Former Vancouver police officer Kim Rossmo held his ground during aggressive cross-examination at the Pickton inquiry on Thursday, unshaken by a newspaper story and an e-mail that appeared to contradict what he had previously said.
Mr. Rossmo, the first police officer involved in the missing women investigation to testify at the inquiry, has been highly critical of senior managers in the Vancouver police department, saying there was a good chance the missing women case could have been solved in late 1999 if proper resources had been allocated.
Serial killer Robert Pickton was arrested in February, 2002. He was convicted of killing six women, three of them in 2001. He is accused of killing an additional 11 women between December, 1999, and when he was arrested.
Vancouver police formed a working group in 1998 to review reports of prostitutes going missing from the Downtown Eastside and the possibility of foul play. But the group was effectively shut down after Inspector Fred Biddlecombe expressed his opposition at a meeting on Sept. 22, 1998, Mr. Rossmo told the inquiry. “He did not believe there was a serial murder,” Mr. Rossmo testified.
However, Inspector Biddlecombe’s lawyer pointed out on Thursday that a newspaper article dated Sept. 18, 1998, in the Vancouver Sun quoted the inspector as saying he did not rule out the possibility of a serial killer, although police did not have any evidence to suggest it at that point.
“It is not a correct statement,” Mr. Rossmo said. “Based on his actions and what he said at the meeting of 22 of September, I felt he had effectively ruled it out,” he said.
Mr. Rossmo chided David Neave, the lawyer for Insp. Biddlecombe, for believing the report to be true. “It’s a newspaper story. You’re acting as if police departments are always truthful with the media,” he said.
Mr. Rossmo also dismissed as misleading an e-mail send by Insp. Biddlecombe on May 21, 1999, that assigned seven investigators to a missing-women working group to review records and investigate the circumstances of the disappearances of 21 women. The e-mail stated that Mr. Rossmo was to support the group.
Earlier during the hearing, lawyer Judith Hoffman, a Department of Justice lawyer representing the RCMP, raised questions about the effectiveness of a regional police force. Previous reviews of the Pickton case have concluded that the investigation was hampered by the lack of co-ordination between the Vancouver police and the RCMP.
Mr. Rossmo told the inquiry the RCMP were very interested in working with Vancouver police on an investigation into the cases of three women who were murdered in 1995.
The women – Tracy Olajide, Tammy Lee Pipe and Victoria Younker – worked as prostitutes and were picked up in the Downtown Eastside. The bodies of Ms. Olajide and Ms. Pipe were found dumped in a rural area outside Agassiz, B.C., 125 kilometres east of the skid-row neighbourhood. Ms. Younker’s partly decomposed body was found near Mission, B.C., about 70 kilometres east of the Downtown Eastside.
Mr. Rossmo told the inquiry the RCMP and Vancouver police were co-operating on that investigation. “I remember [the RCMP]had a very positive attitude. They were interested in working together [with Vancouver police]” he said.
Ms. Hoffman questioned whether a large regional police force in Metro Vancouver would have made any difference in the investigation of the three women who were killed in 1995. Agassiz and possibly Mission may be too far away to be part of a Metro Vancouver police force.
Mr. Rossmo agreed that interjurisdictional issues may still arise, but would likely be much fewer if the police force boundaries stretched across Metro Vancouver.