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Vancouver Police indifference allowed crimes which paralyse the imagination

They had in their hands a tape which, had they acted on the information in it, could have saved the lives of twenty-two of the women pictured on the right margin of this page.

CBC 2011-11-25 Nine years later Mountie Catherine Galliford [re]states: [Sheila Steele's words] "There was a police indifference"

We have been slow to post this story, watching with horror as it has unfolded. Fifth Estate did a show last fall which made it known across the country that only once it got the attention of John Walsh's America's Most Wanted did the search for the killer(s) of dozens of women missing from Vancouver's east side get a even grudging glance by the Vancouver police.

The same indifference has operated across the entire country (Helen Betty Osborne, Pamela George, the Saskatoon victims of John Crawford, etc.); the magnitude of this one has focused attention on bad policing. Racism is one element. It is an important one as we have seen in Saskatoon as the endless inquiries into shootings and freezings of First Nations people bore us to tears with their ignored recommendations and mandates to find no fault.

Sexism is also part of it: police, like the rest of society hold a deep-seated contempt and even hatred for women that has little to do with whether women are allowed into law or medical school. The indifference shown toward victims of Vancouver's east side and Saskatoon's west side comes from professionals of both genders.

For pictures and biographies of all the missing women (it was 55 the last we heard) see Missing People Site.

Poverty is the overwhelming common denominator among victims of police indifference and wrongful prosecution. This website is full of stories of people whose lives have been turned upside down by such bad policing -- and these are the ones we know about, brought to public attention because someone bothered to pay attention.

It is not outside the realm of possibility to suppose that others have gone missing who no one cared about enough to report their disappearance.

More and more people are literally shut out of the legal economy as the floundering education systems expel kids rather than teach them, and there are no meaningful job prospects. At least once a day and sometimes more often, pedestrians are attacked in broad daylight to have money or tobacco stolen from them.

The War on Drugs has diverted attention of police all over the country to seek easy busts, leaving the controllers of the market intact to insure new generations of dispossed people to become addicted and fill the jails.

The Saskatoon Police Service is now opening its inquiries to the public (although they don't give much advance warning of when the hearings will be held) so that is a tiny step in the right direction. (See Cst. Kevin Montgomery). There have always been dedicated cops, like Vancouver's Gil Puder. A homeless woman's assault brushed aside by Saskatoon police. Saskatoon Police callous about rapes and deaths of hookers and poor women

There is still no meaningful addiction treatment centre in Saskatoon despite the national publicity surrounding Darrell Night's successful complaint against Hatchen and Munson. Money which has been set aside for single parent housing and halfway houses has been gobbled up by unscrupulous slum landlords and housing on Saskatoon's west side remains substandard.

We hope the fallout from the Pickton Pigbarn scandal will result in meaningful reforms
--Sheila Steele, spring 2002


RCMP-Vancouver police name four more missing Downtown Eastside women

Nov 20, 2003

VANCOUVER (CP) - The missing women task force identified four more women who have disappeared from the Downtown Eastside since 1990 and appealed to the public Thursday to help find them.

But the names haven't been added to the official list of missing women, which stands at 61. All the women were drug- or alcohol-addicted and sex-trade workers. The joint RCMP-Vancouver police task force identified the women as Sharon Goselin, Cara Ellis, Gloria Fedyshyn and Sharon Ward.

"While these women have not yet officially been added to the list of missing women being investigated by the task force, their current status is very important to the case," said RCMP Cpl. Catherine Galliford.

Robert Pickton, a former Port Coquitlam, B.C., pig farmer has been charged in the investigation into the disappearance of more than 60 women, most of them drug-addicted prostitutes from the Downtown Eastside.

Robert Pickton, 54, was committed earlier this year to stand trial in B.C. Supreme Court on 15 counts of first-degree murder.

The task force said Goselin was last seen in May 2001 and reported missing in December 2002, Ellis was last seen in 1996 but reported missing in 2002, Fedyshyn was last seen in January 1990 and reported missing in July 2002 and Ward was last seen in February 1997 and reported missing the following month.

Galliford said publicity about the missing women case may have prompted someone to file missing persons reports, years after some of the women were last seen.

"A lot of these women didn't have daily or weekly or monthly contact with their families," Galliford said.

"We find that a lot of these women may have just contacted their families at Christmas or they may have contacted their families once a year for their mothers' birthdays or they may have not had any contact with their families at all."

Pickton, who has been in custody almost two years, is scheduled to return to court Dec. 15 when a trial date might be set.

The massive police investigation was sparked by a raid on the Pickton family's sprawling suburban property Feb. 6, 2002.

He has been charged with the murders of Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson, Diane Rock, Jacqueline McDonell, Heather Bottomley, Andrea Joesbury, Brenda Wolfe, Jennifer Furminger, Helen Hallmark, Patricia Johnson, Georgina Papin, Heather Chinnock, Tanya Holyk, Sherry Irving and Inga Hall.

A huge team of police forensic investigators, augmented by civilian experts, painstakingly searched Pickton properties for 21 months.

They finally pulled out of the main site, a 45-minute drive east of the city, last Tuesday after sifting 338,000 cubic metres of soil and dismantling buildings in a search for evidence.

The property will revert to the owners, the Pickton family.

Port Coquitlam Mayor Scott Young said the city, RCMP and the accused's brother, David Pickton, met to discuss safety concerns involving the property.

Young said the mountains of dirt that police sifted at the site have mixed with rain and created kind of quick sand.

The RCMP will stop paying for the temporary fencing next month, but Young said the Picktons plan to keep the fencing up around the site.

In his ruling in July committing Pickton to trial, a provincial court judge said that had the preliminary hearing started a month later than it did, he would have been able to commit Pickton on 22 counts of first-degree murder.

Of the 61 missing women there are still about 40 unaccounted for.

The women vanished over a two-decade period but most went missing in the 1990s.

The investigation into the disappearances was stepped up when Vancouver city police and RCMP formed a joint task force after a public outcry that Vancouver police had dragged their feet because of the women's backgrounds.


Pickton tape given to police in 1998:

'He's quite the strange character, eh, very, very strange'

Suzanne Fournier, The Province, April 26, 2002

A chilling 1998 audiotape reveals detailed information about a Port Coquitlam pig farmer charged with murdering six prostitutes who disappeared from the Downtown Eastside.

A copy of the tape was given to Vancouver police in 1998, yet they did not investigate Robert "Willie" Pickton until Feb. 5, 2002, when RCMP got a search warrant.

The tape obtained by The Province is of a conversation between Wayne Leng, who runs a website on the missing women from California, and Bill Hiscox, who was employed by Pickton in 1997 and 1998.

Hiscox did not know until The Province contacted him this week that the tape existed.

"I'm really happy to hear it, because it proves I tried to do the right thing back in 1998, which is go to the police with my concerns about what I and other people had seen at the farm," Hiscox said.

Hiscox tells Leng on the tape: "Listen, he [Willie Pickton] was already charged, it seems about a month ago, with trying to slash a prostitute's throat, and stab her. And he got off the charges."

[Pickton was charged in 1997 with attempted murder of prostitute Wendy Lynn Eistetter at the farm. Eistetter, her stomach cut open, ran to a nearby farm. Pickton was also seriously cut in the incident. The charges were stayed.]

Hiscox says it's an odd coincidence "with all the girls that are going missing, and all the purses and IDs that are out there in his trailer and stuff. He has a 25-acre farm, a lot of heavy-duty machinery out there and stuff, you know, easy places to hide things out there. And you know, he's quite the strange character, eh, very, very strange. His name's Willie. He's the owner of P & B Salvage here in Surrey. They salvage crap from old houses and stuff like that. He's a really strange character.

"He's got a farm out in Port Coquitlam and you know he frequents the downtown area all the time, for girls. Everything started clicking on me you know, about this guy."

Hiscox tells Leng that he has talked to Vancouver police and that "they're going to look into it and check this guy out for sure, here." Hiscox says he spoke to Det. Al Howlett, head of the Vancouver police missing persons section, and the Surrey RCMP.

Hiscox tells Leng he has spoken to a friend who knows Willie, "but she doesn't want to get involved. She's kind of scared about it. But she told me, 'Billy, you wouldn't believe the IDs and shit out in that trailer. There's women's clothes out there, there's purses. You know, what's that guy doing, it is like really weird.' "

David Pickton, Willie's brother, has told The Province they often bought salvage vehicles that contained women's clothing and other personal items.

Leng said yesterday that he taped all phone calls after putting up posters seeking information about the disappearance of Sarah deVries in April 1998.

Hiscox said he phoned Leng after seeing one of the posters and thinking about the Pickton farm.

Police searching the farm have recovered human remains and alleged evidence of a serial murderer at work for several years.

Leng said he gave the tape to police in 1998, and since then 22 women have disappeared, including the six women Willie Pickton is alleged to have murdered. A total of 54 women are missing.

Pickton, 50, is charged with the murders of Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson, Jacquilene McDonell, Heather Bottomley, Diane Rock and Andrea Joesbury.

Ernie Crey, whose sister disappeared in late 2000 or early 2001, said he was shocked at the specific information in the tape.

"If [police] had been doing a thorough investigation, they could not have failed to understand what the tape was telling them, or find the person referred to in the tape," said Crey.

"It hits me like a sledgehammer… something went deeply wrong in the Vancouver Police Department and we need to get to the bottom of it."

Deborah Jardine's daughter Angela disappeared in November 1998, about four months after police heard the tape.

Jardine, of Sparwood, is demanding a public inquiry.

Vancouver Det. Scott Driemel yesterday refused to answer questions about the missing women.

"We'll not answer those sorts of questions in between the briefings," he said.

sfournier@pacpress.southam.ca © Copyright 2002 The Province


Body parts found in freezer at B.C. pig farm: report

Saskatoon StarPhoenix, June 5, 2002

VANCOUVER (CP) -- The families of at least 50 women missing from Vancouver's gritty downtown east side were in shock Tuesday after news reports that at least one head, along with the feet and hands of two women, were found in a freezer at a pig farm.

"It was shocking," said Ernie Crey, who watched a television report Monday night about the grisly discovery at the 4.5-hectare property in suburban Port Coquitlam.

"It was like someone sort of hit me in the stomach," said Crey, whose sister Dawn disappeared in November 2000.

"I can only imagine how some of the other families are feeling about this at this point in time, especially those families who've already been told that their child, or their family member met their end out at the Pickton farm."

Robert Pickton, 52, co-owner of the property, is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of seven of the women who have disappeared since 1983. Thirty-nine haven't been seen since March 1995.

Crey and other relatives were taken aback by the TV report. Police normally update them about developments before they're made public in what has become a mammoth investigation involving 80 officers in the joint Vancouver police-RCMP task force.

"It was a cruel disclosure," he said of the television report.

"I can understand why all the families would be very upset. I know that I am and my entire family are just troubled by it."

RCMP Const. Catherine Galliford refused Tuesday to say what police had discovered at the site that investigators, forensic and archeological experts are scouring for evidence.

Galliford would not say anything about the TV report that said police had found the women's body parts several months ago in a freezer recovered from the farm where an intense search for clues began in February.

"We're not making any confirmation and we're not making any denial based on the fact that not only do we have an ongoing investigation but we've also got an accused before the courts, so we're not going to make any comment whatsoever," she said.

Galliford also would not say whether the task force is conducting an internal investigation to find out whether information in the report was leaked by a police officer.

"Certainly we wouldn't make any comment with regard to whether or not there is an ongoing investigation into that," she said.

Crey said he assumed police would soon meet with family members to discuss relatives' concerns but Galliford said there were no plans for any such meeting.

A news conference won't be scheduled until some other information worthy of releasing comes to light, Galliford added.

Sandra Gagnon, whose sister Janet Henry is also on the list of missing women, said news of the body parts has made her wonder about what she may hear from police.

"It's gruesome," she said. "I just feel kind of numb and sick."

Gagnon said police have already collected DNA samples from her but called Tuesday morning asking for samples from other family members.

"I don't know why they're wanting more now from the whole family," she said. "I wonder if they're close to finding Janet."

Pat Devries, whose daughter Sarah hasn't been seen since April 13, 1998, said police contacted her Tuesday to say news reports about the body parts did not contain information released by the task force.

"They phoned me to tell me that it had been leaked," Devries said from Guelph, Ont. "I don't care," she said. "She's been gone for four years and I am concentrating on living, not on ghoulish dwelling on such things."

This page was created April 27, 2002 - reformatted October 2011