Unnamed Victims Not Forgotten


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Pickton’s unnamed victims far from forgotten

ROBERT MATAS

Shortly after his arrest in February, 2002, serial killer Robert Pickton bragged to a cellmate that he had intended to kill one more woman, his 50th, and then stop for awhile. He held up five fingers of his right hand and made a zero with his left. “I wanted one more [to] make the big 5-0,” Mr. Pickton said, giggling.

Nine years later, police are confident they have identified 33 of Mr. Pickton’s 49 victims.

But who are the other 16?

There were no names, no bodies, no crime scene. Just the words of a serial killer.

RCMP Inspector Gary Shinkaruk has not forgotten what Mr. Pickton said. “There is no reason at this point that I know of not to believe him,” he said. “When a serial killer tells you he’s killed this many people, I think it is responsible for us to look at that.”

Insp. Shinkaruk is in charge of the Missing Women Task Force, a joint initiative of the RCMP and Vancouver Police Department that started in early 2001.

With a provincial inquiry into the police investigation of Mr. Pickton to begin later this spring, the task force is busy responding to requests for decade-old documents. Six people – of the 50 members of the task force – have been assigned to that job. But at the same time, the task force is pushing ahead vigorously with its search for the missing women, Insp. Shinkaruk said, trying to gather information for the families of victims and identify anyone else involved in the crimes.

“Our investigation has never stopped,” said Sergeant Dan Almas, who joined the task force on Feb. 6, 2002, the day after police first went onto the Pickton pig farm.

After Mr. Pickton was convicted of second-degree murder of six women in December of 2007, the task force continued to prepare for the possibility of a second murder trial in the cases of 20, and possibly more, women. Crown prosecutors decided they would not bring any more murder charges against Mr. Pickton after the Supreme Court of Canada last summer upheld the trial results. The prosecutors had decided that additional murder convictions would make no difference, as he was already serving the maximum sentence of life in prison.

The task force then shifted its focus to those on the official missing-women poster, which features thumbnail photos of each woman and the day she was last seen. After spending around $122-million in the first decade, the task force this year has a budget of about $6-million.

“We are conducting interviews, inquiries and examinations of records,” Sgt. Almas said. Teams of investigators have undertaken full homicide investigations into each of the 31 women on the official poster still unaccounted for, as well as a handful of other missing-women cases. They are trying to figure out if the 16 other women were on the poster.

The task force is also taking a second look at the massive collection of items seized during the raid of Mr. Pickton’s pig farm. With advances in DNA analysis, technicians can extract information from smaller and smaller samples. Police are reassessing their thinking about some key items from the farm as they search for new investigative leads.

The task force has dedicated considerable resources over the past year to reaching out to the families of the missing women. Several weeks before the ruling, task force members met with representatives from the coroner’s office, the prosecution, victims services, parole services and federal corrections, trying to anticipate all the questions that families might have. They compiled binders with evidence in the case.

Once the Supreme Court issued its ruling, eight teams, each with two police officers and a victim services worker, fanned out across the country and into the United States to sit down with families.

Some families wanted more detail, some wanted less. The task force teams responded to queries about issues such as parole for Mr. Pickton and death certificates. They left it up to the coroner to talk about whether human remains, which were minuscule or in some cases non-existent, should be returned or cremated.

Despite the task force’s persistence, Insp. Shinkaruk did not indicate that more arrests are imminent. Mr. Pickton had told his cellmate that, if he was convicted, “about 15 other people are gonna go down.”

Police need evidence, not speculation, Insp. Shinkaruk said. “We do not have evidence that would support laying a charge against any other individual at this time,” he said. Police will recommend criminal charges “if and when we have the evidence.”

Insp. Shinkaruk acknowledged the task force may one day close down, even if no further arrests are made. But the investigation has no deadline.

“We’re going to continue to investigate the missings to the nth degree that is humanly possible,” he said. They will stop, he added, “when there are just no more stones to unturn.”

Article

Not enough For Some


This week’s announcement of the expansion of the B.C. missing women inquiry didn’t resonate with one of the victims’ most outspoken advocates.

The commission, headed by Wally Oppal, was originally intended to conduct a formal hearing into the police handling of the disappearances and murders of the women plucked from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside by serial killer Robert Pickton. That hearing will unfold much like a criminal trial, and could result in findings of wrongdoing.

Oppal, however, asked that his mandate be expanded to include a more informal study portion that would visit this region to hear from those connected to the 18 women who have gone missing along the so-called Highway of Tears, and possibly make policy recommendations based on those submissions.

But Gladys Radek, whose niece, Tamara Chipman, is one of the Highway of Tears victims, said a study is simply not enough.

She said a formal inquiry is justified for the Highway of Tears just as it is for the Downtown Eastside in order to examine the police investigations conducted here in the north.

“I haven’t seen any resolve or cases solved since Tamara’s gone missing. I haven’t seen any answers. And that’s since 2005, and there hasn’t been any movement on any of those 18 victims,” said Radek.

“The underlying message here is: maybe we’re dealing with another serial killer. But in that respect, I think that until you can prove to me there’s only one man that killed all those women up there, there is (actually) 18 killers out there.”

Radek is one of the founders of Walk4Justice, an advocacy group dedicated to raising the profile of missing women cases across Canada. She said her group hired a lawyer to speak on its behalf at the Oppal inquiry in Vancouver, but is worried now that doing so will effectively muzzle the group in public.

Inquiry spokesman Chris Freidmond said the study portion has seven days tentatively scheduled for northern B.C. in the middle of June.

“It will be places like Prince Rupert, Vanderhoof, Terrace, Smithers, those types of communities,” said Freimond, adding he was uncertain if Prince George would make the cut.

The schedule was expected to be finalized after press deadline.

Source

walk4justice site

Another article on the missing women

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