Pickton inquiry: "Erin Brockovich of Downtown Eastside" refuses to stay silent on missing women
Fournier remembers many of her encounters with women like Sereena Abotsway, Marnie Frey and “Sharon” in detail – down to the clothes they were wearing – and recalls the night Pickton was jailed after allegedly stabbing a woman known as “Anderson” nearly to death in 1997. Court jail staff phoned her to ask about any health hazards because he smelled so terrible, she said. After the Crown mysteriously dropped all charges against him, and then destroyed its files, she began seeing the pig farmer around Hastings Street at least twice a week.
“That's when I started seeing Pickton again,” she said. “I got to know him through his vehicle being around, and through the girls talking.
“When I did flu shots at the Waldorf Hotel, he happened to be there. I saw him and his vehicle hanging outside. When you see him, you don't forget – the same as Dave (Pickton). They were well-known.”
Word-on-the-street was that the “smelly pig farmer” was killing women on his farm, often lured there by several other women he was paying with drugs.
“All we have are descriptions: a creepy guy trying to get girls to go to a party, maybe in 1998 to 1999 and continuing on,” she said. “It was word-of-mouth among the women, that other women were acting as lures for the Pickton parties.
“They called him a 'smelly guy, a creepy guy with long, greasy hair. He smelled rotten. When I came downtown, I'd drive down Hastings, past the Waldorf (Hotel). If he was standing outside, I'd think, 'Oh shit, here he is.'”
With her first-hand experience of the police, numerous missing women, and seeing Pickton himself, she asks, why have requests for her testimony been ignored for a year?
“I've been put off – apparently, 33 years working in the Downtown Eastside isn't 'expert'?,” she said, her voice fierce. “I've worked with youth; I was director of a street program since the 1970s.
“There isn't one area – from psychiatric to dual diagnosis to prostitution to hard-core criminals – that I haven't dealt with in my career since 1966. They can't dispute what I have to say. I'm still working at being heard."
But the senior lawyer for the Commission told the Vancouver Observer that the inquiry could not comment on the remaining witnesses to be called, although Commissioner Wally Oppal set a deadline today for final requests.
“The Commissioner will be dealing with future witnesses next week,” Art Verlieb said. “It is not the policy of Commission Counsel to discuss why a witness was or was not called to testify.”
Narrow escape from Pickton's farm
In another chilling incident – forever burned into her memory – a young woman Fournier calls “Sharon” told her that in 1999 or 2000: “'Bonnie, I escaped from the farm.'”
“Sharon” said she was in Surrey, shoplifting at a mall -- she supported her drug addiction by stealing, not prostitution, Fournier said -- when two women who knew her from the Downtown Eastside approached and invited her to a party, “with free booze and drugs.” The women went to a “well-known Hells Angels spot” located on the King George Highway, just before it enters Surrey: a rental house they called the “House of Pain.”
“They went there, and then were moved by station wagon or van – 'We're going to a party with good music,'” Fournier was told. “They were taken to the (Pickton) farm from this house in Surrey.
“After they got to the farm, Sharon said everyone was into the drugs – lots of drugs. When they pulled in there, she got a gut feeling that this was scary. . . she got a gut feeling and bolted from the car and ran to Lougheed Highway. She was picked up by a bus on Lougheed and given a ride in to Vancouver by a sympathetic driver.”
When Fournier pushed “Sharon” to tell police about her experience linking the Hells Angels to the Pickton property, she refused.
“'I'd be dead,'” the woman replied. “'Do you know how many others out there have escaped? I'm not the only one.'”
Her experiences – and knowing many of the Downtown Eastside's missing and murdered women personally – are too troubling for her to give up on testifying, she told the Vancouver Observer over lunch. She'd practically abandoned hope when Commissioner Wally Oppal shifted the inquiry into a series of expert panels instead of single-witness cross-examination on Feb. 21.
“I am hopeful that individuals who have important information to contribute will be more willing to come forward and participate in this less adversarial hearing process,” Oppal announced.
“He said he wants to make it better,” Fournier recalled. “It was very articulate.