The missing women inquiry has lifted the veil of secrecy over the name of one of the officers who has been criticized for his role in the investigation of serial killer Robert Pickton.
Commissioner Wally Oppal announced this week that Constable Doug Fell will have standing at the inquiry. Mr. Oppal said he wanted to hear about Constable Fell’s involvement in the investigation.
“Additionally, Constable Fell was subject to adverse comments in the LePard report,” Mr. Oppal said, referring to the Vancouver Police Department report into the Pickton investigation by Deputy Chief Constable Doug LePard.
However, Constable Fell is not mentioned in the publicly available report.
“His name … was redacted and I am not sure to what extent I am allowed to talk about the redaction,” Constable Fell’s lawyer Kevin Woodall said in an interview.
Mr. Woodall was recently retained to represent Constable Fell at the inquiry. Most police officers are represented by another lawyer, David Crossin. “I represent [Constable Fell]separately from the others because there are areas in the evidence where his view of what occurs and the views of other officers are different,” Mr. Woodall said.
Vancouver police declined to comment on the release of redacted information or provide the uncensored report.
The Public Inquiry Act may authorize the inquiry to release information withheld by police, says an e-mail from the police to The Globe and Mail. But the inquiry act “neither authorizes nor requires” police to release information to the public, the statement says. “We will not release any additional information at this time. As the Inquiry is underway, we won't have anyone available for interview,” the statement says.
Chris Freimond, spokesman for the inquiry, referred questions about Constable Fell to Mr. Woodall.
Constable Fell joined a team of Vancouver police officers investigating the disappearance of women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in July, 1999, according to a media report at that time.
The LePard report states that 13 sex trade workers went missing from August, 1999 to the time Mr. Pickton was arrested in February, 2002. Evidence connected 11 of these women to the Pickton property. Mr. Pickton was convicted in December, 2007 of second-degree murder of six women, and the government decided not to pursue murder charges against Mr. Pickton related to the death of 27 more women.
The LePard report concluded that VPD’s senior managers should have recognized earlier that a serial killer was preying on prostitutes in the Downtown Eastside.
The Vancouver police took extraordinary steps in the summer of 2010 to keep some names confidential after a draft of the LePard report had been leaked to some media outlets. A news conference to release a redacted report was held weeks earlier than planned.
The LePard report lists the names of 21 police officers and a clerk who were interviewed for the report. The dates for interviews with three more people were also listed, but the names were not included in the publicly available report. Constable Fell’s name is absent from the detailed account of the police investigation from 1997 to 2002.
Mr. Oppal was appointed in October, 2010, to review the police investigation leading up to the arrest of Mr. Pickton. As a full participant with standing at the inquiry hearings, Constable Fell can take part in all phases of the hearings, cross-examining witnesses, reviewing internal documents and making submissions.