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Forsaken: The Report of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry - Executive Summary

Forsaken: The Report of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry - Executive Summary

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Published by Paisley Rae
2012 Missing Women Commission of Inquiry Executive Summary
2012 Missing Women Commission of Inquiry Executive Summary

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Published by: Paisley Rae on Dec 18, 2012
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01/31/2014

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Typically, police did not conduct rigorous follow-up investigations. Rather,
investigations were limited and mainly consisted of what could be done
by computer or telephone. Similar to the initial investigation phase,
police made extensive use of databases but only infrequently interviewed
witnesses or canvassed buildings or neighbourhoods where the women
had resided.

Timeliness is equally as important with follow-up investigations as it is with
the initial response. Evidence is easiest to access and confrm when it is
fresh.

Both the VPD and RCMP made good use of record checks. In most respects,
the police forces were diligent in obtaining dental and DNA samples.

Unexplained gaps in investigation

I have concluded that in some cases there were unexplained gaps in
the investigations that lasted for long periods of time, in some instances
extending many years.

Interviews with family, friends and associates

In the majority of cases, only a few interviews were conducted. In most
cases, all identifed family members, friends and associates were not
interviewed. When the police interviewed persons beyond the initial
family member or reportee, the interviews were often many months and, in
some cases, years after the missing person report had been made. In some
cases, no interviews were conducted and therefore the police neglected
very important sources of information about the women’s disappearances.

While the RCMP is critical of the VPD in this regard, it is not clear to me
that the RCMP itself consistently took these steps in its investigations of the
missing women. That said, within the missing women investigations, there
are examples, which I outline in Volume II, Part 3, of the police quickly
identifying family members, friends and associates, and following up with
them.

In many investigations, the police received tips identifying suspects or
persons of interest but did limited follow-up. Police sometimes interviewed
suspects or persons of interest, but rarely interviewed them more than once
or employed polygraphs. I conclude that in the vast majority of cases, the
police did not investigate tips to conclusion. While this is clearly true of

49

Executive Summary

Robert Pickton, it is equally true of the many other persons of interest, many
of whom had histories of violence identifed in the missing women fles.

Posters and other media

The community is an important source of information about a missing
person, especially in circumstances where foul play cannot be ruled out
but where there is no crime scene. Police can access these community
resources by preparing and distributing missing person posters, the strategic
use of media, and by directly tapping into community networks. There was
an inconsistent approach to using posters and other media to generate
information and leads about the whereabouts of the missing women.

Use of community resources

Other than distributing missing persons posters, the police rarely used
resources in the DTES prior to 2001. Specifcally, police rarely canvassed
service agencies in the DTES or spoke to employees or residents of the last
known residences of missing women. Typically, any communication with
DTES agencies arose from an agency providing a tip as a result of a missing
person poster or contact through a missing woman’s family. The failure to
more fully employ community resources in the investigations was one of
the critical errors in the missing women investigations.

Records and off-line CPIC searches

During follow-up investigations, the police rechecked databases initially
searched and searched additional databases. In most cases, the police
searched a wide variety of sources, for example, welfare, Ministry of Children
and Family, MSP and BC Medical, Vital Stats, Coroners’ databases, ViCLAS,
CNI, RMS and NCIC. The police also generally requested off-line CPIC
queries for each missing woman. Typically, any information revealed in
these searches was followed up with the appropriate agency. For example,
police co-ordinated with other agencies or coroners to determine whether
found human remains matched a given missing woman.

However, it should be noted that sometimes these searches were not
conducted for a considerable amount of time after the woman was reported
missing. In addition, there was a lack of consistency in the investigative
avenues and enquiries utilized to locate the missing women.

Investigators faced challenges in carrying out these searches in some
instances because of legal restrictions and privacy concerns, particularly
because missing person investigations do not fall into the category of
criminal investigations.

Addressing these barriers requires changes to legislation and policy that
were beyond the control of the police forces.

Forsaken: The Report of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry

50

Det. Cst. Clarke was tasked with conducting a review of all hospital deaths
and indigent burials. A review of approximately 6300 fles took several
months to complete but did not reveal any connection to the missing
women. I question the prioritization of this task given the scarcity of
resources available to the MWRT. In my view, the decision to assign this
task was misguided and amounts to an error.

Collection of dental/DNA evidence

Dental and DNA evidence is gathered in missing person cases to assist the
police in identifying victims of crimes and unidentifed human remains.
Both the VPD and the RCMP were vigilant in gathering these samples,
although the VPD encountered some diffculties in having the DNA samples
analyzed. I heard evidence to the effect that the VPD should have pursued
the analysis of these samples more aggressively and there were some issues
with respect to the continuity of handling the samples. However, I do not
conclude that these relatively minor problems amounted to a failure in the
investigations.

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