VANCOUVER – The children of yet another woman whose DNA was found on Robert Pickton’s farm have launched a civil suit against the serial killer, the Vancouver police and the RCMP, bringing to six the number of families who have launched lawsuits in the wake of a sharply critical public inquiry report released late last year.
Shari and Ryan Murdock filed a notice of civil claim in mid-July over the death of their mother, Jacqueline Murdock, who was reported missing in August 1997 and whose DNA was later found on Pickton’s property after his arrest in February 2002.
Murdock was among six women whose DNA was found on the farm but for whom no charges were ever laid.
Like the earlier statements of claim, the Murdock children allege the Vancouver police and the RCMP put their mother at risk by failing to properly investigate reports of missing sex workers or warn the public of a potential serial killer.
The lawsuits echo the findings of a public inquiry report, released last December, which concluded systemic bias within both police forces slowed the response as women vanished from the Downtown Eastside, many ending up dead on Pickton’s farm, in the late 1990s and early 2000s
Commissioner Wally Oppal, a former judge and one-time attorney general, concluded the police response would likely have been different if the missing weren’t poor, drug-addicted women, many of them aboriginal, from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
The latest statement of claim — which, like the others, contains allegations that haven’t been proven in court — alleges police knew a serial killer may have been at work, but did nothing.
“Notwithstanding their knowledge of the risk to sex workers, (Vancouver police) and RCMP failed to warn Jacqueline and others of the risk of a serial killer,” says the statement of claim.
“The failure to warn by the VPD and RCMP was a contributing cause of Jacqueline’s death.”
All six families are being represented by the same lawyer, who has indicated the cases could force Pickton to testify and answer for his crime — something that has yet to happen since his arrest more than a decade ago.
The lawsuits have also provided new details about the women and the children they left behind.
In the statement of claim, Murdock is described as “a positive, friendly and caring person” who hoped to one day overcome her addiction and return to her family.
“She enjoyed writing poetry in her journal,” the document says. “Jacqueline is remembered for her fun-loving personality and her loud, contagious laughter.”
Shari Murdock recently graduated from a social work program and is looking for work in her field, the statement of claim says. Ryan Murdock is a cook.
The Murdock children join five other families who have launched lawsuits. They include the children of Stephanie Lane, Dianne Rock, Sarah de Vries, Cynthia Feliks and Yvonne Boen.
Pickton was initially charged with 27 counts of murder, later reduced to 26, though he was put on trial and convicted of six. The remaining 20 charges were stayed.
Rock, de Vries and Feliks were among the 20 women whose cases were stayed. Murdock, Lane and Boen were in yet another group of six women whose DNA was found on Pickton’s farm, though he was never charged in their deaths.
The remains or DNA of 33 women were found on his property. The lawyer for the families has suggested more lawsuits could be on the way.
The families’ lawsuits have all been filed separately and make different allegations depending on the experiences of each woman and family.
Several of the lawsuits also allege prosecutors within British Columbia’s criminal justice branch were negligent when they declined to put Pickton on trial for attempted murder following an attack on a sex worker in 1997.
In March 1997, Pickton and a sex worker became entangled in a violent confrontation at his property in Port Coquitlam, B.C., leaving the woman with injuries so severe she died on the operating table before she was revived.
Days before Pickton was set to stand trial, a Crown prosecutor decided not to go ahead. Crown counsel Randi Connor told a public inquiry last year that she believed the sex worker’s drug use meant she wasn’t in a condition to testify.
The lawsuit relating to Murdock does not mention the case, presumably because she was last seen in 1996 and was reported missing in the fall of 1997, before prosecutors dropped the case against Pickton.
Several of the earlier lawsuits named Pickton’s siblings, David and Linda — David for allegedly lying for his brother during the attempted murder investigation in 1997 and both for allowing the killings to happen on a property they owned together with Robert.
The Murdock lawsuit does not name Pickton’s siblings, nor does the lawsuit filed by Stephanie Lane’s son.
None of the defendants have filed statements of defence.
The B.C. government has filed an application asking that portions of the lawsuits that target prosecutors be removed, arguing that prosecutors are protected from liability unless they acted maliciously.