Ian Mulgrew (Vancouver Sun) - Missing Women Commissioner Wally Oppal wants quick answers about the Coquitlam Mountie, his X-rated Internet exploits and any relevance they may have to the Robert Pickton serial killings.
But he is refusing to reopen his one-man inquiry into the investigations of the crimes and where police went awry, prolonging the heinous murder spree.
Oppal said he had asked for a full explanation from the federal Department of Justice Thursday after reading a Vancouver Sun story about an RCMP code-of-conduct investigation into the officer who posted disturbing torture and sexually explicit photographs on the Web.
That didn’t satisfy Cameron Ward, who represents families of missing and murdered women.
He demanded Oppal interrupt writing his final report and reopen his just-wrapped hearings.
“This particular officer, given his personal involvement in the Pickton investigation and the role he played three years before Pickton was apprehended is critically important,” Ward said.
The graphic Internet images show Cpl. Jim Brown — who has been placed on administrative duties — posing in kidnap-and-torture scenes reminiscent of the pig-farm slayings.
In one, a naked woman hangs with her hands tied above her head while the self-styled “Kilted Knight” appears to slash her with a large butcher’s knife.
Late Thursday, RCMP Assistant Commissioner Randy Beck said in a media statement that the force actually found “some graphic staged photographs” on a memory stick belonging to Brown in December 2010.
But at that time, no investigation was begun, Beck said, because the officer in charge of the Coquitlam detachment “did not believe it met the threshold for a code-of-conduct violation.”
In March 2012, during an investigation into a complaint by a woman about Brown, the photos on the Web were discovered. As a result, a code-of-conduct inquiry was ordered and is being conducted by the Richmond RCMP.
“In keeping with the RCMP’s commitment to hold our members to a higher standard, I am taking the unusual step of asking an external police agency to independently review our internal code-of-conduct investigation,” Beck said.
“While we must strike a balance between an individual’s rights and freedoms when off duty and the RCMP Code of Conduct, I am personally embarrassed and very disappointed that the RCMP would be, in any way, linked to photos of that nature.”
In July 1999, more than two years before Pickton was arrested, Brown introduced detectives on the missing women’s task force to a key witness, Ross Caldwell.
“We have known all along that Brown was a go-between,” Oppal said in an interview. “He had a bit part to play in all of this.”
But Ward disagreed: “During the hearings, I unsuccessfully requested that both Brown and Pickton informant Ross Caldwell be called as witnesses … The relevance of this should be self-evident.”
“The ‘bit part’ Brown played was actually pretty big,” Ward said, “he produced the informant Caldwell who corroborated the prior informant [Bill] Hiscox’s information that Pickton was a killer.”
Ward has advanced the unproven theory that RCMP members were aware years before Pickton’s arrest that off-duty cops, gangsters and sex trade workers frequented parties at Piggy’s Palace, a rural booze-can run by his brother Dave.
When Ward put his theory to a retired senior RCMP officer at the inquiry in May, he denied knowing of Mounties partying with the Picktons.
Beck also was incredulous.
“The member’s full involvement in the Pickton investigation was provided to the inquiry in keeping with normal disclosure practices,” the acting commanding officer for B.C. said.
“We will continue to cooperate fully with the inquiry and we will inform the inquiry of the findings of our code-of- conduct investigation as well as those of the independent external review.”
Oppal insisted he was reluctant to reopen his inquiry because he believed he had heard all of the relevant evidence.
“Cpl. Brown had no contact with Caldwell other than he was a go-between,” he said. “But because of the inflammatory nature of what we found out in The Vancouver Sun this morning I’ve asked commission counsel to look into it to see if anything else should be done. We need to know what is relevant and what might impact on the investigation.”
The former Appeal Court justice and cabinet minister acknowledged being troubled by the controversial material.
“It’s our duty to find out if there is anything more to this story,” Oppal said. “We have to do that.”
Art Vertleib, commission counsel, echoed the commitment and said the inquiry hoped to have answers within a day: “We are taking it very seriously.”
Coquitlam RCMP commanding officer Supt. Claude Wilcott said the force began investigating Brown’s Web activities after he was cleared of the complaint from “a girl on a dating website.”
“We concluded that investigation at the end of June,” Wilcott said.
Initially, the RCMP legal services department said Brown had been acting on his own time, was not holding himself out as a representative of the force and was engaged in legal consensual adult conduct.
“Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it should be condoned or accepted by any manager,” Ward said.
“I know most law firms wouldn’t condone it and I’m hard-pressed to think of any reputable organization that would condone such behaviour.”