RCMP hunt for serial killer in 3 cold case slayings
Published Tuesday, November 2, 2010 4:10PM PDT
Once again, RCMP in British Columbia's Fraser Valley are looking for a serial killer responsible for the murders of at least three sex-trade workers from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
Robert Pickton was once thought to have been responsible for their 1995 deaths, but police have since determined he's not the one and on Tuesday asked for public help to track down an entirely different serial killer.
The bodies of Tracy Olajide, Tammy Pipe and Victoria Younker were found in remote areas of the Fraser Valley, east of Vancouver, between August and October of that year.
All were drug-addicted prostitutes who worked the streets of the impoverished neighbourhood where dozens of sex workers have disappeared in recent decades.
Many of those women ended up on Pickton's farm in Port Coquitlam, but others -- including Olajide, Pipe and Younker -- met a different fate.
Police have long suspected the three women were killed by the same person who dumped their nude bodies in remote locations near Agassiz and Mission, but 15 years later police are at a loss to say who that person is.
Staff Sgt. John Cater said investigators hope the renewed media coverage of the women's deaths will prompt someone to come forward with information, particularly people connected to the sex and drug trades who may have been reluctant to speak with police 15 years ago.
"Hopefully, something will tweak their memory, something strange they've always wondered about and not thought it was important," Cater said in an interview Tuesday.
"Over time, people have life changes, people get out of the criminal culture. People who are addicted often pull out of that and lead different lives. These people may now have the courage or want to come forward and give us information that they were hesitant to for whatever reason many years ago."
Investigators believe the killer may have lived or worked in the rugged areas between Agassiz and Mission where the women were dumped, perhaps visiting the region to hunt or fish, or while working in the forest industry or for corrections.
They also say the suspect's red four-by-four vehicle was likely scratched or damaged during off-road forays to dump the bodies, and he likely wrapped the victims in some type of weathered yellow rain gear before disposing of the remains.
Police once believed the three women's deaths could be linked to Pickton, who was later convicted of six counts of second-degree murder and is now serving a life sentence in prison.
The remains or DNA of 33 women were uncovered on Pickton's farm, but Cater said DNA and forensic evidence long ago excluded Pickton as a suspect in these cases.
Olajide, 30, who is the sister of former boxing champion Michael Olajide Jr., had "primarily stopped working the street" but was still an active drug user, police said. She had a child. Her body was found Aug. 12, 1995, on a trail near Agassiz.
Pipe's body was found on Sept. 2, 1995, in the middle of a remote side road, where there had been no attempt to conceal it. The RCMP said the 24-year-old frequently gave money and clothing to the poor, but fell into sex work to support her cocaine habit. She was last seen at one of the low-income hotels in the Downtown Eastside.
And Younker's body was found on Oct. 21, 1995, partially decomposed down an embankment at the side of a logging road. The 35-year-old sex worker was last seen Sept. 11, at a government office. She didn't pick up her social assistance cheque on Sept. 25.
In the 1990s, investigators revealed they had a suspect on the three women's deaths -- a convicted rapist already serving time in prison, who they never named.
But DNA has since ruled him out as a suspect, said Cater.
"There was, at the time, a very, very good person of interest and the investigative thinking and everything else led to this individual," he said.
"When we were able to get his DNA, he was actually excluded."
About the same time, police had publicly linked the women's deaths to at least four others, saying they could all be the work of the same killer.
Now, while investigators haven't ruled out the possibility the cases may be related to others, Cater said investigators have been unable to link them.
"I'm not able to say that because the evidence is just not there," he said.
Meanwhile, the head of a forthcoming public inquiry into the failed police investigation into the Pickton case is going on the road looking for input about what information should be included at the hearings.
Former attorney general Wally Oppal will hold community forums in Prince George and Vancouver to hear from people about the effect the tragedy of missing and murdered women has had on their lives.
The first of those forums is scheduled for Dec. 6 in Vancouver.