The stepmother of a woman killed in what police call Canada's worst serial killing case said Monday that she heard about the man who killed her daughter three years before he was arrested.
Lynn Frey is the stepmother of victim Marnie Frey. She told a public inquiry on Monday that support workers in a neighborhood that a guy called "Willie" outside Vancouver might have been responsible.
Robert William Pickton was convicted in 2007 of six counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of sex workers. He slaughtered the women at his suburban pig farm and fed some of the remains to his pigs. Pickton was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years.
The inquiry is examining why it took so long for authorities to catch him.
Lynn Frey said she began searching Vancouver's drug-infested Downtown Eastside when her stepdaughter failed to call home on her 24th birthday in August 1997.
"She would call home every day," Frey said.
Frey said calls to police were met with an attitude of indifference.
"Why would Vancouver police care?" Frey told inquiry commissioner Wally Oppal, a former judge and provincial attorney general. "She was just a lowlife prostitute."
Frey said Marnie was open about her involvement in the sex trade.
"She was an addict and had no other choice," Lynn Frey said. "The disease overpowered her. Addiction is not something you choose."
As she searched for her stepdaughter, Frey was told by other sex workers that Marnie had wound up in a wood chipper. She also said she heard from support workers and others who knew people in the area that a guy called "Willie" in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, might have been responsible.
Frey said she visited the farm and told police about what she heard. She said police told her Pickton was a person of interest.
Police lawyer David Crossin told Frey police detectives have no record of being told of Frey's trip to the farm.
Frey said she met other families who were searching for missing women but who were frustrated with what she called a dismissive police attitude.
Oppal is also charged with investigating why government prosecutors dropped attempted murder and forcible confinement charges against Pickton in 1998. Court testimony revealed that, in 1997, Pickton had handcuffed a woman and stabbed her but she fought back, stabbing him. The woman was found naked and bleeding after fleeing his farm. Both Pickton and the woman wound up at a nearby hospital and the key to the handcuffs she was wearing was found in Pickton's pocket.
In August 2010, a Vancouver Police Department report said 11 women may have been spared from Pickton had police acted on information available four years before the pig farmer's arrest. The 450-page report blamed both Vancouver police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for errors that prevented either police force from arresting Pickton.