The first officer in charge of investigating Vancouver’s missing women says she wrote a book about the investigation because she was terrified she would be the scapegoat in the botched Robert Pickton investigation.
On Wednesday, Detective Constable Lori Shenher told the inquiry looking into the investigation of the serial killer that she wanted to write her story the way she remembered it and with her view on what she thought were police missteps.
“At the time that the search began of Mr. Pickton's property, I was quite frankly terrified that I was going to be made a scapegoat in this, whatever information was going to come out about our activities with respect to Mr. Pickton.”
Det. Constable Shenher, who said she identifies herself more as a writer than a police officer, testified she didn't think blaming her for the mistakes would be fair.
“Part of it was cathartic, part of it was I wanted to get it down and write it down the way I remembered it in its entirety and with my view at the time of what I thought were our failings, including my own.”
When some of the family members of Mr. Pickton's victims learned of the book in 2003, they complained of being betrayed, but the book was never published.
Under questioning from lawyer Cameron Ward, who represents several families of Mr. Pickton's victims, Det. Constable Shenher said her team wasn't being supported by senior officials at the Vancouver Police Department at the time of Mr. Pickton's arrest.
In an interview with the officer looking into the Pickton investigation two years after he was arrested, she said the Vancouver Police Department didn't know what it was doing at the time. Not only was there a lack of leadership, she testified, there was no acknowledgment from senior brass that this was a major tragedy.
When police first started searching Mr. Pickton's farm, Det. Constable Shenher testified that there was information coming out from the RCMP media section that Vancouver police had essentially failed and ruined the investigation.
“I felt the silence coming from the VPD on that issue was very upsetting for me and my colleagues,” she said, adding that the RCMP had also been well aware of Mr. Pickton and his activities at the same time.
In the same police interview, Det. Constable Shenher said she was disillusioned, burned out and wanted to get as far away as she could from the file.
Mr. Ward wondered why she would want to write a book about the investigation given those feelings.
“I wanted to write my story,” she said. “And as I said, I was terrified I was going to wear that because I didn't feel that was fair or right.”
Det. Constable Shenher testified she also worked as a technical adviser on the television series Da Vinci's Inquest, which had a recurring theme of the missing women's case. She wrote one script for the show, she said.
The line of questioning later prompted a rebuke from Commissioner Wally Oppal about sticking to the information that concerns the inquiry. “I can tell you that I don't learn a lot when I have to hear about her career at the Da Vinci's Inquest,” Mr. Oppal said.
Mr. Ward reminded Det. Constable Shenher of her testimony Tuesday where she urged the commissioner to ensure that the Vancouver Police Department made room for officers like her.
“What did you mean?” he asked.
“I think for people who still have some humanity,” she replied.
She said in policing, some officers have put up a self-protective wall that gets in the way sometimes when engaging in the community. “I think it creates sometimes an us-and-them mentality, between us and the people we serve.”
Det. Constable Shenher also testified about information she was given by an informant who told her in July, 1998, that a woman had told him there were bags of bloody clothing and women's identification on the farm.
Darrell Roberts, the lawyer representing the mother of one of Mr. Pickton's victims, wondered if Shenher talked to her superiors about getting a warrant to search the farm.
“It was indicated to me by more experienced members that I just didn't have the grounds,” she answered.
“Did you know you could get a search warrant even though it's based on hearsay?” Mr. Roberts asked.
“I did not know that,” she replied.
Mr. Pickton was convicted of murdering six women, although he was charged with killing 26 and the DNA of 33 women was found on his farm.
More than a dozen women disappeared between 1999 and the time Pickton was arrested in February, 2002. The DNA of 11 of those women was found on the Pickton farm.