Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Pair of Vancouver Officers Deny 'Tunnel Vision' Caused Them to Ignore Pickton: Officers Deny 'Tunnel Vision' in Pickton Case

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Pair of Vancouver Officers Deny 'Tunnel Vision' Caused Them to Ignore Pickton: Officers Deny 'Tunnel Vision' in Pickton Case

Article excerpt

VANCOUVER - A pair of Vancouver police officers who've been sharply criticized at the Robert Pickton inquiry denied accusations Wednesday that "tunnel vision" caused them to ignore the serial killer, and instead insisted they were kept in the dark about Pickton.

Det. Const. Mark Wolthers, who is now retired, and Det. Const. Doug Fell, who is still on the force, worked on the missing women investigation from the summer of 1999 until they were transferred the following year.

The inquiry has heard allegations the officers were difficult to work with, used derogatory language when talking about sex workers, followed their own suspect while ignoring work related to Pickton, and withheld information from their colleagues.

Many of those criticisms were contained in an internal Vancouver police report authored by Deputy Chief Doug LePard, who testified last year. LePard accused Fell and Wolthers of "tunnel vision" that kept them focused on their suspect, and wrote in his report that the officers' "destructive conduct compromised the investigation and demoralized the other investigators."

"In my opinion, those findings are disgusting," an emotional Wolthers told the inquiry.

Wolthers and Fell requested to join the Vancouver Police Department's missing women investigation in 1999.

When they arrived, they believed they were looking for a serial killer and they already had their own suspect in mind: Barry Niedermeyer, a man in Alberta with a history of allegations involving sex workers who was later arrested and charged with assaulting Vancouver women.

The pair acknowledged they focused their energy on pursuing Niedermeyer and weren't involved in investigating Pickton in any significant way

But they said they were never asked to look at Pickton, who had been assigned to two other officers. They said their colleagues never told them about several tips implicating Pickton in the murder of sex workers, nor were they invited to meetings discussing strategies for the Pickton file.

"From what I've seen and learned at the inquiry to date, the information (pointing to Pickton) was unbelievably good at that time," said Wolthers. "We were not aware of it."

At one point, the pair set out into the Downtown Eastside with a package of suspect photos to show sex workers. …

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