The Pickton inquiry had its first glimpse of the bitter confrontation ahead over how the Vancouver Police Department responded to reports of women vanishing from the Downtown Eastside.
Frantic appeals to police to look for missing prostitute Tiffany Drew on the day after she disappeared in 1999 were ignored, Elaine Allan told the Missing Women’s Inquiry on Tuesday. Ms. Allan worked at a prostitutes’ drop-in centre called WISH from 1998 to 2001.
Dave Dickson, a Vancouver police constable who regularly stopped by WISH, initially said Ms Drew was probably with a client and would eventually surface, Ms. Allan testified.
Three months passed without anyone hearing from Ms. Drew. Pressed repeatedly to look for the woman, Constable Dickson, according to Ms. Allan, said Ms. Drew was trying to break her drug addiction and did not want any contact with her friends in the Downtown Eastside. Ms. Allan testified that the officer told this to her and a close friend of Ms. Drew who first raised concerns about the woman’s disappearance.
Constable Dickson said Ms. Drew felt contact with her friends in the Downtown Eastside would trigger a relapse, Ms. Allan said.
However, in cross-examination, Sean Hern, a lawyer for the VPD, indicated that Constable Dickson would provide a starkly different version of events when he testifies later in the hearing.
Mr. Hern pressed Ms. Allan on whether her conversation with Constable Dickson had ever taken place.
Mr. Dickson is expected to testify that he could not have made the comments attributed to him by Ms. Allan because, in 1999, he did not know who Ms. Drew was, Mr. Hern said. Constable Dickson is expected to say the first time he heard of Ms. Drew was in 2001, when Ms. Drew’s sister spoke to him.
Mr. Hern asked Ms. Allan whether she could have been mistaken about the date of her conversation with Constable Dickson.
She said she did not have any notes of her conversations with the officer but her recollection was that she spoke to him about Ms. Drew in 1999. She was certain it was not in 2000.
Ms. Allan said she did not talk to any other police officer about Ms. Drew. Also, she did not fill out an official missing-person report.
She thought she was telling the police about a missing person when she spoke to Constable Dickson about Ms. Drew, she said.
It is common practice, the inquiry was told, that police check whether someone is missing by seeing if welfare cheques are picked up. Constable Dickson’s notes indicate that Ms. Drew’s last contact with the welfare office was Aug. 20, 1999, Cameron Ward, the lawyer representing Ms. Drew’s family, told the inquiry.
However, the notes also show that Constable Dickson did not check Ms. Drew’s welfare records until Jan. 24, 2002. Also, Constable Dickson did not have any notes of conversations with Ms. Allan, Mr. Ward said.
Asked if she was sure that she had spoken to Constable Dickson for the first time about Ms. Drew in late 1999, Ms. Allan said, “yes, I’m sure.”
Police now believe Ms. Drew was killed by Mr. Pickton. An exhaustive investigation of Mr. Pickton’s pig farm after he was arrested in 2002 turned up Ms. Drew’s DNA on a syringe filled with windshield-wiper fluid. The prosecution decided not to pursue a first-degree murder charge after Mr. Pickton received a life sentence in 2007 for killing six other women.
Ms. Allan’s testimony was the first time since hearings began on Oct. 11 that the inquiry has heard about the police response to a specific case of a woman allegedly killed by Mr. Pickton.
Ms. Allan told the inquiry she knew, from working at WISH, 16 of the 33 women that police allege were killed by Mr. Pickton. She said many of the individuals often talked about women disappearing. Ms. Drew was the only missing woman about which she spoke to police, she said.
She was not aware that the VPD in 1999 had a missing women’s review team, Ms. Allan said. Constable Dickson was a member of the team from May 25, 1999 to June 1, 2000.