"Some Questions Need To Be Answered":

Says local family member of Pickton's last victim

BY STEFANIA SECCIA, WESTERLY NEWS

Presented Here By

Bonnie M. Wells

What took the Vancouver Police so long to capture Robert Pickton? Why weren't the police more on top of it? What were the Vancouver Police doing during all that time?

These are but some of the questions Ucluelet local Greg Garley wants to see answered in the Pickton inquiry, which was announced earlier this month by B.C. Solicitor General Mike de Jong.

Garley was the foster brother of Mona Wilson, one of the six women Pickton was convicted of murdering and the last one he picked up.

Wilson was on a Langley farm with Garley's family from about the age of 10 until she was 16.

"She was a joy," Garley, who owns Roman's Pizza in Ucluelet, told the Westerly. "She was head strong. Around animals and babies she was absolutely incredible, she would've made the best mother in the world."

The farm in Langley was a large Wonderland-type place with an assortment of animals to chickens, turkeys, ducks and much more, according to Garley.

"You would have to check up on her before she went to bed because she would have three or four chicks in her pocket, she would have a baby rabbit in her dresser drawers," he said. "You had to check on her in the middle of the night and there she'd be, playing with her chicks in her bed. But, that was Mona."

The family was an emergency foster care home for children who came mostly from East Vancouver.

Wilson came to them after she was found bleeding in the hallway by an elderly neighbour because she was physically and sexually abused repeatedly by her mother and mother's boyfriend.

"She was a caring girl, she cared about other things and other people," he said. "It's a shame she started out so horribly abused that we had to have her."

Garley's family was not able to adopt Wilson, despite trying for many years, and at the age of 16 the government sent her off to live on her own.

Her first experience at a home with a teenage boy her age sent her running back to the family in Langley, but after that she was given a government cheque and a place to stay in the Downtown Eastside.

"We got phone calls all the time, that everything was okay," Garley explained. "She was going to get married. Well, it turned out her [boyfriend] was a heroine addict and her pimp."

After two weeks of not hearing from her the family decided to call the police, but then saw in the newspaper that her fianc? had already called when they saw her photo and the fact she was reported missing.

"She was like clockwork with those phone calls," he said. "So we knew something funny was going on."

He said they spoke only a few weeks before she disappeared.

"It was weird and out of character for her not to call us," he added.

Garley said he attended court almost everyday, seated only several rows behind Pickton.

"It was a struggle the whole way as we had to fight to get access to the courtroom because we were a long-term foster family even though we were legally recognized as brothers and sisters, but every step of the way we had to fight for just our normal rights to see the person who took our sister and it was just a shame."

One of the main issues for Garley and what he wants to see come from the inquiry is what the police were doing in all that time from when the first call came in about Pickton to when he was finally arrested.

"It just didn't happen until finally it was overwhelming as to what was going on and the RCMP took over and in a fairly short time [after] the RCMP took over they had him," he said. "So what were the Vancouver Police doing? That's where I'd like to see the inquiry go. What were the Vancouver Police doing during all this time?"

"Some questions need to be answered."

He said, in his opinion, no real action happened on the case until the RCMP took over.

"When the RCMP took up the investigation there were dramatic improvements, fortunately. They started coordinating things and sharing things, but when the Vancouver Police had the file they just did not seem to care," he said.

He said news reporters got to him before the police could, and showed up on his doorstep asking questions about his foster sister being connected to Pickton.

"It's bad enough to have this happen to your sister, it was bad enough that the reporters got to tell us about it before the police could," he said. "We woke up and opened my door and there must've been 20 or 30 cameras and reporters outside my house: 'Oh you know they found your sister with her head cut off, did you know she was a drug addict?'"

Garley described that when the police cleared the reporters off his driveway to answer their questions, all he could think was, "Why weren't the police more on top of this?"

He said his family was not aware of her lifestyle at the time.

"We didn't know about that, but if we did we would've put her into rehab immediately, she was on a waiting list," he said.

When her boyfriend reported her missing and stated that he saw Pickton pick her up, and the police were also surveilling the scene and witnessed her being picked up by Pickton and another man, Garley asks why did it take police so long to go out to the farm?

"Why did it take another month?" he asked. "And who was the other fellow?"

"There are so many other people who are nameless and faceless that were never charged and yet that farm was the scene for huge raves.... Why did nobody know this? Where are the people responsible? So many things were missed along the way."

The system also failed them, according to Garley, and made it easier for predators to prey on those most vulnerable --like in the Downtown Eastside.

"These were all our mothers and sisters, our aunts," he said. "There were people that fell through the cracks.... Mona had brothers and sisters. These people were loved even though they had a different lifestyle."

Garley has named his corporation after Wilson's First Nation's name, running bear.

"I named my corporation Running Bear Restaurants Ltd. to honour her and produce a good memory for our family so that as we go by years from now and I have grandchildren running the restaurants, Mona's name is part of our lives forever now so we don't have to necessarily remember Pickton as part of that."

A large mural can be seen in his restaurant, including a picture of a bear running along a Ucluelet beach.

Although it might be a long time before any answers come forward, or if the answers he wants will ever materialize, Garley said he can wait.

"I think the inquiry will serve a purpose to answer questions we all have, the families have, these lingering questions.... We can't change what happened but we can do better next time," he said.

For Garley, he'll always remember Wilson as a sister, a joy to be around and a fighter.

"I know Mona," he said. "We know she probably fought like a demon to the end."

"She never gave up anything at any time. She'd argue about anything with you. She wasn't a quitter or a weakling. I still have great, proud memories of her."

reporter@westerlynews.ca

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