A. Cameron Ward Barristers and Solicitors » Missing Women Commision of Inquiry
A. Cameron Ward
Vancouver BC

Our firm is honoured to be representing the families of Dianne Rock, Georgina Papin, Marnie Frey, Cynthia Dawn Feliks, Cara Ellis, Mona Wilson, Helen May Hallmark, Dawn Crey, Angela Hazel Williams, Jacqueline Murdock, Brenda Wolfe, Andrea Joesbury, Elsie Sebastian, Heather Bottomley, Andrea Borhaven, Tiffany Drew, Angela Jardine, Stephanie Lane, Tanya Holyk, Olivia William, Debra Jones, Janet Henry, Marie Lorna Laliberte, Sereena Abotsway, and Dianne Melnick at the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry.

The Inquiry will focus on the conduct of the Vancouver Police Department and Royal Canadian Mounted Police in handling numerous reported cases of missing women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The Inquiry will also investigate the decision of the Criminal Justice Branch on January 27, 1998, to enter a stay of proceedings on charges against Robert William Pickton, who was later convicted of murdering six of the missing women. Finally, the Commissioner has been tasked with recommending changes respecting the conduct of investigations involving missing women and suspected multiple homicides, and the co-ordination of homicide investigations by multiple police organizations. The complete Terms of Reference are available here.

The Inquiry was established by an Order in Council pursuant to the Public Inquiry Act, S.B.C. 2007, c. 9, and has been granted the powers of both a hearing and study commission. The Honourable Wally Oppal, Q.C. has been appointed sole Commissioner of the Inquiry.

If you have information that might assist the Inquiry, we encourage you to contact the Commissioner, who has invited members of the public to make written submissions. More information on how to participate is found on the Inquiry’s website. If you are a direct family member of a women reported missing, we encourage you to contact us directly.

From time to time we will post an update on the status of the Inquiry on our website.

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On December 14, 2011, we made oral submissions in support of an application, on behalf of the the 25 families of missing and murdered  women we represent, to have additional witnesses appear at the hearings.  The Commission directed that we make submissions in writing and the hearing adjourned for the day at 11:37 a.m.  The transcript of the morning’s proceedings is here.

On December 23, 2011, we delivered our written submissions and are awaiting a ruling.  The witnesses we are seeking to add to the witness list includes civilians like informants Bill Hiscox, Ross Caldwell and Lynn Ellingsen, who told the police as early as July 1998 that Robert William Pickton was responsible for the disappearances and deaths of the women, Pickton’s brother David, who lived on the property where the women’s remains and DNA was found, Bev Hyacinthe, a long time Pickton family friend who worked in the RCMP’s Coquitlam detachment.  It includes police officers like RCMP Cst. Ted vanOverbeek, a key member of “Project Evenhanded” who received information about Pickton’s complicity a years before he was apprehended, and RCMP Cst. Nathan Wells, who executed the search warrant on February 5, 2002 that led to Pickton’s arrest and subsequent conviction of six of the murders.  There are also a couple of senior officials on the list, then Attorney General Ujjal Dosanjh and current RCMP Commissioner Robert Paulson, who worked on the missing women investigations while a sergeant in British Columbia.

The Commission is currently hearing the testimony of Supt. Robert Williams from Alberta, the second of three police “armchair quarterbacks” who weren’t involved in the investigations, but merely reviewed them later.  Next week, Peel Deputy Police Chief Jennifer Evans is scheduled to testify.


The Missing Women Commission of Inquiry was established by Attorney General Mike de Jong on September 29, 2010 and its terms of reference oblige it to inquire into the Crown’s January 27, 1998 decision to stay serious criminal charges against Pickton and the conduct of the police missing women investigations prior to February 5, 2002.  It was directed to submit its report by December 31, 2011.  The Commission commenced evidentiary hearings on October 11, 2011 and was subsequently granted a deadline extension to June 30, 2012.  The Commission has not yet called any police or Crown witnesses who were involved in the matters under review.

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After hearing twelve days of testimony from Vancouver Police Department spokesman Deputy Chief Constable Doug Lepard, the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry resumes after a holiday break with the evidence of an RCMP spokesman, RCMP Superintendent Robert Williams.  Like Lepard, Williams was uninvolved in the investigations themselves, but conducted an internal review of the handling of the case.

There is no word yet on when the first police investigator or Crown prosecutor will be called as a witness.

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We were directed to make oral submissions today to the Commissioner concerning our desire to seek the addition of witnesses to the Commission’s abbreviated witness list.  Lawyers for other participants had made similar requests, but it appears that their overtures were summarily acceded to and we were the only counsel required to explain why we felt that other people probably had material evidence to offer to assist the Commission in its mandate.  We did not get very far.

As we endeavoured to explain why Bill Hiscox should be called as a witness, the morning’s hearing disintegrated.  Hiscox was repeatedly referred to in VPD Deputy Chief LePard’s internal review report and his name has been mentioned no fewer than 212 times in LePard’s oral testimony so far.  (LePard is still on the stand and is scheduled to appear for his twelfth day tomorrow).

Hiscox, as those following this matter may be aware, was the man who came forward in July of 1998, telephoning Wayne Leng and Crimestoppers to report that a pig farmer in Port Coquitlam named Willy Pickton was probably responsible for Sarah deVries’ disappearance as well as the disappearance and murders of the other missing Vancouver women, that he was a “sicko” and that he had slashed the throat of a Vancouver woman the year before.  He spent months in contact with VPD Det. Cst. Lori Shenher but was unable, despite all of his efforts, to get police to stop Pickton’s murderous spree.

Of course, after Pickton was serendipitously arrested in February of 2002, it turned out that everything that Hiscox had told police nearly four years earlier had been true.  Pickton was convicted of six murders in 2007 and, although 20 more first degree murder charges against him were stayed by the Crown, he is suspected of being responsible for as many as 49 murders.  Many of them were committed after Hiscox went to police with his information.

Here’s the Vancouver Observer’s take on today’s proceedings.


This public inquiry was established on September 27, 2010.  We have yet to hear testimony from a police officer who was involved in the investigations.

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We have been advised that when the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry resumes its hearings on December 14th, the Commissioner will consider applications from those participants seeking to add witnesses to the Commission’s list.

The Commission has circulated a pared-down witness list of 31 police officers and 17 other witnesses, for a total of 48 witnesses in all.  As counsel for the families of twenty of the missing and murdered women, we will be making an application for at least 21 additional witnesses to be added to the Commission’s current list.  It is not yet clear whether other participants will be making similar applications.

The Commission’s formation was announced by then Attorney General Mike de Jong on September 27, 2010.  Evidentiary hearings began on October 11, 2011 and the Commission has heard from 15 witnesses over 26 hearing days since then.  The Commission has not yet heard from any of the police officers or other law enforcement personnel directly involved in the matters that are the subject of the inquiry.  Hearings are on hiatus at the moment, with VPD Deputy Chief LePard still on the stand under cross-examination.  We have been told that the Commission will sit for three more days this month (December 14-16) before adjourning until January 11, 2012.

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Deputy Chief Doug LePard of the Vancouver Police Department embarks on his tenth day of testimony today.  A thirty year veteran of the VPD, LePard apparently had next to nothing to do with the investigations that are the subject of this inquiry, but has played the role of VPD spokesman on the matter since last summer. 

The families of the victims continue to wait patiently for a chance to question Crown Counsel and police about why Robert William Pickton was not prosecuted for attempted murder and other serious charges in 1998.  The incident of March 23, 1997, when Pickton nearly killed a Vancouver woman in his Port Coquitlam trailer, was a crucial and pivotal event.  The Crown’s decision to stay the serious charges allowed Pickton remained free to kill dozens of women over the years that followed, including many of our clients’ loved ones, and may have cost taxpayers up to $200 million in later investigative and legal costs.

The families also want to question those who can explain why the VPD and RCMP failed to apprehend Pickton when they apparently had him squarely in their sights as early as August, 1998.

Pickton was eventually charged with 27 murders after a “serendipitous” 2002 search of the Port Coquitlam property he and his brother lived on turned up evidence of the missing women’s remains and possessions.  He was later convicted of killing six women, one charge was dismissed for lack of evidence, and the Attorney General decided to stay 20 other murder charges against him.  We understand that the provincial government committed to a proper, thorough, and independent public inquiry into this tragedy, not a rehashing of police reviews of the case.

For example, here’s what the Canadian Press reported on September 9, 2010:

“The province’s attorney general announced Thursday that hearings will examine how police handled reports of sex workers disappearing from Vancouver’s poverty-stricken Downtown Eastside, many of whom ended up dead on Pickton’s farm in nearby Port Coquitlam.

Pickton’s arrest and subsequent year-long trial received intense international attention, but Attorney General Mike de Jong said there is much we still don’t know.

‘This is a situation in which upwards of 50 human beings went missing. We believe many, if not all, of those individuals were murdered,’ de Jong told reporters following a provincial cabinet meeting in Victoria.

‘There are still lingering questions about the nature of these investigations, questions about whether more could have been done sooner, are we in a position to learn from the investigations and mistakes that may have been made.’

The inquiry will have the power to compel testimony from witnesses and will make recommendations to prevent the horrific tragedy from repeating itself.

De Jong said he wants to know how dozens of women could disappear for years before authorities determined the disappearances could be the work of a single killer.

‘How did this happen?” said de Jong.

‘How is it that human beings, members of our society, whatever their socioeconomic circumstances, could go missing in the manner that they did without it seeing a full appreciation of the magnitude of what it seems was taking place until some years had passed?’

Pickton was arrested in 2002, setting off a massive search of his sprawling farm where investigators found the remains or DNA of 33 women. He was charged in the deaths of 27 women and eventually convicted of six counts of second-degree murder.

His convictions were upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada in July and prosecutors have said they don’t intend to pursue any further criminal charges, including the 20 further murder charges he had been facing.

Lillian Beaudoin’s sister Diane Rock was among the victims covered in those 20 charges.

‘I just want justice,” Beaudoin said in an interview Thursday. ‘And if justice means digging this far deep into it and finding out why the police made all the mistakes that they made and how this could have been prevented (that’s) one of my main concerns.'”

Dianne Rock, murdered in late 2001

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