The children of four women whose remains were found on Robert Pickton’s property have filed lawsuits against the police and Mr. Pickton himself, demanding compensation for the failed murder investigation and a chance to confront the serial killer in court.
The daughters and sons of Dianne Rock, Sarah de Vries, Cynthia Feliks and Yvonne Boen each filed separate lawsuits Thursday in B.C. Supreme Court, targeting the provincial government on behalf of the RCMP, the City of Vancouver on behalf the city’s police force, a number of police officers, Mr. Pickton and two of his siblings.
The statements of claim allege numerous failures on the part of Vancouver police and the RCMP, including that both forces botched their investigations into dozens of missing sex workers from the Downtown Eastside and failed to warn women in the neighbourhood that a serial killer was likely targeting women in the area. In addition, the statements say the Crown failed to prosecute Mr. Pickton for attempted murder after an attack on a sex worker in 1997, putting other women in danger.
Mr. Pickton was arrested in February, 2002, and eventually convicted of six counts of second-degree murder.
After Mr. Pickton lost his appeals for those convictions, charges related to 20 other women, including Ms. Rock, Ms. de Vries and Ms. Feliks, were stayed by the Crown. Ms. Boen is among six women whose remains or DNA were found on the Pickton property, but for which no charges were ever laid.
Ms. Boen’s and Ms. Feliks’s children allege they were harmed by the insensitive manner in which they were informed of their mothers’ deaths. Ms. Boen’s children say the first they heard of their mother’s death was in news reports. Ms. Feliks’s daughter says at first she was only told police had found her mother’s DNA on the farm, but she didn’t learn until much later that Ms. Feliks’s DNA had been found in packaged meat in a freezer.
The lawsuits also target Mr. Pickton’s brother and sister, David and Linda – David for allegedly lying for his brother during the attempted murder investigation in 1997, and both for allowing the killings to happen on a property they owned together with Robert.
The statements of claim, which contain unproven allegations, borrow heavily from a public inquiry report released last December, which outlined a litany of devastating failures within both the Vancouver police and the RCMP and recommended compensation for the children of Mr. Pickton’s victims.
“The VPD and RCMP owed and breached a duty of care to Yvonne, as a member of the public and as an individual within a group at heightened risk of harm from a serial killer and at heightened risk of harm from Robert Pickton to warn Yvonne of the risk to her safety,” says the statement of claim filed by Ms. Boen’s two sons, Tory and Joel.
“Notwithstanding their knowledge of the risk to sex workers, VPD and RCMP failed to assign adequate or sufficient resources to investigate Robert Pickton or a serial killer or to protect Yvonne or the other missing women.”
The Vancouver police, the City of Vancouver and the RCMP each declined to comment. The Vancouver police and the RCMP have each offered public apologies for their failure to catch Mr. Pickton earlier.
B.C.’s Justice Ministry provided a statement detailing its response to a public inquiry, but did not respond to the lawsuit. A lawyer who represented the Picktons in an unrelated lawsuit involving their property couldn’t be reached.
David Pickton, reached by phone, interrupted a reporter reading the allegations that he lied for his brother.
“What?” Mr. Pickton said. “I don’t know nothing about it, no comment,” he continued, before hanging up.
Jason Gratl, the lawyer representing the family members, said in addition to financial compensation, the case could also provide the families with a chance to force Mr. Pickton to answer for his crimes. Mr. Pickton has repeatedly denied any involvement, despite the mountain of evidence against him.
“Unlike the criminal context, where Pickton has the right to remain silent, in the civil context there is no right to silence, and Robert Pickton will have to answer for his crimes,” Mr. Gratl saidin an interview.
The public inquiry spent months hearing evidence detailing why the police failed to act as women in the Downtown Eastside disappeared in alarming numbers in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Commissioner Wally Oppal released a report last December that made 63 recommendations, including financial compensation for children of the missing women and a “healing fund” for the women’s families.
Mr. Gratl said the provincial government, the City of Vancouver, the RCMP and the Vancouver police have all failed to take any steps to address the issue of compensation.
“The city and the province have allowed Mr. Oppal’s recommendation for compensation for children of the missing women to languish,” said Mr. Gratl.
“The lawsuit aims to provide the city and the province with yet another opportunity to do the right thing and provide these children with a leg up.”
Mr. Pickton was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.