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Woman who survived Pickton attack not granted anonymity

Robert William Pickton, 52, shown here in a picture taken from TV.

Globe files/Globe files

The former prostitute at the centre of the Pickton inquiry has been denied the right to anonymity offered to others who wish to provide evidence without being cross-examined during the public hearings.

Commissioner Wally Oppal, in written reasons released this week, said the woman should not be covered by a protocol for protection of vulnerable witnesses, as her evidence could be central to find out why prosecutors decided to not proceed with charges against Robert Pickton on Jan. 27, 1998. A court order prohibits publication of the woman's name.

That means she will be required to testify at the inquiry and be subject to cross-examination. Other former prostitutes, victims of sexual assault and aboriginal women will be entitled to give evidence through an affidavit or by written submissions by counsel, Mr. Oppal stated.

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Those who submit affidavits will not be subject to cross-examination. However their evidence will not be used for a finding of misconduct, Mr. Oppal stated. Their evidence must be corroborated before he will accept what they say as fact.

The former prostitute was allegedly attacked by Robert Pickton at his farm in 1997 and escaped. Mr. Pickton had been charged with attempted murder, assault with a weapon, forcible confinement and aggravated assault but the Crown prosecution subsequently stayed the charges.

Mr. Pickton went on to kill several women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. He was convicted of second degree murder of six women but once said he killed 49 women. Observers say Mr. Pickton, who was arrested in February, 2002, may have been stopped much earlier if the charges had gone ahead in 1998.

The inquiry, which is mostly focused on the police investigation of Mr. Pickton, is also to look into the decision to stay the charges in 1998.

Mr. Oppal earlier this month told the inquiry that sex workers could provide evidence at the inquiry without having their names published or appearing in person to be cross-examined by police lawyers. The names of the prostitutes and sexual assault victims would be covered by a publication ban. If police wish to cross-examine a woman who alleged wrong-doing, the witness would have a choice of appearing at the inquiry or withdrawing her affidavit.

Inquiry-appointed lawyers representing the views of aborignal women and women from the Downtown Eastside had told the inquiry that the women would not provide any testimony to the inquiry about their experiences if they did not receive the protections.

Written reasons for Mr. Oppal's ruling were released this week.

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Hearings at the inquiry are to resume Monday with the cross-examination of Doug LePard, deputy chief of the Vancouver Police Department, who completed an extensive internal review of how the Vancouver police handled the Pickton investigation.

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