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Families of four missing women sue Robert Pickton, police, BC government and City of Vancouver


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This action has been rumoured for some time. On Thursday May 9. 2013 children of four women whose remains were found on the Port Coquitlam farm of serial killer Robert Pickton have filed a civil suit in B.C. Supreme Court.

Lawyer Jason Gratl filed the suit on behalf of the children of Dianne Rock, Sarah de Vries, Cynthia Feliks and Yvonne Boen against Pickton, his brother Dave, sister Lynda, the provincial government and the City of Vancouver

The suit claims police and the Crown failed to warn women in the Downtown Eastside that a serial killer may have been on the loose and raises concerns about the way police eventually told the missing women's families that their cases were linked to Pickton.

Here is the filed Notice of Civil Claim setting out the allegations:


As reported:

Sarah-Jean de Vries was six years old the last time she saw her mother, a woman who now lives only in distant memories and faded photographs.

An image of her mother reading a Winnie-the-Pooh book to four-year-old Sarah-Jean was hung low on the walls of the family’s home, so the little girl could easily see the picture every day.

Sarah-Jean was raised by her grandmother, Pat, who patiently answered the little girl’s many questions about her mother — Sarah de Vries, who vanished from the Downtown Eastside in 1998.

“Jeannie is interested in how much she’s like her. Did she have acne, or was she good at singing,” Pat de Vries told The Sun in 2006, when Sarah-Jean was 15 years old.

On Thursday, Sarah-Jean and the children of three other missing women launched lawsuits against serial killer Robert (Willie) Pickton, five RCMP officers, the provincial Justice Ministry, the City of Vancouver, and Pickton’s brother and sister.

Joining de Vries in filing separate lawsuits in B.C. Supreme Court were Theresa Mongovius, daughter of Cynthia Feliks; Troy and Joel Boen, sons of Yvonne Boen; and Melissa Marin, Carol Cote and Donald Cote, children of Dianne Rock.

In a short email to The Sun on Thursday, Mongovius said: “I want justice for the wrongs that could of saved my mom’s life and possibly many others. I want everyone to know my life would be a lot different for me if my mom was still here.”

DNA belonging to all four women — de Vries, Feliks, Boen and Rock — were found on Pickton’s Port Coquitlam pig farm. He faced first-degree murder in their deaths, but the charges were stayed after he was convicted in 2007 of killing six other missing women.

The lawsuits argue police should have been aware Pickton was attacking sex workers in the Downtown Eastside, in part because he was charged in 1997 with the attempted murder of a woman on his farm. Those charges were stayed, but an RCMP corporal put a note on a police database to warn all officers that Pickton was a threat to women on the street.

“Notwithstanding their knowledge of risks to sex workers, (Vancouver police) and RCMP failed to warn Sarah of the specific risk that a serial killer was active in the Downtown Eastside,” the de Vries lawsuit says.

“The VPD and RCMP owed and breached a duty of care to Sarah, as a member of the public and as an individual within a group at heightened risk of harm from a serial killer.”

The lawsuits allege police failed to pursue all investigative leads, mismanaged information, were “inadequate and inept” with surveillance and undercover operations, and failed to confirm or rule out suspects.

The allegations have not been proven in court.

The documents allege a Crown prosecutor was negligent when she stayed the charges against Pickton in the 1997 attack.

“Crown counsel knew or ought to have known that entering a stay of proceedings would increase the risk that Robert Pickton would continue to cause death and serious injury,” the documents say.

The lawsuits name Pickton’s brother, Dave Pickton, and sister, Linda Wright, because they were part owners in the family farm.

“David Pickton and Linda Wright knew that Robert Pickton and others tortured and killed sex workers and other persons at the Pickton property, and were aware that the actions and propensities of Robert Pickton represented a danger to persons attending the Pickton property,” the documents say.

The lawsuits, all filed by Vancouver lawyer Jason Gratl, say the deaths of the plaintiffs’ mothers caused the children to suffer loss of emotional and financial support, as well as challenges to their health and psychological well-being.

Rock’s daughter, Carol, last saw her mother on her 14th birthday in June 2001. When Dianne Rock disappeared four months later, the teenager searched for her in the Downtown Eastside.

“I just wanted to find her, she was really important to me,” Carol told a newspaper at the time.

Yvonne Boen’s mother, Lynn Metin, told The Sun in an earlier interview that she began to worry when her daughter, who had three boys, didn’t show up in March 2001 for a visit with her son Troy.

“She was excited about coming to get Troy, she was happy that he wanted to spend some time with her,” Metin recalled. “(But) she never contacted me. That just wasn’t her. Every holiday, Troy’s birthday, my birthday — it just wasn’t like her not to phone.”

Gratl said his clients are hoping to receive monetary payments, after years of feeling they were not treated well by the justice system.

“The aim of the children of the missing women is to receive financial compensation, a modest leg-up for the future,” he said.

“To bring them back to the point that they would have been if their mothers hadn’t been ruthlessly killed under the noses of the Vancouver police and the RCMP.”

Canadian courts have not been “overly generous” when children sue for the loss of a parent compared to courts in the United States, where the damages awarded have been much higher, Gratl said. He hopes a high-profile case like this may set a new precedent in Canada.

One of the key recommendations made by Wally Oppal, head of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, in his December 2012 report was for compensation to be given to the children of the missing women.

The defendants have not yet filed responses to the lawsuits.

The RCMP officers being sued are Supt. Ric Hall, Cpl. Frank Henley, Const. Ruth Chapman (Yurkiw), Supt. Earl Moulton and Staff Sgt. Brad Zalys. Some are now retired.

The RCMP declined to comment Thursday as the matter is before the courts, but noted Deputy Commissioner Craig Callens has previously said officers “deeply regret” the disappearances. Callens also referred to the case as “a tragedy that caused unimaginable pain for many families.”

Justice Ministry spokeswoman Lori DeLuca would not comment about the allegations in the lawsuit, but noted the government has taken many steps to respond to the recommendations in Oppal’s report, including appointing a “champion” to represent vulnerable women.

The City of Vancouver declined to comment.


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