Saturday February 06, 2016

Detective who investigated Pickton farm returns after 14 years

Shenher was assigned to look into women missing from Vancouver in the late 1990s. Visiting the Pickton Farm today, he says it's nearly unrecognisable.

Shenher was assigned to look into women missing from Vancouver in the late 1990s. Visiting the Pickton Farm today, he says it's nearly unrecognisable. (Andrew Friesen/CBC)

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The Pickton farm is nearly unrecognisable today. Townhouse condominiums and walking paths surround a small, fenced-off area that looks like it could be a soccer field. It's hard to believe this empty lot was once the home of Canada's most notorious serial killer.

Pickton Farm today

Only a small part of the Pickton property remains - the rest is surrounded by housing and commercial developments. (Andrew Friesen/CBC)

"Standing here now, I don't feel that much. It's like a lot of historical landmarks: it's a place where you know terrible things happened, but a lot has changed," said Lorimer Shenher, a former Vancouver Police Department detective. 

Shenher was assigned to look into women missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside in the late 1990s.

Today he is on medical leave, still feeling the impact of the countless stories he heard and the things he saw.

Shenher remembers going out to the farm for the very first time in 1998, after receiving information that pointed to Pickton as a person of interest in the disappearances.

"I remember driving out here and looking at the farm and it was very unkempt, just a very trashy, unkempt place," he said. 

"There were big piles of moved earth that had just been relatively freshly dug and that concerned me. I had concerns that maybe there were bunkers out here — I didn't know what it would look like if Pickton was actually the person taking women from the streets of Vancouver. "

Robert William Pickton is currently serving a life sentence for six counts of second-degree murder — although the DNA or remains of 33 different women were found on his farm. In prison he told an undercover cellmate that he had killed 49 times, and was going to kill one more to make it 50.

Lorimer Shenher and Angela Sterritt

Along with journalist Angela Sterritt, Shenher visited the area for the first time in 14 years. (Andrew Friesen/CBC)

Shenher said Pickton should face charges for the other crimes he's been accused of. 

"More than anything, I find the decision not to try these new counts of murder incredibly disrespectful to the victims and their loved ones." 

In 2011, Shenher was part of the British Columbia Missing Women's Commission of Inquiry — a process he said had major issues. 


The Pickton Farm, as it looked before investigations began. (CP)

"The Commission staff did their best with flawed terms of reference and wrote the best possible report out of a very flawed Inquiry process." 

Looking forward to the recently announced national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women, Lorimer said he is cautiously optimistic.

"If they really want to do this right and stop more Indigenous women from being targeted and stop violence against all Indigenous people, then they need time, money and [will have to] look in all the dark corners of the justice system, social services, education, the residential schools' legacy, racism in Canada — everything."

Journalist Angela Sterritt visited the Pickton farm as part of a documentary about advocate and family member Lorelei Williams, airing on DNTO, 3:00 p.m. Feb. 6 on CBC Radio One.