Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Aunt of Pickton Victim Tells Yet Another Story of Delays, Neglect from Police: More Victims' Families at Pickton Inquiry

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Aunt of Pickton Victim Tells Yet Another Story of Delays, Neglect from Police: More Victims' Families at Pickton Inquiry

Article excerpt

VANCOUVER - The stories told by the families of Robert Pickton's victims at an ongoing public inquiry form a tragic repetition.

They notice the women missing, often within days of when they're last seen, and reach out to the Vancouver police for help.

They face resistance from a civilian clerk and from police officers, who point to the women's lives as drug-addicted sex workers to conclude they are simply out partying. Or they've moved to work the streets in faraway towns. Or perhaps they're off travelling and just haven't told anyone.

Files are eventually opened, but investigators are slow to work on them and fail to find any of the women.

Each story ends when the women's remains or DNA are found on Pickton's farm after his arrest in 2002.

"I feel that had it been done properly, perhaps this man would have been found sooner and perhaps a few more lives would have been saved," Lila Purcell, the aunt of Tanya Holyk, testified Monday, the latest relative to appear before the inquiry to recount the now-familiar lament.

"I hope that, although we weren't able to save her from the life that she fell into, perhaps the consideration for these women would be deeper and such a waste of time wouldn't be spent looking the other way while more women go missing, just because they aren't really considered a part of society."

Holyk was last seen in October 1996, and Purcell noticed her gone immediately.

At the time, Holyk was constantly in touch and actively involved in the life of her young son, said Purcell. When she hadn't been seen for a few days, Purcell said the family started asking the woman's friends and began searching the Downtown Eastside, but they couldn't find her.

A few days later, Holyk's mother, Dorothy Purcell, contacted the Vancouver police, where she spoke with a clerk at the missing person's unit named Sandy Cameron.

The inquiry has already heard complaints that Cameron, who is expected to testify next week, was dismissive and belligerent to the families of missing women.

Purcell said Holyk's mother had a similar experience. She read a letter that Dorothy Purcell, who has since died, wrote the Vancouver police department in January 1997 to complain about Cameron.

"She (Cameron) told me Tanya was a coke head that had abandoned her child, she went on and on about it and said she was going to call social services to apprehend the baby, which made me feel even worse," the letter said.

"She called me one day and told me that I must not care that much about Tanya, because I haven't been calling regularly. I was busy out trying to find her."

In late November 1996, Dorothy Purcell received an early morning hang-up phone call, and gave the number to Cameron. Cameron called the number and reached a woman who said she saw someone named Tanya at a party the night before, prompting Cameron to close the file, according to Purcell's testimony and Cameron's own notes. …

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