Convicted serial murderer Robert “Willie” Pickton was still only one of a handful of three or four likely suspects when Vancouver Police Department Det. Const. Lori Shenher and her team handed over information to retired RCMP Insp. Don Adam at the creation of Project Evenhanded, culminating in the Missing Women Task Force.
At the same time, an emotional Shenher admitted to Janet Winteringham, acting counsel for Adam, that she suspected Pickton was the main suspect, but that she may not have communicated that to Adam and his team “directly”.
“It would have been pretty apparent from our files,” Shenher added at the missing women's inquiry on February 2 of the events of 1999 and 2000.
Winteringham also noted that retired VPD officer Dave Dickson, Sgt. Geramy Field, and Shenher herself had been excluded from Project Evenhanded, which had sprung out of the VPD’s Project Amelia, investigations into the missing women in the Downtown Eastside.
“I was having nightmares,” Shenher told the commission. “I was having a really difficult time, and I really struggled with feeling that responsibility [at point of handover]. I acknowledge that I would have been the obvious person to go out with that file, and that it probably hampered it to some degree, my not going out there, but I just felt that it would have been to my own detriment.”
Shenher did not attend a meeting of the new task force until October 24, 2001, she admitted under cross-examination, and suggested this could have been the first time she met Adam, as she was on maternity leave prior to this. During other testimony answering Winteringham’s questions, Shenher said she also believed for a time that the killer had been either apprehended or may have been dead, adding she felt at one stage—pegged to January 1999—that the killings had ceased.
Then Winteringham turned to the missing women’s report written by VPD deputy chief Doug LePard.
“He states, and this is in his concluding comments, that the delay in creating the Missing Women’s Review Team was unfortunate, although not unreasonable given the circumstances, for several reasons,” Winteringham said, reading from the report. “Although women went missing from the Downtown Eastside from the mid-1990s throughout 1998, by the time a more suspect-based investigation began in May 1999, the suspicious disappearance had apparently stopped, with the last one occurring in January 1999.”
Added Shenher, “I agree that the delay was unfortunate, yes.”