Timeline: Problems Prior To Pickton's Arrest


Presented Here By

Bonnie M. Wells

The following is a timeline of the significant problems that arose in the Pickton investigation, taken from an early draft of the Vancouver Police Department's internal review. The report ultimately suggests Pickton could have been arrested years earlier, and the deaths of more than a dozen women prevented.

Summer 1998:

With the concept that women were going missing from the Downtown Eastside gaining currency, the Vancouver Police Department got two tips that Robert Pickton was responsible for the killing of a sex-trade worker at his Coquitlam, B.C., farm. A detective contacted a Coquitlam RCMP officer familiar with the suspect from another violent case and they talked. Around the same time, police formed a working group to examine the missing-women issue, to see if a serial killer was involved.

September 1998:

The working group met twice. There were "strenuous" arguments about how to approach the issue. Personality conflicts led to it being disbanded. Pickton was put under RCMP surveillance for several days, but there was nothing suspicious.

February 1999:

VPD and RCMP investigators met regarding Pickton. The provincial unsolved-homicide unit declined at first to get involved because of lack of evidence. His picture was shown to 130 sex-trade workers, but none acknowledged him, likely because he was a "good date" who supplied money and drugs. Senior officers publicly downplayed the idea of a serial killer.

May 1999:

A "Missing Women Review Team" not a task force was formed with a handful of staff. "Vancouver Police Department management suspected it was faced with a significant problem, but for a variety of reasons, was not yet able to acknowledge the problem as a matter of serial crime."

June 1999:

The review team's resources were condemned by one member as inadequate. Need for more help was "absolutely essential," but none was provided. An officer began lobbying for a joint-forces operation with the RCMP, but was initially unsuccessful.

July 1999:

Another informant told police that he had heard a woman tell a grotesque story about watching Pickton murder a woman at the farm. Interest in him quickened. But investigators disagreed over the credibility of one of the sources. The driving force within the RCMP was then promoted. The theory that the story was bogus prevailed and "the investigation was effectively derailed."

September 1999:

Another look was taken at Pickton. An RCMP officer asked to talk to him "but was persuaded to wait for rainy weather when he had less work." No further effort was made until January 2000.

January 2000:

Pickton was interviewed by RCMP constables, who allowed a woman friend of his to be present. It was "poorly conducted and unproductive." "The only potentially useful result . . . was that Pickton consented to a search of his property, but this offer was not followed up on by the RCMP."

July 2000:

The lead VPD detective on the case requested a transfer, citing burnout.

August 2000:

The VPD requested that the RCMP review the entire Vancouver police investigation, which involved follow-ups on about 1,200 tips. Because of problems with data management, it took until October to transfer the files.

December 2000:

The detective's transfer request was approved and the "bitter and discouraged" detective left, after submitting a detailed report about the challenges in the case.

January 2001:

The joint-forces operation was finally set up and began reviewing DNA evidence in dozens of historic, unsolved cases involving prostitutes.

August 2001:

Several more missing women were reported. The JFO began to realize their assumption they were dealing with a historical review of a serial killer was incorrect. The killer was still active.

October 2001:

The JFO grew in size, but was hampered by the absence of the former lead VPD detective on the case.

January 2002:

A semi-covert team of a dozen officers began working the Downtown Eastside.

February 2002:

A rookie RCMP constable got a warrant to search for weapons on Pickton's farm, where officers discovered key evidence that led to his arrest. Pickton is eventually charged with the murders of 27 women and convicted on six of those charges. He is serving a life sentence in prison.


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This page was posted: October 2010 by BMW: