Marion Bryce was extremely nervous as she testified at the Pickton inquiry. She mixed up dates and did not remember details. When she finished, she burst into tears.
But she was relieved that she did it. It was the first time she had a chance to say publicly what happened in 2001, when she tried to tell police that her daughter Patricia Johnson had gone missing from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
Her daughter Patricia was among 27 women that Robert Pickton has been accused of killing. However, Mr. Pickton was never tried for her murder. Crown prosecutors dropped the charge after Mr. Pickton was convicted of the second-degree murder of six of the women.
Ms. Bryce told the Missing Women Inquiry on Friday that the last time she spoke to her daughter was on Feb 21, 2001. Ms. Johnson, a mother of two children, was 24 years old at the time.
Ms. Johnson had a drug problem, but she remained in touch with her family on all occasions, including birthdays. However, she did not call on her son’s birthday on March 4.
Ms. Bryce went the next day to the Vancouver police station in the Downtown Eastside to report her missing. She was told at the station to call 911. She recalled that the 911 operator told her that her daughter was partying and she would eventually show up. Ms. Bryce returned to the police station on March 6, 2001 with photos of her daughter.
She was stopped at the front desk and told she could not go to the office of the missing persons unit. She was asked to leave the photos at the front desk, she said, adding that she has not seen the photos since leaving them with police.
Ms. Bryce said she had trouble persuading police that her daughter had gone missing. “They were doing nothing about it. They were not doing their job at all,” she said. “I was not treated fairly at all.”
She later indicated she feels police are now treating her in the same manner as they did in 2001. Years ago, police had showed her photos of jewellery found on the Pickton property. She recognized a ring and bracelet that belonged to Patricia, she told the inquiry.
She would like to have her daughter’s jewellery back, she said later in a brief interview. She is still waiting for police to return them.
A RCMP spokesman confirmed that the jewellery had not been returned. Evidence from the Pickton trial must be kept until after all proceedings, including the Missing Women Inquiry and civil lawsuits, are concluded, Sergeant Rob Vermeulen said in an e-mail.
Tim Dickson, a lawyer representing the Vancouver Police Department at the hearings, told the inquiry that the only document that Vancouver police have about Ms. Johnson going missing was dated May 31, 2001. The report was filed by Ms. Johnson’s sister, the inquiry heard.
Police added a photo of Ms. Johnson to the file in early June and checked welfare, driving records and criminal records, he said. Her photo was shown to women at WISH, a drop-in centre for prostitutes. Many women had recognized her but had not seen her recently, he said.
Over the next few months, Vancouver police checked out several tips related to Ms. Johnson’s whereabouts, including rumours that she was in Montreal, on Mayne Island and in a city sewer. Ms. Bryce said police spoke to her several times but she did not recall details.
The RCMP took over the investigation in November, 2001, Mr. Dickson said. The RCMP, which has not cross-examined any family members who have testified, did not ask Ms. Bryce any questions.
The inquiry adjourned until Jan. 11.