Fond memories were entwined with bitterness at the missing women’s inquiry Wednesday as a B.C. First Nations leader marked his late sister's birthday and derided the circumstances that led to her death.
Ernie Crey told the inquiry looking into Vancouver's missing women Wednesday that his sister, Dawn Crey, would have been 53 on Oct. 26. Instead, her DNA was found on the Port Coquitlam, B.C., pig farm of convicted serial killer Robert Pickton, though charges in her death were never laid.
"Well, we can't bring our sister back. We know that. But we want people responsible for doing the investigations to account for themselves," Crey, a member of the Sto:lo Nation, told reporters during a break in his testimony.
'I can't begin to tell you how angry I am.' —Ernie Crey, brother of alleged Pickton victim Dawn Crey
Pickton was arrested Feb. 5, 2002. Investigators found the remains or DNA of 33 women on his farm, and Pickton boasted to police of killing as many as 49 women.
In December 2007, a jury convicted Pickton of six counts of second-degree murder, and in July 2010 the Supreme Court of Canada upheld that conviction.
Crey said after Pickton lost his appeal, police visited him in Chilliwack, B.C. and told him Dawn's DNA had been found in a trailer on Pickton's farm. Crey said police also told him Dawn had likely been killed by Pickton.
Blames justice system
Crey was reminded at the inquiry that an attempted murder charge against Pickton had been stayed in March 1997, and that an informant had called a tip line twice in 1998 to warn police about Pickton.
Crey was then asked how he feels about B.C.'s justice system.
"I feel it failed my sister and failed my family and failed the other families," he said. "I can't begin to tell you how angry I am about that, the frustration and anger my family carries."
Later, Crey said that if the charges hadn't been dropped and Pickton had gone to trial, lives would have been saved.
"It didn't happen so we want to know why and the people to do the accounting for that are the police and the criminal justice branch of British Columbia. That's why we're here."
Earlier in the morning, Margaret Green testified about how police handled and investigated the death of Angela Williams, a mother, sex worker and addict who was found dead in Surrey, B.C. in December 2001.
Green, who is the legal guardian of two of Williams' children, said she spent Christmas Day 2001 looking for Williams on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and Boxing Day filling out a missing person's report.
Cause of death a mystery
Williams' body was found days later, but the family wasn't told.
Green said a coroner originally told her he couldn't say definitively why Williams died, but Green said police told her during a 2007 visit to the place where Williams' body was found that strangulation was the likely cause of death.
Green said she hasn't received an update from police about the investigation, and Williams' children want to know how their mother died.
One of those children, Ashley Smith, demanded answers from the inquiry.
"I want to know why no one cared enough to take this case properly from the beginning. Was it because she was native? Was it because she used drugs?
"It's been almost 10 years and I don't know how my mother died."
Commissioner Wally Oppal said Smith made a good point about the lack of respect the community shows to women who are poor and often aboriginal.
"I think if there's one thing this inquiry can do, it can show the community out there that the women who were on the Downtown Eastside who died tragically were real human beings.
"They were like anyone else. They were mothers, they were daughters, they were aunts, they had people who loved them. And I hope that at the end of the day that the public will realize how terrible these tragedies have been."