A lawyer at the Missing Women Inquiry is under pressure to apologize for accusing Vancouver Police of suppressing documents to cover up their failings in the botched pursuit of serial killer Robert Pickton.
Cameron Ward, who represents relatives of Pickton’s victims, has demanded the disclosure of a never-published book written by former VPD Det.-Const. Lori Shenher after the Port Coquitlam farmer was arrested for the murders of missing sex trade workers.
Ward said he believes the manuscript may be a “tell-all exposé” with damning details on the VPD’s role in the missing women investigation from its lead investigator at a time when she was bitterly disillusioned about what had transpired.
Edward Greenspan, a high-priced Toronto lawyer acting for former VPD Chief Const. Terry Blythe, denounced Ward on Monday for repeatedly making what he called “utterly baseless” allegations.
“Calling somebody a cheat and a liar? Your conduct is unbecoming a barrister and solicitor,” Greenspan charged.
He said he wants Ward to furnish proof of the so-called coverup or white wash or else drop the subject and apologize.
“It’s put up or shut up time,” Greenspan said.
He spoke out after Ward pressed Blythe, who headed the department in the final two years up until Pickton’s arrest in 2002, to admit the force “circled the wagons” and sought to ensure nothing implicated top officers in the failure to identify and pursue Pickton as a key suspect much sooner.
“Everybody did everything they could possibly do,” Blythe replied, adding he was “really offended” by the line of questioning.
Blythe testified he was not aware his officers had considered Pickton a strong suspect starting in 1998.
Commissioner Wally Oppal said he’s also concerned about the “terrible allegation” of a coverup as well as Ward’s suggestion the inquiry itself is part of it because other requested records haven’t been released.
“I’ve never seen anything like this at an inquiry,” the former attorney-general said.
Oppal is still deciding whether the Shenher book will be entered into evidence at the inquiry.
Ward was unrepentant and said the book could be crucial in determining how much VPD superiors knew and when they knew it.
He noted Shenher did not acknowledge the book existed until he asked her about it under cross-examination. Nor did a previous internal VPD review of the force’s handling of the Pickton case make any mention of it.
“That book – 320 pages in length – was not disclosed by her employer,” Ward told the inquiry. “That is nothing less than an attempted cover up.”
Shenher has testified she decided not to publish it because it contained inaccuracies.
But Ward suggested the real reason was she was pressured by VPD brass in 2003 to ensure it never made it into print.
“I’m awaiting the ruling with great interest,” Ward said of Oppal’s pending decision.
The inquiry is examining how police failed to catch Pickton much sooner, despite multiple tips about him in 1998 and a 1997 incident where a badly bleeding sex trade worker escaped from the farm.
Oppal’s findings are due by the end of June.
The cost of the inquiry has exceeded $4 million.
That doesn’t include the cost of police lawyers, which are not being borne by the inquiry or the provincial government.