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Canadian Police Make First Arrests in Case Involving Dozens of Missing Women - 2002-02-23

Canadian police has arrested and charged one of the Vancouver area pig farmowners for murder as the search for dozens of missing women continued. Friday's arrest comes more than eighteen years after the first disappearance.

Fifty-two-year-old Robert William Pickton is charged with two counts of first-degree murder. It is the first arrest in the investigation of 50 missing women. Police said the vast majority of victims were drug addicts and prostitutes in the economically depressed area known as Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

The authorities said over 80 investigators have been searching the suburban pig farm since February 6. Mr.Pickton and his brother own the four-hectare property about 35 kilometres east of downtown Vancouver.

The first woman disappeared in June of 1983 and the most recent was added to the list in November of 2001.

A special task force involving Vancouver city police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police was not set-up until September of last year.

Ernie Crey is the brother of Dawn Theresa Crey, who was reported missing in November 2000.

He said that the Vancouver police were neglecting the investigation until family members started to protest. Mr. Crey said this pressure forced different police agencies to co-operate and better examine the disappearances. "Well I would say that played a significant role in getting the police forces to finally decide that they needed to take this investigation seriously and devote the kind of resources necessary to do this investigation," he said.

Police say that this type of an investigation is slow, methodical and takes time. Constable Cate Galliford of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said these charges are not the end of the investigation. She told reporters at a late Friday's news conference that there are several months of work to be done at the farm. "We believe we now have answers regarding the disappearance of two of the missing women," she said. "But this is a case involving 50 missing women. There are a lot of questions still unanswered. We will not rest until those answers are found. And let me make this very clear to all of you. The investigation into the missing women is not over. The detailed, inch by inch search of the farm property will continue for many months to come."

For now, investigators refuse to identify which two of the missing women Mr. Pickton is alleged to have killed. They also will not disclose what evidence was found that led to the charges.

Some of the information will be made public Monday when Mr. Pickton will appear in court for these charges. He is already facing other charges on several weapons related offences.

Ms. Galliford said thousands of tips have been called into police since the search began. She also said that the investigation is not limited to the pig farm and that there are other suspects.

At the time of the early disappearances, the farm was originally three times the size, totalling nearly 12 hectares. Houses and commercial developments now occupy that land.

Since the land is on a flood plain, none of the buildings involved excavation during construction. Instead, different materials were added to solidify the land.

Police will not disclose if there are plans to search any of the original farmland that has been developed.