Police could have caught serial killer Robert Pickton up to two years earlier and saved the lives of several women, the Missing Women Inquiry heard Wednesday.
Former Vancouver Police Department detective-inspector Kim Rossmo testified that he believes the Port Coquitlam pig farmer, convicted of killing sex trade workers from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, would have been stopped one or two years sooner than his eventual arrest in February 2002 had reasonable efforts been taken.
That would have happened, he told the inquiry, if senior VPD officers had not rejected his 1998 theory that a serial killer was preying on prostitutes and if more police resources had been poured into solving the surge in disappearances.
“We deployed too little too late,” he told the inquiry, which is headed by former B.C. Attorney General Wally Oppal. “The whole process could have been significantly sped up.”
Rossmo suggested much more effort would have been invested in the missing women if they had vanished from affluent parts of Vancouver and not been poor, mostly drug-addicted sex workers.
Although senior officers rejected Rossmo’s serial killer theory and thwarted his proposal to issue a public warning in 1998 that one might be stalking Downtown Eastside prostitutes, Rossmo said he believed he still had some influence with VPD officers tracking the disappearances.
But he said that ultimately amounted to a “half-hearted” acceptance by the VPD far too late that a serial killer was involved.
The internationally acclaimed geographic profiler had analyzed the pattern of disappearances and concluded a jump from baseline numbers of missing persons in 1995 that climbed dramatically in 1997 and 1998 was unexplainable, unless a serial killer, or perhaps a pair of them, was at work.
The lack of bodies, the fact all victims were women, and they weren’t drawing welfare elsewhere in B.C. were factors that undercut other theories, he said.
Ultimately, police forces spent close to $100 million bringing Pickton to justice.
Rossmo said most of that was consumed by the massive excavation of the Pickton farm in search of bone fragments and other DNA evidence.
He said the pre-arrest phase of the investigation accounted for perhaps three per cent of the total cost, and argued more money should have instead been invested sooner.
Rossmo estimated that with a “serious” effort there was a “good chance” police could have caught Pickton in late 1999, rather than early 2002, when a rookie RCMP officer decided to conduct a search for illegal guns on the Pickton farm, leading to the discovery of items belonging to missing women.
Women who went missing less than two years before Pickton was arrested included Dawn Crey, Andrea Joesbury, Sereena Abotsway Diane Rock and Mona Wilson.
Pickton, who told an undercover officer he killed 49 women, is serving a life sentence after being convicted in 2007 on six counts of second-degree murder. Charges in 20 other cases never went to trial and he was linked to the DNA of still more victims for whom no charges were ever laid.
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