Pickton inquiry told police were 'looking other way'
Aunt of presumed Robert Pickton victim says it took months to get police attention
The aunt of one of Robert Pickton's victims has told a public inquiry it took nearly three months to convince the Vancouver police to investigate the disappearance of her niece.
Lila Purcell says even when the Vancouver police determined that Tanya Holyk was missing in January 1997, investigators appeared to do very little to attempt to find her.
"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," Purcell testified Monday.
"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."
Purcell is the latest relative to tell the inquiry how her family faced resistance from a civilian member of the Vancouver police force's missing person department.
Holyk's mother, who is now dead, first attempted to report the young woman missing in late October or early November 1996, but Purcell says a civilian clerk named Sandy Cameron told the mother police probably wouldn't investigate because Holyk was addicted to cocaine.
File closed weeks later
Cameron closed the file by the end of November after hearing second-hand information that Holyk may have been at a party, and the file remained closed until another unit within the police took a missing person report in late January.
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 new file was opened in late January 1997 after Dorothy Purcell reached an officer with the Vancouver police department's Native Liaison Society, but even then, the inquiry heard very little was done with the case until the spring of 1998.
That's when the case made its way back to the missing person's unit, where an officer named Al Howlett started checking welfare records, looking for ex-boyfriends and finally interviewed Holyk's mother, the inquiry heard.
Purcell said she was never interviewed, despite being intimately involved in Holyk's upbringing, and neither were Holyk's other aunts and uncles.
"I feel that there could have been more done," said Purcell.
"It's frustrating because I always wondered why nobody else in my family was ever interviewed, because I was very close to my sister at the time and Tanya was brought up like a daughter alongside my daughter. Nobody ever interviewed me."
Pickton was arrested in 2002 and eventually charged with the murder of 26 women, including Tanya Holyk.
He was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder. The remaining 20 cases, including Holyk's, were stayed by the Crown in 2010.
The remains or DNA of 33 women were found on Pickton's farm.
He told a undercover officer that he killed 49.