VANCOUVER — Vancouver police should have investigated serial killer Robert Pickton rather than simply leaving him to the RCMP in a neighbouring city, the public inquiry into the case has heard.
Peel Regional Police Deputy Chief Jennifer Evans, who conducted an external review for the inquiry, contradicted the Vancouver police force’s long-standing insistence that Pickton was the responsibility of the Mounties in Port Coquitlam because that’s where he was killing women.
Evans when Vancouver police received information in 1998-99 that Pickton may have been picking up sex workers in the city and killing them at his farm, they should have opened a criminal investigation.
“Due to the number of women that had gone missing, it was my opinion that investigators could have come to the conclusion that Pickton was targeting women in the Downtown Eastside, and he was going in looking (for victims), so the offence would start in Vancouver,” Evans told the inquiry.
She said Vancouver police could have opened investigations into the offences of kidnapping, because Pickton appeared to pick up women with the intent to kill them. Another possible charge would be administering a noxious substance, because informants told police Pickton used alcohol and drugs to lure women.
“Had they recognized that, then it’s also your report that they would have taken ownership of it and that would have led to a much quicker response in catching Pickton?” asked Darrell Roberts, a lawyer for the mother of Pickton victim Patricia Johnson.
“Whether I can say it would have been quicker, I think they should have dedicated more resources towards the investigation,” Evans replied.
Instead, the case was spread over three separate investigations, which Evans has said was a key factor in the devastating failure to catch Pickton.
The Vancouver police department investigated the disappearances of sex workers, primarily as a missing person case rather than a criminal investigation. When they received information pointing to Pickton, they would forward that to the RCMP in Port Coquitlam, because officers in Vancouver believed they didn’t have jurisdiction.
Meanwhile, the RCMP looked at Pickton as a suspect in the missing women case. The Mounties had already investigated Pickton in 1997, when he was charged for an attempted murder for an attack on a sex worker, although Crown prosecutors declined to bring that case to trial.
Eventually, the forces joined together for what became known as Project Evenhanded, but that was yet another investigation with a separate focus.