Victims’ families at the Pickton inquiry gasped as details of mistakes made in the cremation of Marnie Frey were heard Monday.
Her father, Rick Frey, and stepmother Lynn were told in 2003 that Marnie died on the farm of serial killer Robert Pickton. Investigators had found a piece of Marnie’s right jaw bone and four teeth at the site.
But the family could not claim her remains until 2010, after Mr. Pickton exhausted all appeals of his conviction for the second-degree murder of six women, including Marnie. In testimony on the eighth day of the Missing Women’s Inquiry, Ms. Frey said the family wanted to cremate Marnie’s remains and hold a ceremony in her hometown, Campbell River.
However, the coroner took the remains to a crematorium in the Lower Mainland. With her voice rising, Ms. Frey said she was told the coroner personally pushed the button for the cremation, which was against the family’s wishes.
Sounding increasingly upset, Ms. Frey told the inquiry she took the ashes back to Campbell River.
She saw a few flakes in the box with the urn and decided to take the urn to a funeral home to be resealed. The funeral-home operator opened the urn for her. “I looked inside, which now I wish I never did,” Ms. Frey said. She saw “just chunks that had not been cremated,” she said.
Outside the hearing room, Cynthia Cardinal, sister of another victim of Mr. Pickton, Georgina Papin, was shaken by Ms. Frey’s testimony. “I’m really scared to go there,” she said, referring to her hesitancy in talking about the cremation. “I wonder if [ashes given to families]are really the remains of our loved ones.”
The inquiry was appointed to find out why Mr. Pickton was not arrested before February, 2002. Dozens of women went missing in the years before he was arrested. Although convicted of six murders, Mr. Pickton has said he killed 49 women.
Earlier Monday, Ms. Frey said she told Vancouver Detective Constable Lori Shenher about going to Mr. Pickton’s farm in September, 1998, 3½ years before he was arrested. But during cross examination, the police officer’s lawyer David Crossin said Det. Constable Shenher did not have any record of the call.
Asked if she was mistaken, Ms. Frey said she was not. “I think there is a big cover-up here,” she said, as victims’ families in the public gallery applauded and cheered. Pressed to suggest who was covering up and what they were covering up, Ms. Frey said she did not know. “I’m just a mother who lost her daughter,” she said.
Marnie, a drug-addicted women who worked in prostitution, went missing Aug. 30, 1997. Ms. Frey said she sought police help to find Marnie within a day or two. Police records show the first missing-person report was filed in late 1997, the inquiry was told. Ms. Frey said she felt the Campbell River RCMP detachment did not take the report of her missing daughter seriously.
By November, Ms. Frey said she began searching in the Downtown Eastside for anyone who knew her stepdaughter.
In March, 1998, she met a prostitute who told her that Marnie was dead, probably killed in “that chipper,” Ms. Frey said. She was told “they chop them up and you are never going to find them,” she said. The woman added that the chipper was in a muddy area, by a fast-flowing river about 45 minutes from the Downtown Eastside.
Ms. Frey met others who had a tape recording of an unidentified woman talking about “Willie” who had a chipper and lived on a pig farm. Mr. Pickton, who has the middle name William, was often called Willie.
Her foster sister, Joyce Lachance, knew about a pig farm in Port Coquitlam. They went there but did not see anything. Ms. Frey said she told Det. Constable Shenher about going to the farm and the police officer said she had heard of Mr. Pickton and would look into the report.
Det. Constable Shenher is expected to testify later in the inquiry.