Robert Pickton Inquiry: Victim's Missing Report Sat In Drawer For Years, According To A Relative
VANCOUVER - The sister-in-law of one of Robert Pickton's victims says a missing-person's report she filed with Vancouver police sat in a filing drawer for years without officers taking any action on the document.
Lori-Ann Ellis told the public inquiry into the Robert Pickton case Tuesday that she filed the report about Cara Ellis by phone from Calgary, Alta. in 1998, about one month after she returned home from Vancouver where she had spent part of a holiday looking for her missing sister-in-law.
Cara was among the 20 women Pickton was charged with killing before those charges were stayed.
However, Ellis said she never heard back from police and only learned what happened to the report in the mid-summer of 2004, when members of the Missing Women Task Force visited her in Calgary — one day before a family memorial to Cara Ellis.
Ellis said an RCMP member who was also a member of the task force told her he had found the report in a filing drawer and it had never been "actioned."
"I almost dropped the coffee pot," she said. "All this time that we'd been sitting here waiting to hear, it had sat in a damn drawer in the police station and no one had even taken the time to do it."
"They're getting their paycheque to do it but they're not doing it, and that really pissed me off."
Ellis said she thinks the incident is shameful, and she said the people of Vancouver should be making the police accountable for taking paycheques while not doing their jobs.
Over the coming weeks, the inquiry will try to determine why police failed to stop Pickton as he murdered sex workers from the Downtown Eastside starting in the late 1990s.
But Ellis said it wasn't just police inaction that infuriated her. It was also the attitude displayed by some in the department.
She said in 1998, she called the Vancouver police to follow up on her first missing person's report and spoke to a woman.
"She told me in a really snarky tone: 'If Cara wants to be found, she'll be found. Why don't you leave us alone and let us do our job.'"
Ellis said she began to lose faith that the police were even looking for Cara.
"She told me that she's is probably on vacation.
"How the hell can somebody earning, like, $100 a month on welfare be able to go on vacation?"
Ellis, though, reserved her harshest criticism of police until the end of her testimony when she read a November 2010 entry to her diary.
"The police could have done more, a lot more, to stop this," she said. "We all put our faith in them and they let us down over and over.
"When the truth is told the world will know that they dropped the ball. The world will know that they did not do their job.
"The world will know our pain. The world will know the girls' story. The world will know the truth. The world will know we were lied to, mistreated, mislead and manipulated."
During cross examination, Sean Hern, the lawyer for the Vancouver police and the city's police board, asked Ellis if she told police that Cara had a boyfriend named Stan who was also a member of the Hells Angels.
He asked Ellis if she told police that Cara would stay at a farm with a man who lived like a pig and who would give her free drugs for cleaning his place.
Ellis said she didn't tell police about the Hells Angels boyfriend or the man on the farm in 1998, and she didn't recall if she told police about the man on the farm in a later 2002 interview.
Following Ellis' testimony, Donalee Sebastian told the inquiry about her mother, Elsie Sebastian, who was last seen on the Downtown Eastside in 1992 and who has never been found.
Sebastian said she was shocked by the attitude of the Vancouver police when she talked to a native liaison worker.
"He told me that 'You might as well prepare yourself, Donalee, because nobody wants to look for a 40-year-old native woman they're not interested in looking for.'
"He also mentioned that looking for a drug-using woman on the Downtown Eastside is like looking for a needle in a haystack. And that was quite the shocker for me to hear, you know, being the daughter of the woman who brought me into this world."
In fact, the inquiry heard that the department was reluctant to take a missing-person's report on Elsie, something the family tried to do in 1992.
Sebastian said the last time she saw Elsie was in 1992 when she was 16 and visiting an uncle's house at the University of British Columbia.
She said her mother made dinner for her, her 11-year-old brother and her sister.
But Sebastian said her mother needed a fix, made a call and was picked up by a man who looked rough, and not like a normal working person.
"We didn't want her to go. We wanted her to stay."
Sebastian said her brother began to cry and plead "Don't go, Mommy, don't go."
"And I stood there and I just tried to hold my brother's hand and she left with that person."
Sebastian said she never saw or heard from her mother again.
Hern apologized to Sebastian for the force's refusal to do more.
"Sorry for your loss and sorry that more wasn't done when you and your family reached out for help to the department and the liason society."
More family members of Pickton's victims are expected to take the stand this week.
Lawyers for the federal government have told the inquiry they will not cross-examine the family members.