The Current

An inside look at the botched Robert Pickton investigation

A detective suspected serial killer Robert Pickton four years before his arrest.
Police found the remains or DNA of 33 women on Robert Pickton's Port Coquitlam farm. (CBC)

A new book about the police investigation of Robert Pickton provides an insider's view on the years before the serial killer was arrested, and chronicles the serious mistakes that stopped him from being apprehended earlier.

Former Vancouver Police Department detective Lori Shenher was assigned to the missing person's file in 1998. Shenher received a Crime Stopper's tip about Pickton on the second day of her assignment. But his farm wasn't searched until February 2002.

In the end, the remains or DNA of 33 women were found on Pickton's farm and he was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder. 

As part of The Current's project Ripple Effect, host Anna Maria Tremonti spoke with Lori Shenher about the case that haunts her to this day.

Vancouver Police Detective Const. Lori Shenher arrives to testify at the Missing Women Inquiry in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday April 4, 2012. Shenher was the lone VPD member investigating reports of missing women on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside in the 1990s. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

According to Lori Shenher, these are the reasons Robert Pickton almost got away:

  • The file wasn't taken seriously because the women were assumed to be missing, not murdered

"At the time that I started I had seventeen files. It quickly became apparent to me that it was almost administrative because there was always this kinda vibe around the file that they'll turn up. Many, many of my missing women had gone missing before. We had previous missing women's files on them and they'd returned and everything was fine so, I think there was that sense among the administration at the VPD that they'll turn up. You just need to basically go out and tick those boxes off."

  • Robert Pickton lived inside the RCMP's jurisdiction and despite the 1998 tip and his criminal record, there was no search warrant issued for Pickton until 2002

"I had some ideas around undercover operations and those sorts of things to use as tools to get some information… we presented those ideas to the RCMP and they were never acted upon. I don't know why. I've never received an answer to that question. There was no search warrant until the February 2002 warrant, which was completely unrelated to this information." 

  • She was inexperienced and given poor resources

"We were not given the appropriate tools or I believe some of the appropriate people to do the right job. Even down to me. Let's face it, you know I think I'm great but me with seven years on the job without any major crime or missing persons experience. Was I the best choice to head up this investigation? Probably not. And I don't believe that some of the people that were put onto our team were appropriate choices and the file suffered greatly because of that."

  • The investigation wasn't a priority for the Vancouver Police Department

"I hate to say it but I think there was a mindset that these were disposable women. That these victims choose this life. They're out there because they choose to be so we're not going to put ourselves out quite in the same way that we might if it's somebody's daughter from UBC. I said this is what I think is happening on that farm with this man. And I put it up the chain and it seemed to just hit a deadend."

Listen to the full interview with Lori Shenher:


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