The Tyee

Mounties Privately Slammed Vancouver Police Claims on Pickton Case

VPD made 'inflammatory' and 'incorrect' criticisms of Mounties' serial killer investigation, accuses BC RCMP memo.

Stanley Tromp, 22 Mar 2011,


Protest for awareness of DTES missing women

Missing women's march in Vancouver, Feb. 2010. Photo courtesy of nofutureface from Your BC, The Tyee's photo pool.


Missing women's march in Vancouver, Feb. 2010. Photo courtesy of nofutureface from Your BC, The Tyee's photo pool.

Last fall, the RCMP privately fired back at Vancouver Police Department criticisms that the Mounties had done too little to catch serial killer Robert Pickton.

Pickton, a Port Coquitlam pig farmer, was convicted in 2007 of murdering six women and sentenced to life in prison, though he has been linked to the deaths of as many as 33 women. From Aug. 1999 to his arrest in Feb. 2002, 14 women vanished from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Their DNA was later found at Pickton's farm.

On Aug. 20, 2010, a 400-page review of the case by Vancouver deputy police chief constable Doug LePard was released. The VPD admitted that it made many mistakes, but stressed that it was the "RCMP's failed pre-2002 investigation" in nearby Port Coquitlam that allowed Pickton to continue killing for so long. At that time, the RCMP said it did not agree with some of Deputy LePard's report findings, but would not identify which ones.

However, some detailed reports do appear in a partially censored 20-page RCMP memo dated Sept. 1, 2010, which was obtained by The Tyee under the Access to Information Act. It was written by RCMP superintendent R.T. Nash, officer in charge of the British Columbia "E" Division major crimes section, and sent to the "E" Division deputy criminal operations officer.

"I must state in the strongest of terms that I cannot accept all the findings and conclusions reached by Chief Deputy LePard," wrote Nash, complaining of the report's "inflammatory comments and/or factually incorrect statements requiring a response."

VPD claims not 'accurate': RCMP

One of LePard's key conclusions was that the VPD had passed on all information about Pickton to the RCMP when it received it, because the RCMP had jurisdiction over the investigation pertaining to crimes occurring in Port Coquitlam.

Nash strongly disputed that statement, writing, "For example, page 265 of the report details information that detective constables [Cruz and James] did actually link Pickton to Downtown Eastside sex trade workers yet this information was not passed on to VPD investigators nor the RCMP."

There has been disagreement over whether Pickton's crimes essentially originated in Vancouver or Port Coquitlam, because the VPD has responsibility over the former and the RCMP over the latter. LePard had written that there was no evidence that any of the missing women had been the victim of any crimes in Vancouver related to their disappearance: "What is now known is that Pickton's victim's allegedly willingly visited his property, and were only victimized once there."

Nash countered, "To state that the victims 'allegedly willingly visited' Pickton's property cannot be relied upon to be an accurate statement."

LePard wrote that on April 9, 1999, three VPD officers met with the B.C. attorney general, and one of the officers recalled, "The RCMP didn't want to get involved because they said it wasn't historical, and there was no evidence of a homicide."

Nash retorted: "This is an area in which the recollections of the RCMP members would be diametrically opposed to the opinions expressed here... To also state that there was a 'reluctance to get involved' is a misleading statement."

LePard wrote that the RCMP had "intensely pursued" its investigation until mid-1999, then abandoned it, although it continued to explicitly assert authority over it.

Nash replied, "To contend that that the RCMP asserted authority over the investigation is to admit that the VPD were helpless to take any action in relation to Pickton, even though they suspected that he was responsible for abducting sex trade workers to be later killed at his residence."

Bickering over media profile

LePard wrote that repeated efforts to involve the RCMP in the Missing Women investigation were unsuccessful, but Nash replied, "This is certainly not the recollection of Inspector Doug Henderson" (that is, RCMP Staff Sgt. Doug Henderson of the Provincial Unsolved Homicide Team). Moreover, he added, "There is ample evidence on file to prove that [RCMP] Deputy Commissioner Bass was tremendously supportive."

LePard recalled how an episode of Dateline Special, a popular NBC TV program seen throughout North America, seemed to laud the RCMP at the expense of the VPD, and the RCMP's "failure to correct the misinformation" could be seen as part of an RCMP media strategy. Nash responded, "I find these comments... completely without merit."

LePard wrote that the Provincial Unsolved Homicide Unit was instrumental in derailing the Pickton investigation. Nash objected that the Homicide Unit "never took any decision-making roles. To espouse that they resulted in the derailing of the investigation when they only worked in an assistance capacity is unfair commentary."

'Last thing we want is ugly finger-pointing'

The release of LePard's report prompted the B.C. government to order a public inquiry headed by former judge and attorney general Wally Oppal. The hearings are to begin later this year.

Email correspondence between Deputy LePard and RCMP Deputy Commissioner Gary Bass shows that the two agencies talked in early August of coordinating the release of their reports. (The emails were only published in Jan. 2011, after their release to the media under the FOI law.)

In his email, Bass didn't get into the specifics, but did politely take issue with the VPD report's characterization of the RCMP. LePard thanked Bass in an email for agreeing the case did not get the attention it should have and added that "all we have been looking for" is acknowledgement that Coquitlam RCMP was in charge of the Pickton investigation prior to 2002.

LePard added, "The last thing we want is an ugly finger-pointing public face."

RCMP, VPD respond to Tyee inquiry

In response to a Tyee query about the Nash memo, RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Rob Vermeulen replied: "While we understand that the document has been released through the ATIP process, it would be irresponsible for the RCMP to discuss specific findings and details, as much of the information is subject to review by the upcoming Missing Women Commission of Inquiry scheduled to take place this year.

"The RCMP indicated in Aug. 2010 that a full review of the Vancouver Police Missing Women Investigation Report written by Deputy Chief/Cst. Lepard was underway. Supt. Nash completed a preliminary assessment for the report in early Sept. 2010.
 "The purpose of the memo was to assess the report and provide an overview and comments to senior management. It was intended to be a guide for future discussions. In summary, the author's concerns focused on whether or not the Vancouver Police had fully considered or accessed all relevant information or personnel involved in the areas reviewed in order to draw the conclusions they did in the report.

"The RCMP has indicated in the past and stands by the position that there are mixed opinions about the events, actions and steps taken in the past around the investigation, which is why we welcome an independent review (Missing Women Commission of Inquiry) of all relevant material in hopes of producing an informed and balanced account of what went wrong and of equal importance, what went well.

"No additional reports have been written, as the Province of B.C. announced the Missing Women Commission for Inquiry on Sept. 9, 2010. Our efforts have focused on preparations and disclosure for the upcoming inquiry. The RCMP will participate fully in the inquiry and all of our members and employees who are requested as witnesses will give their evidence under oath during this process."

A Vancouver Police department spokesperson, Constable Lindsey Houghton, would only say: "We wouldn't speak to comments made by other police organizations. As there is an inquiry coming, we would find it disrespectful of the process if we were to comment further in any other venue."

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