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Sunday, May 27, 2012

CANADA - Missing Women Inquiry: organized crime, not murdered women the focus for police

VANCOUVER - Police didn't mention an investigation of the Hells Angels on the same property where the remains of 33 women were found because they didn't want to be accused of bungling their job, the missing women inquiry has heard.
Cameron Ward, the lawyer for two dozen family members of the murdered and missing women, made the allegations Wednesday, while questioning Vancouver Deputy Chief Const. Doug LePard about other police investigations into the notorious pig farm in Port Coquitlam, B.C.
The inquiry has already heard that a property separate from the Pickton family's farm, called Piggy's Palace, was well known as a partying place for members of the biker gxxg.
"You deliberately did not mentioned the Hells Angels by name to avoid the difficult questions that would surly ensue that the families and members of the public might have," Ward asked LePard.
"How in the world, if the Hells Angels were active on the Pickton properties and they were being monitored, (did) the police miss it?"
LePard - who wrote a report on the missing women's investigation concluding police made many mistakes - denied he excluded any evidence about police investigations into the Hells Angels on the Pickton properties.
"It's not a grand conspiracy," he replied, adding the assertion was completely false.
Earlier in the day, the inquiry heard police were paying careful attention to what was happening on the Pickton properties in the years leading up to the arrest of Robert Pickton for the murders of 26 women.
During that time, the name of Pickton's brother, David, had been queried 107 times on the Canadian Police Information Centre. Police investigators from all over the Lower Mainland were looking for a criminal background.
One search of Dave Pickton's record came in January 2002, just weeks before police raided the farm and discovered gruesome evidence his brother had murdered many women there.
Gary Bass, the former RCMP deputy commissioner in B.C., agreed during testimony that several police operations were targeting the motorcycle gxxg in the Lower Mainland during that time.
Ward suggested the women were taken to parties at Piggy's Palace, given drugs and later killed on the Pickton farm.
"The RCMP's organized crime agency was simultaneously conducting intelligence operations on the Hells Angels members and the associates who were frequenting the area. Does that sound accurate?" Ward asked.
"I've never seen any reports or had any briefings that indicated something like that was happening," Bass replied.
But the records created by the many RCMP agencies investigating the gxxg haven't been made available, Ward said.
Bass agreed that would be the way to confirm the claim.
"I suggest none of those records that may have indicated what was happening in that neighbourhood of Port Coquitlam ... have been produced to this inquiry have they?" Ward asked.
"I'm not aware of any," Bass replied.
"The RCMP was ... focused on addressing that organization's trafficking of illegal narcotics and trying to stop it wasn't it?"
"The Hells Angels have been in the sights of police for many, many years," Bass testified.
The inquiry is looking into the actions of police and the Crown prosecutors between 1997, when Pickton was accused of attempting to murder a sex trade worker, and when he was arrested in February 2002.
Many women, most of them sex-trade workers, disappeared from Vancouver's impoverished Downtown Eastside during that period.
Pickton was convicted of killing six women from the area, but confessed to an undercover officer that he killed 49 women.
Bass also told the inquiry that it was obvious more should have been done to find Vancouver's missing women, but the Mounties weren't asked to get involved in the investigation by Vancouver police.
"It wasn't my responsibility," he said.
The RCMP major crimes section was providing some help to the missing women's investigation in 1998, but wasn't in charge of it, he testified.
Vancouver police still believed the women had simply gone missing on their own, even though RCMP thought foul play was involved as far back as 1995, Bass said.
When the major crime section was finally asked to review the missing women's case in 2000, Vancouver police didn't have their files ready and the investigation was delayed for another six months.
Bass told the inquiry that the RCMP believed there were three serial killers operating in the province at the time - in Vancouver, the Fraser Valley and in northern B.C.
Police decided to focus on the valley murders because they had DNA exhibits, he said.
"Ironically, they still have not been solved," Bass added.
In 1999, police records indicated there were at least 45 unsolved prostitute murders in the province.
Pickton was arrested in 2002 and eventually convicted of six counts of second degree murder, though the remains or DNA of 33 women were found on his property in Port Coquitlam.
He once told an undercover officer that he killed 49.