Hours after the release of an internal police report detailing the botched hunt for serial killer Robert Pickton, acting British Columbia solicitor-general Rich Coleman promised the provincial government will launch a public review of the police investigation.
The cabinet is expected to meet Sept. 8 to decide what form that will take, but it would likely be either a public inquiry or a judicial review, Mr. Coleman said.
"We will do something with regard to Pickton that is open to the public," Mr. Coleman said Friday in an interview. "It has to be able to have people give input into the investigation. It has to be something that is not hidden away. It will be transparent."
Mr. Coleman responded after the release of a 405-page Vancouver Police Department report that outlined a series of missteps that resulted in Mr. Pickton remaining free to lure women - many of them who were addicted to drugs and worked as prostitutes - from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside to his farm in suburban Port Coquitlam long after police had information that could have resulted in his arrest.
"The impact of the failed 1999 investigation into Pickton was enormous, given the tragedy that could potentially have been averted," says the report, which was completed in 2005 but has remained under wraps as Mr. Pickton went through a trial and a failed appeal. "After August 1999, 13 more sex trade workers went missing, and DNA and other evidence links 11 of these 13 women to the Pickton property."
Mr. Pickton was arrested in 2002 and was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder in 2007. He is serving a life sentence. He is believed to have killed as many as 49 women.
The report, by Deputy Chief Constable Doug LePard, details how police began looking for disappearing sex-trade workers in 1998 and how information was gathered, shared and sometimes ignored. He wrote the report after repeated complaints that leads weren't being followed and police hadn't devoted enough resources into investigating reports of missing women.
The report cites failings by both the Vancouver Police Department and the Coquitlam RCMP, but zeroes in on the RCMP, which the report accuses of essentially abandoning the hunt for Mr. Pickton in mid-1999.
Supt. Russ Nash on Friday said the RCMP received the VPD report on Aug. 7 and has assigned two members to review the report, adding that it would be would be "premature and inappropriate" to comment on the details before the review is complete.
One of the other major failings outlined in the report is the failure of police management to commit to the theory that a serial killer was at work, despite compelling evidence. "There was a mindset among several police managers that physical evidence (i.e. a body) was required to being a murder investigation," the report states.
Mr. Pickton's trial revealed that he would dispose of women's bodies on his farm.
The VPD had planned to release the report in September, but advanced that date after a copy was leaked to the media. Deputy Chief LePard said Friday police would be investigating the source of the leak.
The report underlines the need for a public inquiry, New Democratic Party public safety critic Mike Farnworth said. "It just confirms there should be a public inquiry."
An inquiry could focus on shortcomings, such as communication and technology gaps, that dogged the Pickton case, he added.
Robert Pickton was arrested in February, 2002. The Crown originally indicted Mr. Pickton on 26 murder charges, but those were subsequently divided into two groups of six and 20. He was convicted on six counts of second-degree murder in 2007. After the Supreme Court of Canada in July rejected Mr. Pickton's appeal for a new trial, 20 other charges were stayed.
With a report from Rebecca Lindell
Read the full page report. Please note it contains graphic descriptions of violence.
The report as well as statements from Deputy Chief LePard, Chief Jim Chu and former lead investigator Det/Const. Lori Shenher are available here