Oppal denies pre-judging missing women findings

Inquiry head releases statements to Attorney-General

Missing Women Inquiry head Wally Oppal.

Missing Women Inquiry head Wally Oppal.

Missing Women Inquiry head Wally Oppal denied Monday he has made up his mind that police bungled their investigation of serial killer Robert Pickton or that Crown was wrong to drop charges of attempted murder against him in 1997.

His statement, released Monday, was an attempt to clarify comments he made to the Attorney General in a June 30 letter and a July 5 phone voicemail pressing for increased funding for groups representing women and First Nations.

Oppal said then A-G Barry Penner’s deputy raised concerns July 15 that he may have pre-judged key questions.

Pickton’s 1997 arrest came after a naked and badly bleeding sex trade worker escaped from his Port Coquitlam farm – five years before he would finally be charged with murdering multiple women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

If charges had proceeded and not been stayed in 1998, Oppal said in the letter, “it is clear that the murder of a number of missing women would have been avoided.”

He said in the statement he did not meant to imply Pickton would have been convicted for that incident or that Crown’s decision to drop the case was wrong – an issue that is before the inquiry.

“Why there was not sufficient evidence, or for that matter, why Pickton was not caught earlier is a question that I will be investigating.”

All six of the women Pickton was ultimately convicted of killing – Sereena Abotsway (of Surrey), Mona Wilson, Andrea Joesbury, Brenda Wolfe, Georgina Papin and Marnie Frey – died after the 1997 incident and investigation.

A further 20 counts of murder never went to trial and Pickton claimed to an undercover police officer he had actually killed 49 women.

In the voice mail, Oppal warns Penner of the poor optics of the government refusing to fund hearing lawyers for “poor aboriginal women” who had been repeatedly ignored by authorities.

“The police gave them the back of their hands to these women and disregarded what they had to say,” Oppal told Penner. “So they can’t cross-examine the police, who are of course well-armed with publicly funded lawyers.”

Oppal stressed the accusations before the inquiry of an inadequate police investigation and of ignored attempts to alert authorities about missing women are “mere allegations” he will carefully assess based on the evidence that emerges.

“I have not reached even preliminary conclusions on the facts,” he said.

“In my phone message, I simply wanted to emphasize that these allegations deserve to be explored, and that I believe funded counsel for those making the allegations, not just those refuting them, would assist the process.”

The province ultimately refused to add the extra $1.5 million to the inquiry’s budget that Oppal had requested, but the commission has shuffled its budget so four more lawyers can represent the views of women and First Nations at the inquiry.

Several groups that were denied funding had vowed to boycott the hearings, which begin in Vancouver Oct. 11.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey Council Chambers. (File photo)
Surrey council approves $420,570 in grants for local arts, culture groups

This happened at Monday night’s council meeting, to cover 2021

In September 2018, former Vancouver Canucks player Dave Babych tees off at Northview Golf & Country Club in Surrey during the 35th annual Jake Milford Charity Invitational tournament. (File photo: Tom Zillich)
No ‘shotguns’ or banquets: Surrey golf courses pitch COVID-safe tournaments for 2021

With spring on the way, course operators book tournaments that will involve ‘tweaks and adjustments’

Investigators placed dozens of yellow evidence markers on the ground near the site of a fatal shooting in Langley City early Wednesday morning. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
UPDATE: 22-year-old man killed in targeted shooting in Langley

South Surrey vehicle fire may be linked to homicide: police

Members of the Surrey Fire Fighters’ Charitable Society picked up their new van from Mainland Ford in Surrey Wednesday (Jan. 27, 2021) after the society’s old van was stolen and damaged. (Submitted photo: Dylan Van Rooyen)
After thrift store van stolen and damaged, Surrey dealership helps out firefighters’ charitable society

The Community Thrift Store van was stolen in South Surrey in December

Surrey-raised actor Michael Coleman in some of the roles he’s played since the mid-1990s. (submitted photo)
Chat with Robin Williams helped send Surrey’s Coleman into world of acting

‘For me, it was a game-changer,’ says co-founder of Story Institute acting school

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addresses the media during a news conference at the BC Centre of Disease Control in Vancouver B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
B.C. announces 485 new COVID-19 cases, fewest deaths in months

‘The actions we take may seem small, but will have a big impact to stop the virus,” urges Dr. Henry

BC Place Stadium in a photo posted to cisc-icca.ca.
Roof of BC Place a stage for performers during online music festival

‘This will be the first time any artists have performed from the 204-foot iconic Vancouver rooftop’

Royal B.C. Museum conservator Megan Doxsey-Whitfield kneels next to a carved stone pillar believed to have significance as a First Nations cultural marker by local Indigenous people. The pillar was discovered on the beach at Dallas Road last summer. Museum curatorial staff have been working with Songhees and Esquimalt Nation representatives to gain a clearer picture of its use. (Photo courtesy Royal BC Museum)
Stone carving found on Victoria beach confirmed Indigenous ritual pillar

Discussion underway with the Esquimalt and Songhees about suitable final home for the artifact

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Driver crashes vehicle twice in one day near Princeton

Abbotsford woman, 29, wasn’t injured in either incident

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Former Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane is seen here in Game 7 of the second round of the 2009 WHL playoffs against the Spokane Chiefs (Sam Chan under Wikipedia Commons licence)
Gambling debts revealed in details of bankruptcy filing by hockey star Evander Kane

Sharks left winger and former Vancouver Giants player owes close to $30 million total

Othman “Adam” Hamdan, pictured in front of Christina Lake’s Welcome Centre, was acquitted of terrorism related charges in 2017. He has been living in Christina Lake since November 2020. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Man acquitted on terrorism charges awaits deportation trial while living in Kootenays

Othman Ayed Hamdan said he wants to lead a normal life while he works on his upcoming book

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 prior to being sworn in by The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, November 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Premier Horgan calls jumping COVID vaccine queue ‘un-Canadian’

Horgan says most people in B.C. are doing their best to follow current public health guidelines

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart share a laugh while speaking to the media before sitting down for a meeting at City Hall, in Vancouver, on Friday August 30, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Vancouver mayor, Health Canada to formally discuss drug decriminalization

Kennedy Stewart says he’s encouraged by the federal health minister’s commitment to work with the city

Most Read