RCMP Deputy Commissioner Gary Bass acknowledged in private e-mails that the Mounties did not pay close enough attention to Robert Pickton in the years before his arrest, although the RCMP has repeatedly refused to comment publicly about the police investigation.
"The current view is that [Mr.]Pickton was a good suspect, among many others, and that there were several meetings . . . where he was not discussed as a key target we all had to get after," deputy commissioner Bass wrote in an e-mail to Vancouver Deputy Chief Constable Doug LePard on Aug. 25.
The RCMP was having difficulty ascribing the mistake to any person involved in the investigation, he wrote. "As they say, hindsight is indeed 20/20. Indeed, much of the language in notes talks about the need to either eliminate or substantiate [Mr.]Pickton's involvement, including from ... probably the person most knowledgeable about him," Deputy Commissioner Gary Bass wrote.
Deputy Chief Constable LePard replied 16 minutes later that he "really appreciate[d]rdquo; the remarks, which he called an acknowledgment of a key finding of the Vancouver Police Department's review of the Pickton investigation that had just been released.
Deputy Chief Constable LePard wrote that all he was looking for was agreement that the Coquitlam RCMP was in charge of the investigation before the arrest and the investigation should have received more attention based on information that was available, but not understood.
He did not blame any particular person, he added. His report identified "a lack of analysis of the available information pointing to Pickton and that resulted in a lack of sufficient attention to it," he wrote. "There is no need to blame any individual for systemic failings."
The correspondence, sent days after the official release of a highly critical report compiled by the Vancouver Police Department, was among a package of e-mails posted online Friday by the force in response to a freedom of information request.
Mr. Pickton was convicted of murdering six women, and police believe he may have been responsible for the death of as many as 49 women. A provincial inquiry has been called to look into the police investigation. Hearings have not yet been scheduled.
Both the VPD and the RCMP reviewed their own investigations into the Pickton murders. The VPD report, prepared by Deputy Chief Constable LePard, concluded that Mr. Pickton could have been caught earlier, citing failings of both Vancouver police and the Coquitlam RCMP in pursuing leads. The report said the RCMP essentially abandoned the hunt for a serial killer in mid-1999.
Vancouver police distributed its report on Aug. 20. The RCMP has said it does not agree with some of the findings, but did not identify which ones.
The e-mail correspondence between Deputy Chief Constable LePard and Deputy Commissioner Gary Bass shows that the two agencies talked in early August of co-ordinating the release of their reports.
Deputy Chief Constable LePard on Aug. 6 wrote to Deputy Commissioner Bass suggesting they could "go forward, hopefully in agreement on key facts and being unified in a position of 'mistakes were made, but this is what we've done/are doing to ensure they don't happen again.' The last thing we want is an ugly finger-pointing public face."
Deputy Chief Constable LePard tried again in September to have a joint statement issued. "We'd love to come out jointly with you now on the 'basics,' but you've indicated you're not ready to say more," Deputy Chief Constable LePard wrote in an e-mail to the RCMP.
"We think we don't need to talk about the # of deck chairs on the Titanic, just agree it went down and there should have been the right # of lifeboats, if I can use that analogy," the Vancouver officer wrote.