Missing Women Timeline
Operation Evenhanded: RCMP File # 2001E-1388
Only serial killer Robert William Pickton knows when his spree of killing women, primarily drug-addicted sex-trade workers, began. What is known is that starting in the seventies, Vancouver police began crackdowns on strip clubs which forced prostitution into the city’s streets. Working together to keep each other safe, prostitutes were relatively safe. But, in the eighties, the City of Vancouver and the courts began a series of crackdowns which pushed street prostitution around the city and eventually into its poorest neighborhood, the drug-ridden Downtown Eastside.
This is a timeline of Pickton’s killing spree through to a commission of inquiry into the police investigation leading to his capture and 2007 conviction:
July 4 – BC Supreme Court Justice Allan McEachern issues an injunction moving prostitutes out of Vancouver’s West End neighbourhood into the Yaletown area. Subsequent Yaletown gentrification forced prostitutes into the Mount Pleasant area. Pressure to move them once more forced prostitutes, many drug addicted and engaged in survival sex, into the impoverished Downtown Eastside where Pickton hunted his victims.
February 14 – The first Vancouver Missing Women’s Memorial March is initiated after a Coast Salish woman is brutally murdered in the city’s Downtown Eastside. Women are angered that no one seemed to care or pay attention to the fact that women were being murdered in the community. The date — St. Valentine’s Day — was chosen as it is universally recognized as a day to show care and appreciation for a significant person one loves. Decades later, the march continues to honour the lives of missing and murdered women annually on February 14th.
December 27 – Diana Melnick last seen
October 29 – Tanya Holyk last seen
List of missing women is created by VPD.
Jan. 7 – Kerry Koski last seen
Jan. 10 – Stephanie Lane last seen
Jan. 20 – Cara Ellis reported missing
March – Pickton charged with attempted murder of prostitute (name under court ban).
April – Sherry Irving last seen
Aug. 14 – Jacqueline Murdock last seen
Aug. 29 – Marnie Frey last seen
Oct. 1 – Helen Hallmark last seen
Nov. 26 – Cindy Feliks last seen
Andrea Borhaven last seen – no date available
January – Pickton’s attempted murder charges dropped.
Jan. 24 – Missing women investigators meet with families to discuss obtaining familial DNA.
Feb. 26 – Inga Hall last seen
Apr. 14 – Sarah DeVries last seen
Mar. 21 – Sherry Irving reported missing
Aug. 6 – Bill Hiscox calls police with Pickton information.
September – Vancouver police set up team to review missing women files as far back as 1971.
Sep. 18 – Bill Hiscox tells police he believes Pickton is killer.
Sep. 18 – Vancouver Sun reports Insp. Fred Biddlecombe saying he wasn’t ruling out the possibility of a serial killer, but that there was no evidence of one.
Nov. 12 – Angela Jardine last seen
Jan. 6 – Jacqueline McDonell last seen
Feb. 17 – Brenda Wolfe last seen
Mar. 2 – Georgina Papin last seen
Mar. 22 – Police check Pickton on New Westminster sex worker stroll.
Apr. 21 – Police agree Pickton should be under surveillance.
Apr. 28 – Vancouver Police Board agrees to offer $100,000 reward in case after families protest similar reward for garage break-ins.
May 25 – Vancouver Police Det. Insp. Kim Rossmo puts forward serial killer hypothesis.
Jun. 23 – Missing women segment is taped for “America’s Most Wanted”.
July – Vancouver Police and B.C. attorney general publish poster offering a reward of $100,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people involved in the disappearances.
Sep. 1 – RCMP investigators attend Pickton residence but can’t find him. Pickton later calls, agrees to speak to officer the next day to “clear the air.”
Nov. 27 – Wendy Crawford last seen
Dec. 27 – Jennifer Furminger last seen
Jan. 19 – Pickton is interviewed by RCMP.
Mar. 10 – Tiffany Drew last seen
Apr. 25 – Brenda Wolfe reported missing
August – Vancouver police raid and close Grandma’s House, a safe house for prostitutes in Vancouver.
Nov. 1 – Dawn Crey last seen
Dec. 21 – Debra Jones last seen
Mar. 2 – Yvonne Boen last seen
Mar. 3 – Patricia Johnson last seen
April – Heather Chinnock last seen
Apr. 17 – Heather Bottomley last seen
Jun. 6 – Angela Joesbury last seen
August – Sereena Abotsway last seen
September – RCMP and Vancouver Police establish joint missing women’s task force to replace stalled VPD investigation.
Sep. 23 – Vancouver Province newspaper reports new Vancouver police spokesperson warned “it’s premature to conclude a serial killer is running loose, terrorizing hookers and junkies.”
Oct. 19 – Diane Rock last seen
Nov. 25 – Mona Wilson last seen
January – Missing women list totals 50.
Feb. 5 – Police enter Pickton farm on firearms warrant.
Feb. 6 – Police start search of Pickton farm. Investigation becomes largest serial murder case in Canadian history.
Feb. 14 – Pickton arrested. He tells undercover officer in jail cell he killed 49 women but got “sloppy.” He said he disposed of the remains at a rendering plant.
Feb. 22 – Pickton charged with first-degree murder of Abotsway and Wilson.
Apr. 2 – Pickton charged with three more first-degree charges, Diane Rock, Jacqueline McDonell and Heather Bottomley.
Apr. 9 – Sixth murder charge added, Andrea Joesbury.
May 22 – Pickton charged with the murder of Brenda Wolfe.
Jun. 6 – Police and archaeologists begin excavating Pickton farm.
Sep. 19 – More charges added, Georgina Papin, Helen Hallmark, Patricia Johnson, and Jennifer Furminger. Missing Women list grows to 63.
Oct. 2 – Pickton charged with murdering Heather Chinnock, Tanya Holyk, Sherry Irving, and Inga Hall.
Jan. 13 – Pickton preliminary hearing begins to assess evidence.
Jul. 23 – Preliminary hearing judge commits Pickton for trial on 15 murder counts.
Nov. 18 – Investigators complete excavation and search of Pickton property (charges continue to be added).
Aug. 9 – Trial judge severs 26 counts to six for trial.
Sep. 8 – Crown announces decision to proceed first on the six counts, with the rest to be tried separately later.
Oct. 4 – New indictment is filed for the victims Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson, Andrea Joesbury, Brenda Ann Wolfe, Georgina Faith Papin, and Marnie Frey.
Dec. 22 – Jury selection completed after hundreds of potential jurors called.
Jan. 22 – Trial begins with worldwide media attention.
Jun. 25 – Lynn Ellingsen testifies she was with Pickton when he picked up a prostitute. She walked in on a blood-soaked Pickton butchering the body which was hanging from a hook.
Jul. 16 – Andy Bellwood testifies Pickton told him how he lured women to the farm to kill them.
Oct. 16 – Presentation of evidence ends with 128 witnesses called.
Dec. 9 – Jury finds Pickton guilty of six counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Sereena Abotsway, Mona Lee Wilson, Andrea Joesbury, Brenda Ann Wolfe, Marnie Lee Frey, Georgina Faith Papin.
Dec. 11 – Pickton sentenced to 25 years in prison before possibility of parole.
June 25 – British Columbia Court of Appeal upholds Pickton’s conviction in split decision.
Jul. 30 – Supreme Court of Canada rejects Pickton’s final appeal. Remaining 20 murder charges stayed.
Aug. 20 – Vancouver police apologize for “not having caught this monster sooner.”
Sep. 9 – B.C. attorney general announces inquiry into failed police investigation.
Nov. 15 – B.C. government reveals Pickton investigation and trial cost $102 million.
October 11 – Missing Women Commission of Inquiry begins with former judge and attorney general Wally Oppal as commissioner. The Commission’s mandate is to examine the police investigations conducted between January 1997 and February 2002 into women reported missing from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
Jan. 27 – RCMP apologizes for not having caught Pickton earlier.
Mar. 5 – Robyn Gervais, commission Aboriginal Interests lawyer resigns from public inquiry citing delays in calling witnesses, the failure to provide adequate hearing time for panels, the lack of support for the Aboriginal community and disproportionate focus on police evidence.
Nov. 22 – Wally Opal submits 1,448-page Missing Women Commission of Inquiry report to the Ministry of Justice, highlighting the police’s failed investigations and including 63 recommendations.
Sources: Supreme Court of British Columbia, British Columbia Court of Appeal, B.C. Department of Justice, RCMP, Vancouver Police Department, CBC, www,journalisethics.info, Street Prostitution and Public Sex in Vancouver’s West End by Mary Sherman, Xtra Vancouver newspaper. Compiled by Jeremy Hainsworth.