'Pickton would have been caught sooner': Lawyer 0
Robert Pickton (pictured) could have been caught earlier if a press release drafted in 1998 had been made public, said lawyer Mark Skwarok at the B.C. Missing Women Commission of Inquiry Wednesday. (FILE PHOTO)
In September 1998 former Vancouver police detective Kim Rossmo drafted a press release that would have publicized police concerns that a serial killer was preying on women in the Downtown Eastside, but senior police officials blocked the warning, according to Rossmo's lawyer.
"The question for this commission, is why?" said lawyer Mark Skwarok in his opening statement to the B.C. Missing Women Commission of Inquiry on Wednesday.
Rossmo went on to produce a statistical analysis in 1999 which led him to conclude that a serial killer was likely responsible for the high number of missing women in the DTES. Skwarok said Rossmo's analysis was ignored by senior officials.
"Had senior police officials listened to him, Pickton would have been caught sooner," said Skwarok.
It would be another three years before police finally arrested pig farmer Robert Pickton, who was eventually convicted of second-degree murder in the deaths of six women. The DNA of 32 missing women and one unidentified woman was found on Pickton's farm in Port Coquitlam.
Rossmo has since been recognized for ground-breaking geographic profiling as an investigative tool to find arsonists, sex offenders and serial killers.
Meanwhile, lawyers representing special interest groups clearly intend to push the boundaries of the inquiry beyond what police did or didn't do in the Pickton investigation.
Representing the First Nations Summit, lawyer and Grand Chief Edward John spoke about the history of discrimination, and referred to the impact of residential schools on First Nations communities. He argued the inquiry should explore how historical injustices are ultimately connected to the murders of aboriginal women from the DTES, but he also expressed skepticism about the proceedings.
"There's a real fear by the (First Nations) chiefs that the findings will be incomplete, unfair, and not implemented by the province," said John.
Inquiry commissioner Wally Oppal assured John that the commission would fulfill its duty, adding, "Whether the recommendations are implemented is up to powerful people like yourself, to lobby government and ensure that good things come out of the inquiry."
Ann Livingston, executive director of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, called on the inquiry to consider how the treatment of drug users by police and social agencies also led to the missing women being victimized by Pickton, who offered them drugs they couldn't obtain legally.
"We want the war on drugs to be a central consideration when examining how these women gave up on life," said Livingston.
"We want the police to apologize for hating our women, and blaming the women for their own victimization."