Suzanne Fournier (Vancouver Province) – The RCMP officer who headed the missing women task force in 2000 said he had an “amazing” police team, but blamed computers, police record-keeping, DNA banks and many other factors for its failure to stop a serial killer until 2002.
Retired RCMP Insp. Don Adam, a 40-year career Mountie, told the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry that he was tasked in November 2000 with investigating a large number of unsolved murders, mostly of Vancouver women.
Despite Adam’s “phenomenal” team of “seasoned” VPD and RCMP officers, eight or nine more women died at the hands of Robert Pickton between December 2001 and February 2002, while the joint VPD-RCMP task force was on the job.
Adam strongly denied under questioning Wednesday that his team, Project Evenhanded, was just conducting a “file review,” shuffling papers or “blindly stumbling” along.
He said his team was “disciplined” and “tight. We were investigators.”
He admitted that at first the investigation “took me a while. Things occurred that jarred me. I thought our [police] systems would be working, but they weren’t working.”
Police didn’t know it then, but Pickton began killing as early as 1991, Adam not-ed. Pickton’s earliest known victim was Nancy Greek, also known as Mary Ann Clark, who vanished in 1991.
The VPD’s Project Amelia had concluded that 27 women were missing from the Downtown Eastside (DTES) by the end of 1999 and had likely met with foul play, although top VPD brass believed, wrongly, that the disappearances stopped in that year.
From late 2000 until Pickton’s arrest in 2002, nine more women vanished from the area and were later found to have been murdered by Pickton.
Adam said he doesn’t want to appear “bitter” but told commissioner Wally Oppal: “I cannot overstate to you how damaging it is that our country has not chosen to have a DNA databank for the missing.”
Adam said a national databank that holds DNA from missing people would be highly useful, rather than the current system where police are forced to wait for proof of a homicide before DNA tests are conducted.
The DNA system used by the VPD didn’t mesh with the RCMP, said Adam.
Project Amelia officers “busted their butts” and even got “biological material” from the relatives of missing women, but it wasn’t tested for DNA.
“They didn’t collect DNA because they were not allowed to develop the DNA,” said Adam. “It was an appalling situation. They ended up being forced to keep it in a cardboard box under their desks.”
Adam’s group also was tasked with investigating not only the missing DTES women, but also the “Valley” murders of three Vancouver prostitutes and a “cluster” of murders on Vancouver Island.
Adam testified that he had to investigate all suspects, not just Pickton.
The inquiry hearings are slated to continue until the end of April.