Pickton had been murdering women since 1991: Mountie 0
Retired Mountie Don Adam, who was appointed head of the Missing Women task force in 2000, tells commissioner Wally Oppal on Wednesday about the challenges the investigation faced. (SCREEN GRAB)
Robert Pickton began murdering women in 1991. By 1995, he was a full-blown serial killer who expertly rid his farm of their remains, according to a retired RCMP officer who headed the Missing Women task force.
"We've identified a victim from 1991," Don Adam told the Missing Women Inquiry on Wednesday. "[Pickton] was a fully functional serial killer by 1995, who had perfected his method of not allowing the remains to be identified. He was clearly removing those identifiable parts from his farm by 1995."
Pickton developed as a serial killer as police struggled to catch him.
Adam said when he was first appointed team commander of the joint RCMP-VPD Project Evenhanded in November 2000, there appeared to be more than one killer at work, with sex trade workers turning up dead in different "bundles," some in the Fraser Valley, some on Vancouver Island and others in Vancouver.
"It just didn't seem possible that it was the work of one person," he said, adding he believed they needed to be open to the idea of more than one killer. "My mandate was to catch them all . not to catch one killer and quit."
Adam said he was appalled at the time to learn there were 52 unsolved murders of sex workers, and a solve-rate of just 50%, well below the provincial average of 60-70%.
Adam said the lack of a crime scene made their work challenging.
"In a simple homicide, that is the centerpiece," Adam explained. "That was so different from the situation in the Downtown Eastside. The very nature of the missings took that piece away from you.
"There was not an event, someone dragged into car . you lack the certainty of even a crime."
This meant efforts went into investigating whether a crime actually occurred rather than investing a crime.
He said the investigation needed a national missing persons DNA bank as well as a computer system allowing them to access information from both VPD and RCMP investigations.
"I cannot overstate how damaging it is that our country has chosen not to have a DNA bank," he said, adding police couldn't get DNA samples tested because the women were considered missing rather than murdered. The Canadian National DNA Data Bank, which opened in June 2000, stores DNA profiles in two indexes, one for convicted offenders, another for unsolved crime scenes, but does not index missing persons.
"They've been talking about a missing person DNA bank since 2000 . It's not for me to get bitter, they simply don't have the legislation."
He also noted the BC Coroners Service had control of a potential 130 bones from found human remains, because there were no signs of foul play involved.
"If no foul play is suspected then those are Coroners' cases," he said, but added, "If you're only finding a bone or two, how can you make any determination whether there's foul ply or not?"
He said those remains were never processed for DNA.
"How do we know some of these remains are not part of our missings?"