NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. In a highly unusual public statement, the former head of Vancouver's Missing Women Task Force says he believes serial killer Robert Pickton would have been convicted of first-degree murder if information had not been held back from the jury.
Don Adam also told reporters yesterday that police did not find evidence that would have supported criminal charges against others for murder of drug-addicted prostitutes from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
"We need to deal with evidence, and if the evidence is not there, we cannot engage in a witch hunt," he said.
He felt Mr. Justice James Williams had acted fairly within the constraints placed on him. But "full justice" was not done, Mr. Adam said.
Mr. Adam was the head of the Missing Women Task Force at the time of Mr. Pickton's arrest in February, 2002.
He sat in the back row of the public gallery in B.C. Supreme Court, listening to the evidence, on several days during the 105-day trial. He retired from the RCMP last week.
The jury found Mr. Pickton guilty of six second-degree murders, indicating that they believed Mr. Pickton intended to kill the women but the murders were not planned. A conviction of first-degree murder requires the jury to find that the murders were planned and deliberate.
Mr. Adam's decision to speak out after a 34-year career in the Mounties may be considered by some as an act of lunacy, he told reporters outside the New Westminster courthouse yesterday.
But the verdict did not feel right to him.
"If there is a person here who does not know [Mr. Pickton] planned those murders then I am on the wrong planet," Mr. Adam said.
"I believe we let [the jury] down," he said. "We took a year out of their lives, we didn't give them everything and they did what they could."
Judge Williams issued several rulings on the admissibility of evidence during the lengthy trial. A court order prohibited the news media from reporting on the matters.
Mr. Adam wondered how the jury will feel when they finally hear everything. "Haven't we betrayed them?" he said.
Judge Williams told the jury that they were in the best position to know the truth. "I don't think so," Mr. Adam said. "I think people who heard the most were in the best position."
Mr. Adam said he was hoping to stir a public debate over whether courts should withhold information from juries. His intention was not to attack the criminal justice system, he said. "I think there should be an honest dialogue about keeping everything from the jury," he said. "Is that right? I don't know. But it is worth talking about."
Mr. Adam also dismissed suggestions from Mr. Pickton's defence team that Mr. Pickton's brother, Dave Pickton, his friend Dinah Taylor or his business associate Pat Casanova may have played a role in the murders
Defence lawyer Adrian Brooks told the jury that the forensic links of the three alternative suspects were stronger than Robert Pickton's ties to the evidence.
Dave Pickton's connections were "extremely significant" and the jury was not getting the whole picture, he said. Mr. Casanova had the means, the opportunity and the expertise to commit murder as well as an association with one of the women who was murdered, Mr. Brooks also said. Mr. Brooks told the jury police rushed to judgment in deciding that Robert Pickton was the only one involved.
Mr. Adam told reporters that Robert Pickton "got every break in the world because people underestimated him." The evidence was not sufficient to bring charges against any other suspects, Mr. Adam added.
Robert Pickton and Dave Pickton lived in "very distinct worlds," Mr. Adam said. The evidence was not sufficient to move ahead with charges against Ms. Taylor, Mr. Casanova or anyone else, he also said.
Mr. Adam, who questioned Mr. Pickton after his arrest, said he saw "malignant evil" in Mr. Pickton's eyes. "I had just the smallest sense, as he was playing with me, of what it must have been like for those women when they were in his control," he said, adding that Mr. Pickton was a chameleon.
Later, Dave Pickton said during a brief telephone interview he was "not involved" in what his brother was doing. "Talk to the cops," he said. "Go talk to the cops. They will tell you."
With a report from Rod Mickleburgh