives remembered

The Sun's Lori Culbert writes about the lives of three women, cut tragically short

Lori Culbert

Vancouver Sun

Sereena Abotsway earned a trip to Holland from her foster parents.

CREDIT: Bill Keay, Vancouver Sun

Sereena Abotsway earned a trip to Holland from her foster parents.

It was the trip of a lifetime.

Especially for someone whose turbulent life was cut short so early.

Sereena Abotsway was a "furious" four-year-old when she was sent to live with Anna and Bert Draayers, but the veteran foster parents soon learned to love the troubled girl despite her tendency to act out at school.

So Anna Draayers issued a challenge to the outspoken child -- one she never thought Abotsway could achieve: She promised to take her to Draayers's home country of Holland if she completed her entire Grade 6 year without getting into any serious trouble at school.

"I said to her, 'If you can manage for the whole year to be okay . . . then we'll take you to Holland.' And she did," Draayers said proudly in a recent interview. "Nobody ever thought that she was going to make it, but she did."

Abotsway, who was raised by the Draayers from age four to 18, learned to speak Dutch on that trip and maintained her knowledge of the language throughout her troubled adult years.

"When she would phone me daily when she was in the [Downtown Eastside], she would say to me in Dutch, 'Hi mother. How are you? How are the children?'" Draayers recalled. "I would answer in Dutch and she would know what I was saying.

"I miss her an awful lot."

Abotsway is one of the six women whom Port Coquitlam pig farmer Robert (Willie) Pickton will be accused of killing when his trial begins Jan. 22 in New Westminster. Pickton has been charged with killing an additional 20 women, and is to face a second trial in the future.

The 26 victims are all on a list of 65 women who police say disappeared from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside between 1978 and 2001.

Some friends and relatives of the victims complain that police didn't respond quickly enough to missing person reports because most of the women supported their drug habits with prostitution. And now the families hope positive memories about the women can rise above the troubling evidence that is expected to emerge from Pickton's first trial.

"Sereena did not choose to live life the way she did, circumstances chose it for her...," Abotsway's half-brother Jay Draayers wrote in a memorial to his sister. "Sereena quite often, when talking to us on the phone, would ask us to make sure that the younger [foster] children would never end up living the life that she was living."

Added Rick Frey, father of murder victim Marnie Frey: "[T]hese are our sisters, our daughters, our mothers -- all human beings, all great people. They came into this world with big bright eyes and a slap on the ass, and ready to take the world on. And through whatever reasons they got hooked on the drugs."


When Abotsway arrived at her foster parents' home in Surrey, the four-year-old was skeptical of new people after enduring abuse as a toddler. However, she developed into a "bubbly" little girl who sang loudly and out-of-tune at church.

"Those things now I think about, and wish I could hear it one more time," Anna Draayers said. "I love her dearly."

The outspoken girl had few friends in school, and had to be home-schooled in her teen years. However, she was close to some of the 50 foster children taken in over the years by the Draayers, and the family also raised Abotsway's half-brother Jay and half-sister Michelle.

When Abotsway was 18, the Draayers had to make a heart-breaking decision: The teen's behaviour was so out of control her foster parents were forced to ask the ministry to remove her from their home to protect their other foster children.

Although Abotsway had grown up physically, Draayers said she remained "a child inside" and struggled as an adult, eventually ending up on the mean streets of the Downtown Eastside.

"She had lots of difficulties and we never thought she would be okay on her own," Draayers said. "She would phone us every day, and sometimes when she was older and she couldn't remember she would phone two, three times a day. And would ask me exactly the same questions."

In her final years, Abotsway owned nothing more than the clothes on her back. Anything the Draayers gave her, she would either lose or share with others, with little regard for her own needs.

On one birthday, her foster parents took Abotsway out for dinner downtown and gave her some cigarettes because they were something practical she could use. She turned to the waitress and asked, "Do you want part of my present?" Draayers recalled.

Abotsway's disappearance in August 2001 was extremely worrisome for the Draayers because they had been planning her 30th birthday party, a celebration Abotsway had been eagerly anticipating.

In his memorial tribute to his older half-sister, Jay Draayers fondly remembered Abotsway as someone who would both bully him and fiercely protect him, and who volunteered to help others at various Downtown Eastside organizations during her final years on the streets.

"We hope that Sereena has found the peace and love which she always hungered for. Sereena did not have this peace in the early days of her childhood," Jay Draayers wrote.

"Unfortunately Sereena, being the oldest, was more affected by what had been done to her in the first few years of her life. This would affect her later years, and [she] would become very troublesome. . . Even so, we all loved and still love her unconditionally."

Anna Draayers, 73, has been told that she and her 78-year-old husband could be called as witnesses, so they cannot attend the beginning of the trial. She said she wouldn't want to sit through the evidence anyway, but does want some answers about her foster daughter.

"I want so badly to know what happened to Sereena," she said. "I will be so happy when this is over and done with."

At a memorial service for Marnie Frey in 2002, after Pickton was charged with her murder, she was remembered as "a carefree loving girl . . . [who] loved the simple things in life."

The girl with the bright smile and light-hearted spirit enjoyed spending time with her family and small animals, and was praised for being trustworthy and generous.

Frey was an 18-year-old still living at home in Campbell River with her father Rick and stepmother Lynn when she had a baby girl she named Brittney.

Frey tried to raise the infant, but ultimately asked her parents to adopt Brittney because she believed that was best for her daughter.

The young woman would be drawn to the bright lights of the big city, and Brittney was only in kindergarten when her mother disappeared in August 1997.

Brittney grew up believing Rick and Lynn were her parents, and that Marnie was her older sister. However, she recently had to be told the truth when school yard bullies taunted her about who her mother really was.

"People are pretty vicious, you know," Rick Frey said in a recent interview. "The day that we had to tell her, that had to be one of our worst days. But she took it like a trouper."

Rick and Lynn Frey have been outspoken about how police, the government and society in general appeared to react with indifference when this group of marginalized women disappeared -- and he hopes officials will respond more swiftly in the future.

"I hope the public starts demanding some answers to all the questions we have," said Frey, a fisherman.

The Freys say even though Marnie disappeared nearly 10 years ago, they haven't been able to get a death certificate; they also cannot claim her remains to have them cremated until after the trial; and they say they haven't received proper support or counselling from the government's victim services workers.

In particular, they are unhappy that the government will only fund two family members to attend the trial for a week, when Marnie's father, mother, stepmother and daughter would like to attend.

Rick Frey is also unimpressed with a handbook that victim services sent to the families earlier this month in an effort to guide them through the trial process.

"We're as ready as we can be. We know what it's going to be like, we know what to expect. I mean there's going to be tears," he said in the interview. "It's been a long time in coming."


Susanne Dahlin, executive director of the provincial government's victim services and community programs division, said her staff cannot, by law, tell the families what evidence they will hear at trial because of the sweeping publication ban on all of Pickton's pre-trial hearings.

However, she said that over the last year and a half, some of her 50 staff members have met with relatives of all 65 women who are still listed as missing from the Downtown Eastside.

(Pickton has been charged with killing 26 of those women and the other 39 remain unaccounted for.)

The meetings in the families' home communities were intended to prepare them for hearing disturbing evidence and to create individual support plans to assist them through the trial.

Dahlin said they are a diverse group, and assistance that one family finds beneficial will not necessarily fit the needs of the next family.

Some relatives are further along in their grieving, depending on when their loved one disappeared. However, Dahlin noted that living through the trial will not be a "straight road," and those who feel prepared today may not in fact be when they hear the allegations against Pickton.

The government will pay for travel costs, a hotel room in New Westminster and food for certain relatives for one week to help with the costs of attending the trial, Dahlin said.

Once the trial starts, there will be at least one counsellor at the courthouse each day to help relatives cope with the evidence they will hear.

In addition to the handbook, victims services has created a website for the families that includes frequently asked questions intended to help them understand the trial process.

Dahlin said her boss, the solicitor-general, has indicated more funding will be made available if additional workers are needed to help people get through the trial.

"We just know that this is going to be a long haul," she said.

Elaine Allan worked at the WISH drop-in centre for sex-trade workers. She knew many of the missing women, including five of the six victims who are the subject of Pickton's first trial.

She remembers seeing Brenda Wolfe using the WISH facilities until her disappearance in February 1999 at the age of 30.

"Brenda was a very quiet person, but she was a well-liked quiet person. She wasn't Georgina Papin, who was outgoing and gregarious, but she was well-liked and she always had a friend with her [at WISH]," said Allan.

"She had a boyfriend and she was a very gentle soul. She had a very affable nature. You liked having her around. She had a nice presence about her."

Wolfe was born in Pincher Creek, Alta., but grew up near Calgary.

"Brenda was kind of independent. She used to come in and ask me if she could put bags up against the wall behind the serving tray while she got dinner and a shower. Because that's always a big thing -- where do you put your stuff in a place like that when you get a shower?" said Allan. "She was very polite and very soft-spoken and very kind."

Allan, who has attended portions of Pickton's pre-trial hearings, is now employed by the Salvation Army. She started working in the Downtown Eastside in 1998, so never met Frey, who went missing a year earlier.

She fondly recalled Abotsway, who she said went by the street name Riviera, as a spunky, mischievous and very social woman who would talk for hours on the free phone at a drop-in centre.

Mona Wilson, who went by the street name Stacey, was a mild-mannered WISH regular during the nightly drop-ins. That time, Allan said, was Wilson's break from an overbearing boyfriend who treated her poorly.

"She'd be crying, she'd be frantic. 'I don't know what to do about him,'" Allan recalled Wilson saying about her boyfriend.

"She'd just get paralysed, and she'd just sit down and cry," added Allan, who said she tried -- unsuccessfully -- to get Wilson into a recovery house.

Papin was a "tough" woman who knew how to defend herself; she was also extremely popular and immediately missed when she vanished.

"She would always come in [to WISH] with a pile of friends, and would hang out with a pile of friends, and leave with a pile of friends. She was a very social person," Allan said. "People all talked about her [disappearing.] When your social maven is missing, people are going to mention that."

Andrea Joesbury was a petite, strawberry-blond "little kid" who wore platform shoes and had a "very, very sweet" disposition. She was quiet and never seemed to get into altercations with others -- prompting Allan to wonder how she navigated the treacherous Downtown Eastside for so many years.

"Her nature was so gentle. You just couldn't imagine someone that gentle and so little and so defenceless being out on the mean streets every night," Allan said.

When the WISH doors closed at 10 p.m., Allan always worried about how Joesbury and the others would survive the dark nights.

"Everyone knew that . . . women were going missing," she said softly.

"Every night when they walked out the door I would say goodbye and I would wonder if that was the last time I'd see them."

lculbert@png.canwest.com

© The Vancouver Sun 2007

Column: Work to end violence against women far from over

Column: Work to end violence against women far from over

Saturday, January 28

Lori Shenher to take stand Monday in Missing Women Commission of Inquiry. Reposted from Cameron Ward blog.

MWCI: Lori Shenher to take stand Monday

January 27, 2012 in Missing Women Commision of Inquiry, News

The next witness at the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry will be Vancouver Det. Cst. Lori Shenher, who had primary conduct of the missing women investigation for the VPD from June of 1998 until late 2000.  Before joining the VPD, she was a Calgary journalist.  She is also credited as a technical advisor and writer on 25 episodes of Da Vinci’s Inquest, where a fictional missing women’s case was a recurring theme on the show. 

In July and August of 1998, Shenher received information from Bill Hiscox that a Port Coquitlam pig farmer named Robert “Willy” Pickton was likely responsible for the disappearances of women from Vancouver’s downtown east side.  She determined that the information was credible, and soon learned that Pickton had been charged with the attempted murder and forcible confinement of a Vancouver sex trade worker the year before.  (The Crown dropped those charges; the Commission is supposed to inquire into the facts concerning that decision)  Although three more informants independently came forward with information fingering Pickton as a likely serial murderer, neither the VPD nor the RCMP apprehended him.  On February 5, 2002, a junior Coquitlam RCMP member investigating an apparently unrelated matter found evidence of some of the missing women on a property owned by Pickton and his brother and sister.  Pickton was subsequently convicted of six murders and twenty other first degree murder charges against him were stayed, the Attorney General decising that “it would not be in the public interest” to prosecute him further. Pickton is believed to be responsible for as many as 49 murders, which would make him Canada’s most prolific serial murderer.  The case reportedly cost Canadian taxpayers as much as $200 million dollars to investigate, prosecute and defend.

posted by Cameron Ward

MWCI: The victims’ families deserve answers; will they get them?

January 27, 2012 in Missing Women Commision of Inquiry, Opinion

On March 23, 1997 Robert “Willy” Pickton attacked a downtown eastside Vancouver sex trade worker at the Port Coquitlam property he shared with his brother.  The Crown laid charges of attempted murder, forcible confinement, assault with a weapon and assault against him but stayed the charges as the trial approached.

Why?

The VPD and the RCMP had Pickton in their sights as a prime suspect in the disappearances of other downtown eastside sex trade workers from August of 1998 onwards but didn’t apprehend him.  He was able to kill dozens of women, as many as 49 in all, until February 5, 2002.

Why?

These are the central factual questions posed by the terms of reference of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry.  The anguished families of Pickton’s victims have long sought a public inquiry into these questions, and others.  Now that the Commission is finally hearing testimony from the police officers actually involved in the investigations, will the families get the answers they need and deserve?  Or will the sudden appearance of a host of lawyers for individual police officers to augment the teams that the VPD and RCMP have had to look out for their interests for the last decade throw a spanner in the works?

…..

The latest report from The Vancouver Sun’s Neal Hall is here.

posted by Cameron Ward

June 2009: Letter to a monster

ETHAN BARON, THE PROVINCE JANUARY 27, 2012

Ethan Baron

Photograph by: Ginger Sedlarova, The Province

Hello, Willie.

I know you're reading this, because it's all about you.

Just like the trial.

After four years of working on your story, after sitting in that courtroom for months on end, watching you through bullet-proof glass, I know you far better than I'd like to.

For these four years, you have been an unwelcome guest in my world.

You have strewn my dreams with carnage, gruesome castoffs from your world of suffering, dismemberment and death.

I dream of killing. I dream of watching people die.

Once, I even dreamed of you.

We were in a room together. I don't know why. And, in my nightmare, I was overcome by fear, not that you'd suddenly attack me - I'm bigger and smarter than you - but that I would fall asleep, and would wake to feel your strange, monkey fingers around my neck.

I felt, for the first time, what every female who is familiar with your case felt from the very outset: the fear every woman lives with everyday, of crossing paths with someone like you.

A remorseless killer.

I do not hold you responsible. You are a biological aberration, an obscenity of nature.

Remember the story you told that undercover cop in jail, that you killed 49 people? I do.

Sometimes, sitting through those endless hours of testimony about which DNA swab was used on which wall in your slaughterhouse, and which sock was found in which bag in your filthy trailer, I used to think about killing you.

It wasn't that I actually wanted to, or even thought you deserved it. I would sit and examine the courtroom security procedures in place for your protection, and my mind would wander. I figured that, if I sat in the gallery seat closest to the doorway for the courtroom, I could rush through the door when a witness went in, before one of the burly, ever-vigilant sheriffs could grab me.

I would have been in front of you in a flash, my hands around your throat, squeezing. The sheriffs in the courtroom didn't carry guns, but I concluded that those who did, in the gallery, would be through the door as I began to throttle you. Friendly as they were, they were serious about their job, and I have no doubt they would have shot me before your life expired.

It was fun to think about, though.

I remember thinking once, after some particularly gruesome evidence came before the court, that it was interesting that this stuff didn't seem to disturb my mind. Then I got up at a break, and realized I felt nauseous almost to the point of vomiting.

I never cried, except for once, on the day you were sentenced, when the Crown read a statement from Brenda Wolfe's mother. She'd written that if all the tears she'd shed made a path to heaven, she would walk along it and bring her daughter home.

You might not remember that part.

I have to admit there was a lot of laughter, too. We all got a kick out of your attachment to your late horse, Goldie, especially when we found out that, when you'd taken her head to the taxidermist, you rode the bus.

I hope you're not upset they wouldn't let you have Goldie's head in your jail cell. Institutional authorities can be so cruel.

I'm not supposed to talk about the plasticine figurines some of us made during the trial, but I can tell you I have my version of your pig-butchering buddy Pat Casanova sitting on my desk. You'd get a chuckle out of how his thumb is covering up that cancer-surgery hole in his throat. I can send it to you if you want. I'm not that attached to it.

You're more clever than you look, I'll give you that. You knew enough to prey on people who wouldn't be immediately missed, women of such low social status that the police wouldn't pay attention when they started to vanish. And you even let some go free, so they could tell people Willie Pickton wasn't the reason so many women were going away and never coming back.

You got sloppy at the end, you admitted that. When the police came to your farm, they found a little snapshot of your process.

Heads, hands and feet in buckets. A jawbone in the pig manure. You had it all down to a routine, didn't you?

And what you didn't dispose of at the farm went to the rendering plant. That driver from the plant testified that he'd pick up barrels of burnt-black chunks of meat from your farm.

Did you just pour gas into barrels of human remains and set them on fire, so the pieces of people wouldn't look like pieces of people?

You will be remembered as an awful human being, worse than worthless.

Still, you have one shot at redemption, Willie, one chance to be seen in a different light.

You can come clean.

Forget about any appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

You need to tell the world what you did, and why.

You can go down in history as a nasty bit of human trash.

Or you can have the last word, and be forever remembered as a terrible monster who, in the end, did the right thing. It would be - almost - heroic.

Do you have the courage, Willie? Do you have the strength?

Maybe.

Do you have the humanity?

I don't think so.

© Copyright (c) The Province

http://www.theprovince.com/June+2009+Letter+monster/6065062/story.html

Friday, January 27

Robert Pickton: RCMP admits it ‘could have done more’ to stop killer | Full Comment | National Post

Robert Pickton: RCMP admits it ‘could have done more’ to stop killer | Full Comment | National Post:

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RCMP apologizes for delay in Pickton arrest

POSTMEDIA NEWS JANUARY 27, 2012 1:25 PM

RCMP Assistant Commissioner Craig Callens responded on Friday to recent criticism of the force raised at the Missing Women Inquiry by issuing an apology for not solving the missing women case sooner.

Photograph by: Glenn Baglo, PNG

The commanding officer of the RCMP has responded to recent criticism of the force raised at the Missing Women inquiry in British Columbia by issuing an apology for not solving the missing women case sooner.

"I apologize that the RCMP did not do more," RCMP Assistant Commissioner Craig Callens told reporters Friday.

On Wednesday, an expert witness, said serial killer Robert Pickton could have been nabbed years sooner, had Vancouver police not "dropped the ball."

Kim Rossmo, a former member of the Vancouver Police Department and now an intelligence and investigations professor at Texas State University, also said there "was a very good chance of solving the case by the end of 1999, if the appropriate resources were employed."

Rossmo, the first police officer in Canada with a PhD in criminology, served 20 years with the Vancouver police, including two tours of duty in the Downtown Eastside.

"If we had taken the case more seriously . . . it could have and should have been solved earlier," he testified. "I think this case should have been solved one or two years earlier, but we dropped the ball."

Pickton, who wasn't arrested until 2002 and who is serving a life sentence in prison for the murder of six women, once claimed he killed 49 women.

He was facing a second trial for the murder of another 20 women.

But after he lost all appeals on his first six murder convictions, the Crown elected not to proceed with a second trial, which upset the families of those victims.

With files from Vancouver Sun

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

RCMP apology over Pickton murder ‘not enough,’ victim’s father says

ROBERT MATAS
VANCOUVER – Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Jan. 27, 2012

robert_pickton-2007

Rick Frey, the father of a woman murdered by Robert Pickton, says a RCMP apology for failing to catch the serial killer sooner is meaningless.

“It is not going to pacify now,” Mr. Frey said Friday in an interview.

“An apology is not enough. What are they going to do now....? The damage is done and there has to be some meaningful [changes] done,” he said.

Earlier yesterday, RCMP assistant commissioner Craig Callens offered a qualified apology for the RCMP not arresting Mr. Pickton before February, 2002.

The inquiry has heard that Vancouver police and the RCMP received tips pointing to Mr. Pickton as a serial killer in 1998 and 1999. Mr. Pickton was convicted in 2007 of killing six women, three of them in 2001. He is accused of killing an additional 11 women between December, 1999 and when he was arrested.

Assistant commissioner Callen told reporters at a news conference that the RCMP, “with the benefit of hindsight and measured against current investigative standards” recognizes they could have done more.

“On behalf of the RCMP, I would like to express to the families of the victims how very sorry we are for the loss of your loved ones, and I apologize that the RCMP did not do more,” he said.

He held the news conference before speaking to any of the victims’ families and told reporters he did not have any meetings scheduled with them.

Mr. Frey, the father of Marnie Frey, said hindsight is great. “We all know they could have done more. .... . I don’t think you have to be a Philadelphia lawyer to figure that one out. Anyone knows that they could have done more,” he said.

The apology should go to RCMP officers who were stymied by their bosses in investigating Mr. Pickton in the late-1990s, Mr. Frey said.

“The officers were trying to get [senior managers] to wake up, they had a problem. They should apologize to their people, that they did not listen,” he said.

Reviews of the RCMP and Vancouver Police Department investigation revealed that beat cops and investigative detectives in 1999 believed a serial killer was preying on women in the Downtown Eastside but senior managers did not.

Assistant commissioner Callen told reporters the apology was made at this time in response to events earlier this month at the Missing Women’s Inquiry.

At the hearings on Jan. 12, lawyer Cameron Ward, who represents victims’ families at the inquiry, pressed RCMP Superintendent R. J. Williams to apologize on behalf of the Mounties. Mr. Williams, an Alberta-based Mountie who had conducted an external review of the RCMP investigation for a lawsuit, said he was not the appropriate person to apologize and it was up to RCMP management in B.C.

Assistant commissioner Callens said he was recently told about Mr. Williams’ testimony. Former deputy commissioner Gary Bass in August, 2010 had expressed “deep regret” that the RCMP was unable to gather the evidence necessary to lay a charge against Mr. Pickton sooner than it did, he said. But the testimony at the inquiry made it clear that the issue of an apology remains in question, he said.

Unlike the RCMP, the Vancouver police offered an unqualified apology in July, 2010. “We’re sorry from the bottom of our hearts that we did not catch him sooner and protect more women from being harmed,” Doug LePard, deputy chief of the Vancouver Police Department said at that time.

The Pickton inquiry was appointed in the fall of 2010 to look into why Robert Pickton was not arrested before February, 2002. Mr. Pickton was convicted of killing six women. He once said he killed 49 women.

Marnie Frey was reported missing by her stepmother Lynn Frey on Dec. 29, 1977. Ms. Frey’s remains was found on Mr. Pickton’s farm after he was arrested.

© Copyright 2012 The Globe and Mail Inc. All Rights Reserved.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/british-columbia/rcmp-apology-over-pickton-murder-not-enough-victims-father-says/article2317555/

RCMP apologizes for not doing enough to solve missing women case sooner

BY NEAL HALL, VANCOUVER SUN JANUARY 27, 2012 11:51 AM

RCMP Assistant Commissioner Craig Callens speaks to media on Friday, December 9, 2011 in Vancouver.

Photograph by: Glenn Baglo, PNG

VANCOUVER - The commanding officer of the RCMP responded to recent criticism of the force raised at the Missing Women inquiry by issuing an apology for not solving the missing women case sooner.

"I apologize that the RCMP did not do more," RCMP Assistant Commissioner Craig Callens told reporters today.

He said the former commanding officer of the B.C. Mounties, Gary Bass, had earlier expressed his deep regret that serial killer Robert Pickton wasn't caught sooner.

"On behalf of the RCMP, I'm sorry we didn't do more," Callens said.

He said he has not yet met with families of Pickton's victims to offer an apology on behalf of the RCMP.

It is the first time the RCMP has apolgized for the its failures in the Pickton investigation.

The Vancouver police has repeatedly apologized, saying the VPD could have and should have done more.

Asked why he is offering the apology now, Callen said it recently came to his attention during the testimony of the first RCMP officer to testify at the Missing Women inquiry.

Alberta RCMP Supt. Bob Williams, who was asked to do an independent review of the force's investigation of Pickton, declined to offer an apology on behalf of the RCMP..

He said it would be the decision of senior management of the RCMP in B.C.

"I would like to reaffirm that the RCMP is fully committed to cooperating with the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry,"" Callens said.

In August 2010, Bass issued a statement expressing deep regret that the RCMP was unable to gather the evidence necessary to charge Pickton sooner.

Pickton wasn't arrested until Feb. 5, 2002.

The inquiry has heard that Vancouver police regarded Pickton as the prime suspect after receiving tips about Pickton in 1998 and 1999.

Vancouver police passed along the information to the RCMP because the allegations were that Pickton had killed one or more women at his farm in Port Coquitlam.

The RCMP policed that jurisdiction and had previously investigated Pickton for a 1997 attack on a Vancouver prostitute at the farm.

The women survived a knife attack after running to the street and flagging down a passing car.

Pickton was charged with the unlawful confinement and attempted murder of the victim but Crown decided to drop the charges in 1998.

The reasons for the Crown staying the charges will be probed by the inquiry, which is probing the systemic problems that prevented police from catching Pickton sooner.

The inquiry resumed Monday and will hear from one of the RCMP investigators in the case.

Pickton, who is serving a life sentence in prison for the murder of six women, once confided he killed 49 women.

He was facing a second trial for the murder of another 20 women.

But after he lost all appeals on his first six murder convictions, the Crown elected not to proceed with a second trial, which upset the families of those victims.

nhall@vancouversun.com

Statement issued by Assistant Commissioner Craig Callens, Commanding Officer of "E" Division

Good morning.

First - I would like to reaffirm that the RCMP is committed to fully cooperating with the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry.

We are in the phase of the inquiry where investigators directly involved in the investigations are scheduled to testify.

Recently, it came to my attention, that during the examination of an RCMP witness, Commission Counsel raised the issue of an RCMP apology. It is clear to me that the issue of an apology remains in question.

In August 2010 Deputy Commissioner Gary Bass, the Commanding Officer for the RCMP in "E" Division, at the time, issued a statement in which he expressed deep regret that the RCMP was unable to gather the evidence necessary to lay a charge against Robert Pickton sooner than it did.

Let me be clear. As the Commanding Officer of the RCMP in British Columbia I believe that, with the benefit of hindsight and when measured against today's investigative standards and practices, the RCMP could have done more.

On behalf of the RCMP, I would like to express to the families of the victims how very sorry we are for the loss of your loved ones, and I apologize that the RCMP did not do more.

We look forward to receiving meaningful recommendations that we can apply as a whole to improve our policing services to communities in BC and to refine and improve how we investigate and solve complex major crimes.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Thursday, January 26

Ex-detective stands by his testimony

ROBERT MATAS
VANCOUVER – Globe and Mail
Thursday, January 26, 2012

Former Vancouver police officer Kim Rossmo held his ground during aggressive cross-examination at the Pickton inquiry on Thursday, unshaken by a newspaper story and an e-mail that appeared to contradict what he had previously said.

Mr. Rossmo, the first police officer involved in the missing women investigation to testify at the inquiry, has been highly critical of senior managers in the Vancouver police department, saying there was a good chance the missing women case could have been solved in late 1999 if proper resources had been allocated.

MORE RELATED TO THIS STORY

· Pickton murders could have been solved earlier, ex-officer says

· Pickton investigation plagued by same issues that failed to stop Bernardo

· Pickton victims’ families decry ‘hurtful’ police testimony at Missing Women Inquiry

·

Serial killer Robert Pickton was arrested in February, 2002. He was convicted of killing six women, three of them in 2001. He is accused of killing an additional 11 women between December, 1999, and when he was arrested.

Vancouver police formed a working group in 1998 to review reports of prostitutes going missing from the Downtown Eastside and the possibility of foul play. But the group was effectively shut down after Inspector Fred Biddlecombe expressed his opposition at a meeting on Sept. 22, 1998, Mr. Rossmo told the inquiry. “He did not believe there was a serial murder,” Mr. Rossmo testified.

However, Inspector Biddlecombe’s lawyer pointed out on Thursday that a newspaper article dated Sept. 18, 1998, in the Vancouver Sun quoted the inspector as saying he did not rule out the possibility of a serial killer, although police did not have any evidence to suggest it at that point.

“It is not a correct statement,” Mr. Rossmo said. “Based on his actions and what he said at the meeting of 22 of September, I felt he had effectively ruled it out,” he said.

Mr. Rossmo chided David Neave, the lawyer for Insp. Biddlecombe, for believing the report to be true. “It’s a newspaper story. You’re acting as if police departments are always truthful with the media,” he said.

Mr. Rossmo also dismissed as misleading an e-mail send by Insp. Biddlecombe on May 21, 1999, that assigned seven investigators to a missing-women working group to review records and investigate the circumstances of the disappearances of 21 women. The e-mail stated that Mr. Rossmo was to support the group.

Earlier during the hearing, lawyer Judith Hoffman, a Department of Justice lawyer representing the RCMP, raised questions about the effectiveness of a regional police force. Previous reviews of the Pickton case have concluded that the investigation was hampered by the lack of co-ordination between the Vancouver police and the RCMP.

Mr. Rossmo told the inquiry the RCMP were very interested in working with Vancouver police on an investigation into the cases of three women who were murdered in 1995.

The women – Tracy Olajide, Tammy Lee Pipe and Victoria Younker – worked as prostitutes and were picked up in the Downtown Eastside. The bodies of Ms. Olajide and Ms. Pipe were found dumped in a rural area outside Agassiz, B.C., 125 kilometres east of the skid-row neighbourhood. Ms. Younker’s partly decomposed body was found near Mission, B.C., about 70 kilometres east of the Downtown Eastside.

Mr. Rossmo told the inquiry the RCMP and Vancouver police were co-operating on that investigation. “I remember [the RCMP] had a very positive attitude. They were interested in working together [with Vancouver police],” he said.

Ms. Hoffman questioned whether a large regional police force in Metro Vancouver would have made any difference in the investigation of the three women who were killed in 1995. Agassiz and possibly Mission may be too far away to be part of a Metro Vancouver police force.

Mr. Rossmo agreed that interjurisdictional issues may still arise, but would likely be much fewer if the police force boundaries stretched across Metro Vancouver.

© Copyright 2012 The Globe and Mail Inc. All Rights Reserved.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/british-columbia/ex-detective-stands-by-his-pickton-testimony/article2316785/

Tense exchange at Pickton inquiry over officer's actions - British Columbia - CBC News

Tense exchange at Pickton inquiry over officer's actions - British Columbia - CBC News: "The "

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