Rob Kruyt, Vancouver Sun Files / Kim
Rossmo, creator of geographic profiling, favours the theory of
a single killer in the case of the missing women from the
Downtown Eastside, and has always believed the offender is
likely a local person. Rossmo now works in Washington,
Two former Vancouver city police officers have joined the call
for an investigation into the handling of the missing women
Geographic profiler Kim Rossmo and retired inspector Doug
MacKay-Dunn say an investigation is needed to prevent such a tragedy
from happening again.
"This is unprecedented, this wasn't investigated in an optimal
fashion, and an inquiry would help determine what went wrong and
why," Rossmo said. "Most of these problems are systemic and it could
help lead to improvements in policing. So it's a good idea."
The Vancouver Sun has also obtained internal police documents
confirming that Rossmo warned senior officers in May 1999, that a
serial killer was likely preying on the women.
Yet, despite his report, Rossmo says the department never devoted
enough resources at the time to properly investigate the case. And
he criticized Mayor Philip Owen for suggesting recently that
everything was fine with the way police handled things.
"I am not sure that the victims and their families would agree
with the mayor's assessment."
Rossmo said any effort to delay an inquiry until after the
current criminal investigation is "clearly a stalling tactic."
Robert (Willy) Pickton, a 52-year-old Port Coquitlam pig farmer,
was charged recently with two counts of first-degree murder in the
deaths of Sereena Abotsway and Mona Wilson. The two were on a list
of 50 women who have disappeared from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside
"Right now, they're saying they want the investigation to be
over," Rossmo said. "Well, then they're going to say they want the
court case to be over, then they're going to say they want the
appeals to be over, and then we'll be talking 10 years down the
"If things aren't working well, we want to fix them now, not in a
MacKay-Dunn, who worked on the Downtown Eastside and was involved
in the early stages of the case, said B.C. Solicitor-General Rich
Coleman should order an investigation to fix the system, rather than
search for scapegoats and assign blame.
He favours an independent investigation rather than a public
inquiry, which he fears would deteriorate into a show trial. A
review by independent investigators reporting to the
solicitor-general would be more productive in terms of developing
recommendations to ensure this never happens again, he said. The
final report would be made public, as was Justice Archie Campbell's
review of the Paul Bernardo murder investigation in Ontario.
MacKay-Dunn agreed with Rossmo that more should have been done
years ago. "I considered that Rossmo's approach was the right one,"
MacKay-Dunn said. "I think we had to deal with it."
The department's managers devoted the resources they had
available, he said. They also were preoccupied with an office revolt
against then-Chief Constable Bruce Chambers.
"But if you ask me? If I was God? I would have resourced it. I
would have got ahead of it. I would have gone to city hall and I
would have banged the table and said: 'I want people down here to do
this. I want money to do this."
MacKay-Dunn, a North Vancouver district councillor, also said the
RCMP should have got involved much sooner. Vancouver police began
examining the disappearances in 1998, but the RCMP only joined the
investigation in early 2001.
"This is the crime of the century," MacKay-Dunn said. "This
crosses jurisdictional lines. Wouldn't you think that the provincial
police force should be involved in this? That's a no-brainer."
MacKay-Dunn said many of the missing women came from outlying
areas and were reported missing in RCMP jurisdictions. The bodies of
Vancouver sex trade workers have also been found murdered in RCMP
territory over the years, so it was reasonable to assume some of the
missing women might turn up there as well.
"This is not rocket science," MacKay-Dunn said. "This is an
attitude, an attitude saying, 'Well, if I don't believe this is
happening, then I can focus my resources on other things."
MacKay-Dunn said any investigation should look at the need for a
provincially funded major crime agency, similar to the organized
crime agency, to handle such complex investigations in the future.
RCMP Constable Catherine Galliford, who speaks for the task
force, said Friday that all the RCMP could do was respond to the
Vancouver department's request for help.
"We became involved after discussions with VPD and we realized
that we did have the resources that we could put towards this
investigation," Galliford said, adding that Vancouver requested the
Despite the mounting pressure for an inquiry and the documents
obtained by The Sun, the Vancouver police department refused to
Media relations Constable Sarah Bloor said reporters will have to
wait to get their questions answered at the next missing women's
task force briefing, which is scheduled for March 20.
But when Rossmo made similar allegations at his wrongful
dismissal trial last year, Deputy Chief Constable Gary Greer
dismissed them as "outrageous" and said the department had gone to
great lengths to solve the missing women case. He also said that
because police had no bodies, there was no proof that a crime had
Surrey-Newton MLA Tony Bhullar has already filed a formal request
for a judicial inquiry into the case with the Police Complaints
Commission. Bhullar said Friday that if the commission fails to call
one, he is prepared to introduce a private member's bill in the
provincial legislature requesting an inquiry be held.
MacKay-Dunn, who worked on the Downtown Eastside, said it was he
who asked Rossmo in 1998 to examine the jump in unsolved missing
But Rossmo testified at his wrongful dismissal trial last year
that Inspector Fred Biddlecombe, who headed the major crime section,
threw a minor tantrum when Rossmo suggested police should assess the
extent of the problem.
In September, 1998, Rossmo even drafted a press release, a copy
of which was also obtained by The Sun, which said police were trying
to "determine if a serial murderer is preying upon people in the
Downtown Eastside." But the department refused to release it.
Since the proposed news release was drafted, 18 women have
Despite the resistance by some to his suggestions, Rossmo said in
a recent interview that he was encouraged by Deputy Chief Constable
Brian McGuinness to do a statistical analysis to determine if the
jump in disappearances might have occurred by chance and how many of
the women would likely be found.
Rossmo's final report, which was obtained by The Sun, states:
"While it is not possible with available information to determine
with certainty the cause of these disappearances, the most likely
explanation for the majority of them is a single murderer (or
partner murderers) preying on Skid Row prostitutes.
The report, dated May 27, 1999, was addressed to McGuinness,
Biddlecombe, and Inspector Chris Beach, who was in charge of
District Two, which includes the Downtown Eastside. McGuinness and
Biddlecombe have since retired from the department, and Beach is now
in charge of the major crime section. None could be reached for
The documents back up Rossmo's testimony at his wrongful
dismissal trial last year, and show his report reached senior
officers in the department, who nevertheless continued to downplay
the serial killer theory in public.
Two months after Rossmo submitted his report, Acting Deputy Chief
Constable John Unger appeared at a news conference to announce a
$100,000 reward in the case.
"The very best outcome that we could have is that every one of
these missing women would phone us and say: 'Here I am. I don't wish
to make it publicly known where I'm located, but here I am to let
you know that I'm safe and sound," Unger said at the time.
However, Rossmo's report indicated it was unlikely police would
ever locate more than two of the women. In fact, none of the women
on the list of 20 missing sex trade workers that Rossmo examined has
ever been found.
According to the documents, Rossmo examined more than 800 missing
women cases in Vancouver from 1996 to 1998 to determine standard
patterns in such cases. He concluded that the 20 unsolved files of
missing sex trade workers from 1995 to 1999 were "statistically
significant" and "unlikely to have occurred by chance."
"Based on historical data, we can expect to locate no more than
two other individuals from this group."
Rossmo acknowledged that drug users and women in the sex trade
are less stable, often transient, and therefore difficult to find.
"On the other hand, extraordinary efforts were made by our
department to locate these individuals," he said. "In conclusion,
the number of missing persons during the last 30 months from this
group is significantly higher than what could be expected by
Rossmo went on to say that if the women had met with foul play,
there were three possible scenarios: They were victims of separate
killers; they were victims of a serial murderer; or they were
victims of multiple serial murderers.
"The fact their bodies have not been discovered makes the first
scenario unlikely," Rossmo said, noting that typical murders on the
Downtown Eastside involve drunken brawls, low level drug killings,
and domestic incidents -- all cases where the victim's body is
Furthermore, Rossmo said, the rarity of serial murder made it
improbable that there was more than one predator at work.
Rossmo favored the single killer theory.
"Similarities in victimology and the short time period and
specific neighbourhood involved -- all suggest the single serial
murderer hypothesis is the most likely explanation for the majority
of these incidents," he said. "The single predator theory includes
partner or team killers; approximately 25 per cent of serial murder
cases involve more than one offender."
Rossmo, who invented geographic profiling, was unable to create a
profile for the missing women case, because investigators lacked
sufficient information on where the killer encountered his victims.
But Rossmo noted in his report that missing persons cases that turn
out to be serial murders often involve "cluster body dump
"It is not unusual for serial killers who want to hide the
remains of their victims to dispose of multiple bodies in one
location; using several different sites increases the odds of
discovery," he said. "When a body is found in a cluster dump site,
several others can often be located within a range of 50 metres or
"Considering Vancouver's surrounding geography, potential burial
sites are most likely to be in wilderness areas (e.g., North
Vancouver District), or less likely on the offender's residence or
property." Rossmo says he was referring to a city property.
Rossmo also concluded that the offender was likely local, based
on an analysis of when and where they went missing.
Rossmo, who now works for the Police Foundation in Washington,
D.C., said in a telephone interview this week that his report should
have set off alarm bells, but the department continued to treat the
case like a missing persons inquiry instead of a serial murder
"While I think it helped guide investigators, I don't think it
helped guide the management of the major crime section." And no
matter how committed the investigators were, "they didn't have the
resources for this type of case," Rossmo said.
"And look what happened when the resources were put on it: In
less than a year they make an arrest."
A Sun investigation last year revealed that Vancouver police
assigned inexperienced and overworked police officers to the case
without the time or resources to do a thorough job. The
investigation was plagued by infighting, computer problems and a
lack of training. It eventually stalled in late 2000 and was
replaced by a joint Vancouver police-RCMP probe in early 2001.
Rossmo recently lost his wrongful dismissal suit against
Vancouver police and has filed an appeal. But he said his calls for
an inquiry stem from a sense of responsibility to the public, and
not because he has an axe to grind with his former department.
"I've been saying the same things since 1998, haven't I?" he