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 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.

Just Posted

Trial dates set for three men accused of 2017 killing near Hope

Lawyers for the accused appeared in Kelowna at B.C. Supreme Court on Monday

Wildfire threatens weekend campers at Chehalis Lake

The fire started on the north side of Chehalis Lake Saturday

Abbotsford council OKs bus-to-SkyTrain plan

Fraser Valley Express would begin running to Lougheed Station by start of 2021

Chilliwack community group gathering to benefit youth health centre

Chilliwack Citizens for Change planning tailgate party for CHYC

PET CARE: Canada Day tips for our pet’s anxiety

Columnist Nicolette Joosting examines different ways to help your pets relax through the celebration

VIDEO: Reading splashes into Agassiz’s Ferny Coombe Pool

The Agassiz Library held its annual Reading in the Pool event Friday, June 14

New Lower Mainland bistro caters to board game fans and families

Local food and games at every table is the formula for the new business

Four-year-old boy assaulted at B.C. soccer game

It happened at a weekend tournament in Ashcroft

Top B.C. court upholds ruling that struck down indefinite solitary confinement

Feds had appealed ruling in case brought by B.C. Civil Liberties Association, John Howard Society

Two bear cubs saved near Revelstoke after mother hit by car

Conservation officers trapped the cubs and transported them to a wildlife sanctuary

Heroism medal for B.C. woman who tried to save wheelchair-bound man stuck on rail tracks

Julie Callaghan awarded Carnegie Medal from U.S.-based foundation for ‘extraordinary heroism’

Surrey RCMP raises Pride flag amid din of protesters

There were about 30 protesters on either side, and 20 Mounties doing crowd control

B.C. students’ camping trip goes ahead despite tents getting stolen

Nanaimo businesses, school staff and parents ensure trip goes on

Only legal pot shop between Vancouver and Kamloops now open

Private cannabis store on Skwah land in Chilliwack is first B.C. licensee to be Indigenous owned

Most Read