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Missing Women inquiry commissioner upset over report leaked to media

Posted by on 23/04/2019

VANCOUVER – Missing Women inquiry Commissioner Wally Oppal said he was upset over an “ethical lapse” that led to a report being leaked to the media.

“I find it reprehensible,” Oppal said as the inquiry resumed Monday after a one-week break.

“I find it upsetting and I’m disappointed,” he said of the report being leaked Friday to a television outlet, which passed it along to Toronto-based newspaper.

The leaked 580-page report by Peel Regional Police Deputy Chief Jennifer Evans is expected to be made public today at the inquiry.

The inquiry asked Evans to provide an expert opinion and analysis of what went wrong with the Vancouver police and RCMP investigations of serial killer Robert Pickton.

The Evans report was filed today as an exhibit for identification only, meaning it won’t be made public at the moment, because of an objection by lawyer Cameron Ward.

Ward, who is representing 20 families of Missing Women, objected because he wants to challenge Evans being tendered as an expert witness.

Evans is not expected to testify at the inquiry until January.

The inquiry is probing why it took so long to catch Pickton, who was arrested in 2002 and was eventually charged with 27 counts of first-degree murder.

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Commission counsel Art Vertlieb told the inquiry that the lawyers representing inquiry participants signed legal undertakings not to disclose or copy documents until they are publicly released at the inquiry.

“This appears to be a serious breach of an undertaking,” Vertlieb said.

“It’s a breakdown of trust,” he added. “It’s an embarrassment to the process.”

After the morning break, Vertlien told Oppal that he met with reporters from the Vancouver Sun, Province and Canadian Press to discuss the reasons for not releasing the report.

Vertlieb said the reporters were concerned that there wasn’t a level playing field because some media have the report and others do not.

He asked Oppal if he would reconsider making the report public.

Oppal said he wanted Ward to make a submission at 2 p.m. about his objection to the report being made an exhibit.

“I wouldn’t have any objection to the members of the media getting it,” Ward told Oppal.

The lawyer said he objected to the report because it was unnecessary and it was done by a police insider who is not independent of police.

Vancouver Police Deputy Chief Doug LePard has taken the stand for his fourth day of testimony.

The inquiry took a one week- break to allow counsel to read the Evans report before lawyers begin their cross-examination of LePard.

LePard did an internal review of the police failures in the Pickton investigations by the VPD and the RCMP.

He issued an apology to the families of Pickton’s victims, saying the police should have done a better job.

The inquiry has already heard testimony of families of Pickton victims, who said police didn’t take the reports of missing women seriously enough.

LePard testified that police initially believed that the women had gone missing were historical “so it didn’t raise the level of urgency that it ought to.”

It didn’t become apparent until mid 2001 that an active serial killer was preying on women working as street prostitutes in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

Vancouver police received tips about Pickton in 1998 and he was the VPD’s prime suspect.

Pickton had attacked a woman with a knife on his Port Coquitlam farm in 1997 and the woman had escaped naked and bleeding to the street. She flagged down a passing car, who took her to hospital.

Three informants told Vancouver police about Lynn Ellingsen witnessing Pickton butchering a woman in his barn one night, but the RCMP interviewed Ellingsen, who denied she had seen anything.

She later admitted she was blackmailing Pickton to keep quiet.

Pickton had offered money to a person to lure Ellingsen to Pickton’s farm, so she could be killed.

Pickton was finally arrested in February 2002 after a junior Mountie executed a search warrrant on Pickton’s farm to look for illegal weapons.

After officers found identification of some of the missing women, it turned into a homicide investigation and the search of the farm continued for 18 months.

Pickton’s murder charges were divided into two trials.

A jury at his first trial in 2007 convicted Pickton of killing six women who disappeared from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

After Pickton exhausted all his appeals, the Crown decided not to proceed with a second trial involving another 20 murders, which outraged the families of the victims.

Pickton confessed to a jail cell mate – an undercover officer posing as a criminal – that he killed 49 women and planned to kill dozens more.

A First Nations group of about a dozen people have formed a circle of drummers and singers at the intersection of Georgia and Granville, blocking traffic.

The drumming can be heard inside the inquiry.

A large number of the missing women were first nations.


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