(This column was published in the North Shore News on Mar. 6, 2002)


Murder police cared about missing women

By Leo Knight

According to Alfred, Lord Tennyson, as he wrote in "Locksley Hall" in 1842, "In spring, a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love."


Hmmph. Well, I'm long past that. So, these days when the first vestiges of spring appear, my thoughts turn to golf.


And so it was on Sunday.


And a fine day it was. Standing on the seventh tee of Carnoustie Golf Club without a cloud in the sky, a gentle breeze flapping the yellow crime scene tape surrounding the Pickton pig farm, accompanied by the growl of earth-moving machinery searching for body parts.


Not the sort of golf experience I remember from springs past.


But then the whole experience of the Pickton pig farm is not like any other. Not for the police. Not for the media. And certainly not for the families of the victims, who maintain daily vigils outside the Port Coquitlam farm.


With two charges of first-degree murder filed against Robert "Willy" Pickton, I certainly have no desire to venture into any territory which may possibly affect the case. Having said that, there are a few aspects of this case which merit discussion.


Not the least of which is the heat the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) is taking in public for supposedly not taking the case seriously earlier. Now, I have been accused of being a police apologist in the past and generally speaking, I'll wear the accusation willingly. It's far too easy to hurl a criticism without knowing of what it is you speak.


And so it is with the case of the missing women from the Downtown Eastside.


In the 1980s when the first of these women began to go missing, there weren't immediate calls for action. In fact, there wasn't much notice of anything. And I'm talking about the families who are now so desperately seeking closure.


I'm not suggesting the VPD don't deserve a bit of heat on this investigation. But let's try and put it in perspective. Over the course of 10 or so years there were approximately 25 missing, drug-addicted prostitutes from the meanest streets in Vancouver. Roughly two a year. Out of the hundreds of addicts, prostitutes, runaways, ne'er-do-wells and assorted flotsam and jetsam who at any given time inhabit that part of town.


Around about the time that the questions began to be asked if there was some tie between the missing files, VPD homicide detectives became embroiled in the gang war between Bindy Johal's crew and the Dosanjh brothers. Considering, in the case of the women, there were no dead bodies, no crime scenes, no evidence whatsoever, the issues of bullets flying in the streets and innocent neighbours getting killed somehow took a measure of priority.


It has been suggested that the Vancouver police did nothing in this case because they did not consider the missing women important. Anyone who could even consider such a thought knows nothing about what it means to be murder police.


To be murder police means you are the last refuge of justice for someone whose life has been taken from them. To speak and advocate for the dead. For murder police, it matters not how high born the victim, nor how they lived their lives. What matters is to seek the answers which help the dead rest in peace.


And, at the end of the day, it was that single driving factor which caused the missing women case to languish on the back burner as other cases took priority. There were no bodies. There were no crime scenes. There was no evidence. Just a mountain of speculation, supposition and hypotheses.


The decision then became, for those who had to make the call, which case do we put on hold while we chase ghosts? Which murder do we push aside to chase down a whack of theories, suppositions and SWAGs (Silly wild-assed guesses)?


There is not an infinite number of resources within the VPD or any other police force for that matter. Everything is a question of priority. Which squeaky wheel gets the grease?


I'm not saying they couldn't have gotten a leg up on this case earlier. Hindsight is 20/20. But based on the knowledge they had at the time, those responsible for allocating resources had tough decisions to make. And even then, once made, the lengthy process of gathering sufficient information to convince a Supreme Court Justice to affix his John Hancock onto a search warrant had to run its course.


Simply because some tips came to police about the pig farm did not mean they could go to a judge and say, "Oi, we've got this tip about a loner in Port Coquitlam. Give us a warrant to poke around, will you?"


For the murder police, the only question is who did what to whom. And to answer that question, they need a crime scene and they need evidence.


They seem to have something now. Let them do their work. Somehow, there is always time for recriminations from those who haven't a clue about those who are seeking one.


As for me, I'm going to find a different golf course.






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