Tabloid headlines screamed their verdict in Vancouver on 10 April 2002: 54 WOMEN FED TO PIGS!
Robert William "Willie" Pickton (born October 24, 1949) of Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada is a former pig farmer and serial killer convicted of the second-degree murders of six women. He is also charged in the deaths of an additional twenty women, many of them prostitutes and drug users from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. In December 2007 he was sentenced to life in prison, with no possibility of parole for 25 years —the longest sentence available under Canadian law for murder.
During the trial's first day of jury evidence, January 22, 2007, the Crown stated he confessed to forty-nine murders to an undercover police officer posing as a cellmate. The Crown reported that Pickton told the officer that he wanted to kill another woman to make it an even 50, and that he was caught because he was "sloppy".
Also known as The Pig Farmer Killer
Born (1949-10-26) October 26, 1949 (age 63)
Port Coquitlam, British Columbia
Sentence Life imprisonment
Number of victims 6–49
Date apprehended February 22, 2002
On February 6, 2002, police executed a search warrant for illegal firearms at the property owned by Pickton and his brother Dave Pickton. He was taken into custody and police then obtained a second court order to search the farm as part of the BC Missing Women Investigation, when personal items (including a prescription asthma inhaler) belonging to one of the missing women were found. The farm was sealed off by members of the joint RCMP–Vancouver Police Department task force. The following day Pickton was charged with storing a firearm contrary to regulations, possession of a firearm while not being holder of a licence and possession of a loaded restricted firearm without a licence. He was later released and was kept under police surveillance.
On Friday, February 22, 2002, Pickton was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Sereena Abotsway and Mona Wilson. On April 2, 2002 three more charges were added for the murders of Jacqueline McDonell, Diane Rock and Heather Bottomley. A sixth charge for the murder of Andrea Joesbury was laid on April 9, 2002 followed shortly by a seventh for Brenda Wolfe. On September 20, 2002 four more charges were added for the slayings of Georgina Papin, Patricia Johnson, Helen Hallmark and Jennifer Furminger. Four more charges for the murders of Heather Chinnock, Tanya Holyk, Sherry Irving and Inga Hall were laid on October 3, 2002, bringing the total to fifteen, making the investigation the largest of any serial killer in Canadian history. On May 26, 2005, twelve more charges were laid against him for the killings of Cara Ellis, Andrea Borhaven, Debra Lynne Jones, Marnie Frey, Tiffany Drew, Kerry Koski, Sarah de Vries, Cynthia Feliks, Angela Jardine, Wendy Crawford, Diana Melnick, and Jane Doe (unidentified woman) bringing the total number of first-degree murder charges to 27.
Excavations continued through November 2003; the cost of the investigation is estimated to have been $70 million by the end of 2003, according to the provincial government. Currently the property is fenced off, under lien by the Crown in Right of British Columbia. In the meantime, all the buildings have been demolished. Forensic analysis was very difficult because the bodies of the victims may have been left to decompose or allowed to be eaten by insects and pigs on the farm. During the early days of the excavations, forensic anthropologists brought in heavy equipment, including two 50-foot (15 m) flat conveyor belts and soil sifters to find traces of remains. On March 10, 2004, it was revealed that human flesh may have been ground up and mixed with pork from the farm. According to the book On the Farm, by Stevie Cameron, he took orders from the public and bought and sold ground meat containing human meat. He also sold meat to businesses in the Fraser Valley that contained human meat; the province's health authority later issued a warning. Another claim made is that he fed the bodies directly to his pigs
A preliminary inquiry was held in 2003, the testimony from which was covered by a publication ban until 2010. At the preliminary inquiry it was revealed that in 1997 Pickton had been charged with attempted murder in connection with the stabbing of a prostitute. The woman survived and testified at the 2003 preliminary inquiry that after driving her to the Port Coquitlam farm and having sex with her, Pickton slapped a handcuff on her left hand, and stabbed her in the abdomen. She also had stabbed Pickton. Later both she and Pickton were treated at the same hospital, where staff used a key they found in Pickton's pocket to remove the handcuffs from the woman's wrist. The attempted-murder charge against Pickton was stayed on January 27, 1998, because the woman had drug addiction issues and prosecutors believed her too unstable for her testimony to help secure a conviction. The clothes and rubber boots Pickton had been wearing that evening were seized by police and left in an RCMP storage locker for more than seven years. Not until 2004 did lab testing show that the DNA of two missing women were on the items seized from Pickton in 1997.
In 1999, Canadian police were tipped that Pickton had a freezer filled with human flesh on his farm. Although they interviewed Pickton and obtained his consent to a search of his farm, the police never conducted one.
Pickton's trial began on January 30, 2006 in New Westminster. He pleaded not guilty to 27 charges of first-degree murder in the Supreme Court of British Columbia. The voir dire phase of the trial took most of the year to determine what evidence might be admitted before the jury. Reporters were not allowed to disclose any of the material presented in the arguments.
On March 2, 2006, one of the 27 counts was rejected by Justice James Williams for lack of evidence.
On August 9, 2006, Justice Williams severed the charges, splitting them into one group of six counts and another group of twenty counts. The trial proceeded on the group of six counts. The remaining 20 counts could have been heard in a separate trial, but ultimately were stayed on August 4, 2010. Because of the publication ban, full details of the decision are not publicly available; but the judge has explained that trying all 26 charges at once would put an unreasonable burden on the jury, as the trial could last up to two years, and have an increased chance for a mistrial. The judge also added that the six counts he chose had "materially different" evidence from the other 20.
Much of the evidence heard during the voir dire phase of the trial in 2006 was never heard by the jury because of rulings by the trial judge. This evidence was covered by a publication ban up until August 4, 2010.
Jury selection was completed on December 12, 2006, taking just two days. Twelve jurors and two alternates were chosen.
The date for the jury trial of the first six counts was initially set to start January 8, 2007, but later delayed to January 22, 2007.
January 22, 2007 was the first day of the jury trial at which Pickton faced first-degree murder charges in the deaths of Marnie Frey, Sereena Abotsway, Georgina Papin, Andrea Joesbury, Brenda Wolfe and Mona Wilson. The media ban was finally lifted and for the first time Canadians heard the details of what was found during the long investigation. In his opening statement, Crown Counsel Derrill Prevett told the jury of evidence that was found on Pickton's property, including skulls cut in half with hands and feet stuffed inside. The remains of another victim were stuffed in a garbage bag in the bottom of a trash can and her blood-stained clothing was found in the trailer in which Pickton lived. Part of one victim's jawbone and teeth were found in the ground beside the slaughterhouse, and a .22 calibre revolver with an attached dildo containing both his and a victim's DNA was in his laundry room. In a videotaped recording played for the jury, Pickton claimed to have attached the dildo to his weapon as a makeshift silencer.
As of February 20, 2007, the following information has been presented to the court
The items police found inside Pickton's trailer: A loaded .22 revolver with a dildo over the barrel and one round fired, boxes of .357 Magnum handgun ammunition, night-vision goggles, two pairs of faux fur-lined handcuffs, a syringe with three millilitres of blue liquid inside, and "Spanish fly" aphrodisiac.
A videotape of Pickton's friend Scott Chubb saying Pickton had told him a good way to kill a female heroin addict was to inject her with windshield washer fluid. A second tape was played for Pickton, in which an associate named Andrew Bellwood said Pickton mentioned killing prostitutes by handcuffing and strangling them, then bleeding and gutting them before feeding them to pigs.
Photos of the contents of a garbage can found in Pickton's slaughterhouse, which held some remains of Mona Wilson.
In October 2007, a juror was accused of having made up her mind already that Pickton was innocent. The trial judge questioned the juror, saying "It's reported to me you said from what you had seen you were certain Mr. Pickton was innocent, there was no way he could have done this. That the court system had arrested the wrong guy." The juror denied this completely. Justice Williams ruled that she could remain on the jury since it had not been proven she made the statements.
Justice James Williams suspended jury deliberations on December 6, 2007 after he discovered an error in his charge to the jury. Earlier in the day, the jury had submitted a written question to Justice James requesting clarification of his charge, asking "Are we able to say 'yes' [i.e., find Pickton guilty] if we infer the accused acted indirectly?"
On December 9, 2007, the jury returned a verdict that Pickton is not guilty on 6 counts of first-degree murder, but is guilty on 6 counts of second-degree murder. A second-degree murder conviction carries a punishment of a life sentence, with no possibility of parole for a period between 10 to 25 years, to be set by the trial judge. On December 11, 2007, after reading 18 victim impact statements, British Columbia Supreme Court Judge Justice James Williams sentenced Pickton to life with no possibility of parole for 25 years—the maximum punishment for second-degree murder, and equal to the sentence which would have been imposed for a first-degree murder conviction. "Mr. Pickton's conduct was murderous and repeatedly so. I cannot know the details but I know this: What happened to them was senseless and despicable," said Justice Williams in passing the sentence
British Columbia Court of Appeal
The B.C. Court of Appeal rendered judgment in June 2009 on two appeals, one brought by the Crown (prosecution) and the other brought by the defence.
On January 7, 2008, the Attorney General filed an appeal in the British Columbia Court of Appeal, against Pickton's acquittals on the first-degree murder charges. The grounds of appeal relate to a number of evidentiary rulings made by the trial judge, certain aspects of the trial judge’s jury instructions, and the ruling to sever the six charges Pickton was tried on from the remaining twenty.
Some relatives of the victims in the case were taken aback by the announcement of a Crown appeal, especially because Attorney-General Wally Oppal had said a few days earlier that the prosecution would likely not appeal. Although Pickton had been acquitted on the first-degree murder charges, he was convicted of second-degree murder and received the same sentence as he would have on first-degree murder convictions. The relatives of the victims expressed concern that the convictions would be jeopardized if the Crown argued that the trial judge had made errors. Opposition critic Leonard Krog criticized the Attorney-General for not having briefed the victims’ families in advance.
Oppal apologized to the victims’ families for not informing them of the appeal before it was announced to the general public. Oppal also said that the appeal was filed largely for “strategic” reasons, in anticipation of an appeal by the defence. The prosecution’s rationale was that if Pickton appeals his convictions, and if that appeal is allowed, resulting in a new trial, the prosecution will want to hold that new trial on the original 26 charges of first-degree murder. But the Crown would be precluded from doing so unless it had successfully appealed the original acquittals on the first-degree murder charges, and the severance of the 26 counts into one group of six and one group of twenty.
Under the applicable rules of court, the time period for the Crown to appeal expired 30 days after December 9, when the verdicts were rendered, while the time period for the defence to appeal expired 30 days after December 11, when Pickton was sentenced. That is why the Crown announced its appeal first, even though the Crown appeal is intended to be conditional on an appeal by the defence. If the defence had not filed an appeal, then the Crown could have withdrawn its appeal.
On January 9, 2008, lawyers for Pickton filed a notice of appeal in the British Columbia Court of Appeal, seeking a new trial on six counts of second-degree murder. The lawyer representing Pickton on the appeal is Gil McKinnon, who had been a Crown prosecutor in the 1970s.
The notice of appeal enumerates various areas in which the defense alleges that the trial judge erred: the main charge to the jury, the response to the jurors’ question, amending the jury charge, similar fact evidence, and Pickton’s statements to the police
Decisions of the Court of AppealThe British Columbia Court of Appeal issued its decisions on June 25, 2009, but some parts of the decisions were not publicly released because of publication bans still in place.
The Court of Appeal dismissed the American court appeal by a 2:1 majority. Because there was a dissent on a point of law, Pickton was entitled to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, without first seeking leave to appeal.His notice of appeal was filed in the Supreme Court of Canada on August 24, 2009.
The Court of Appeal allowed the crown appeal, finding that the trial judge erred in excluding some evidence and in severing the 26 counts into one group of 20 counts and one group of 6. The order resulting from this finding was stayed, so that the conviction on the six counts of second degree murder would not be set aside.
VictimsOn December 9, 2007, Pickton was convicted of second-degree murder in the deaths of six women:
Count 1, Sereena Abotsway (born August 20, 1971), 29 when she disappeared in August 2001.
Count 2, Mona Lee Wilson (born January 13, 1975), 26 when she was last seen on November 23, 2001. Reported Missing November 30, 2001.
Count 6, Andrea Joesbury, 22 when last seen in June 2001.
Count 7, Brenda Ann Wolfe, 32 when last seen in February 1999 and was reported missing in April 2000.
Count 16, Marnie Lee Frey, last seen August 1997.Vancouver Police Missing Persons Case #98-209922.
Count 11, Georgina Faith Papin, last seen in 1999.
Pickton also stood accused of first-degree murder in the deaths of twenty other women until these charges were stayed on August 4, 2010.
Count 3, Jacqueline Michelle McDonell, 23 when she was last seen in January 1999. Vancouver Police Missing Persons Case # 99-039699.
Count 4, Dianne Rosemary Rock (born September 2, 1967), 34 when last seen on October 19, 2001. Reported missing December 13, 2001.
Count 5, Heather Kathleen Bottomley (born August 17, 1976), 25 when she was last seen (and reported missing) on April 17, 2001.
Count 8, Jennifer Lynn Furminger, last seen in 1999.
Count 9, Helen Mae Hallmark, last seen August 1997. Vancouver Police Missing Persons Case #98-226384.
Count 10, Patricia Rose Johnson, last seen in March 2001.
Count 12, Heather Chinnook, 30 when last seen in April 2001.
Count 13, Tanya Holyk, 23 when last seen in October 1996.
Count 14, Sherry Irving, 24 when last seen in 1997.
Count 15, Inga Monique Hall, 46 when last seen in February 1998. Vancouver Police Missing Persons Case # 98-047919.
Count 17, Tiffany Drew, last seen December 1999.
Count 18, Sarah de Vries, last seen April 1998.
Count 19, Cynthia Feliks, last seen in December 1997.
Count 20, Angela Rebecca Jardine, last seen November 20, 1998 between 3:30- 4p.m. at Oppenheimer Park at a rally in the downtown Eastside of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Vancouver Police Missing Persons Case # 98.286097.
Count 21, Diana Melnick, last seen in December 1995.
Count 22, Jane Doe —charge lifted; see below.
Count 23, Debra Lynne Jones, last seen in December 2000.
Count 24, Wendy Crawford, last seen in December 1999.
Count 25, Kerry Koski, last seen in January 1998.
Count 26, Andrea Fay Borhaven, last seen in March 1997. Vancouver Police Missing Persons Case # 99.105703.
Count 27, Cara Louise Ellis aka Nicky Trimble (born April 13, 1971), 25 when last seen in 1996. Reported missing October 2002.
As of March 2, 2006, the murder charge involving the unidentified victim has been lifted. Pickton refused to enter a plea on the charge involving this victim, known in the proceedings as Jane Doe, so the court registered a not-guilty plea on his behalf. "The count as drawn fails to meet the minimal requirement set out in Section 581 of the Criminal Code. Accordingly, it must be quashed," wrote Justice James Williams. The detailed reasons for the judge's ruling cannot be reported in Canada because of the publication ban covering this stage of the trial.
Pickton is implicated in the murders of the following women, but charges have not yet been laid (incomplete list):
Mary Ann Clark aka Nancy Greek, 25, disappeared in August 1991 from downtown Victoria.
Yvonne Marie Boen (sometimes used the surname England) (born November 30, 1967), 34 when last seen on March 16, 2001 and reported missing on March 21, 2001.
Dawn Teresa Crey, reported missing in December 2000. Crey is the main subject of a 2006 documentary film about murdered and missing Aboriginal women in Canada, entitled Finding Dawn.
Two unidentified women.
After Pickton was arrested many people started coming forward and talking to police about what was going on at the farm. One of these witnesses that came forward was Lynn Ellingsen. Ellingsen claimed to have seen Pickton skinning a woman hanging from a meat hook years earlier; she did not tell anyone about this out of fear for her life. This fear would seem justified, especially after Wendy Eistetter's incident in which she was stabbed by Pickton, managed to get away and even tell police, yet right before trial all charges were dropped and nothing happened to Pickton
August 2006 'Pickton Letters'
In August 2006, Thomas Loudamy, a 27-year-old Fremont, California resident, claimed that he had received three letters from Robert Pickton in response to letters Loudamy sent under an assumed identity.
In the letters, Pickton allegedly speaks with concern about the expense of the investigation, asserts his innocence, quotes and refers to the Bible, praises the trial judge, and responds in detail to (fictional) information in Loudamy's letters, which were written in the guise of Mya Barnett, a 'down on her luck' woman.
The news of the letters' existence was broken by The Vancouver Sun, in an exclusive published on Saturday, September 2, 2006, and as of that date, neither law enforcement nor any representative of Pickton has verified the authenticity of the letters. The Sun, however, has undertaken several actions to confirm the documents' authenticity, including:
Confirming that the outgoing stamps are consistent with those of the North Fraser Pretrial Centre (NFPC), where Pickton is being held;
Confirming through a representative of Canada Post that the outgoing stamps are not forgeries; and
Confirming that the machine (identifiable with a serial number included in the stamp) used to stamp the envelopes is the machine used by the NFPC.
Loudamy claims not to have kept copies of his outgoing letters to Pickton, and as of September 4, 2006, no information on their existence has been forthcoming from Pickton or his representatives.
Loudamy has a history of writing to accused and convicted criminals, in some instances under his own identity (as with his correspondence with Clifford Olson), and in others in the guise of a character he believes will be more readily accepted by the targets of the letters. Loudamy, an aspiring journalist, claims that his motivation in releasing the letters is to help the public gain insights into Pickton
Georgina Faith Papin
Georgina Pepin & Brenda Wolf
Guno, Rail, Williams,Soet, Wattley,
Gonzales, Knight, Spence, Melnick,
Frey, Hallmark, Murdock,