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Families confront pig farmer

Pickton expected to ask for delay in preliminary hearing in B.C.

The Toronto Star

By Daniel Girard
Western Canada Bureau

Monday, November 4, 2002

VANCOUVER A suburban pig farmer suspected of being the worst serial killer in Canadian history is expected to come face-to-face today with the families of some of the 15 women he is accused of murdering.

Robert William Pickton is to appear in British Columbia provincial court in Port Coquitlam for what will likely be a short but emotionally charged hearing.

Pickton, who has made court appearances by video link since late February when he faced just two counts of first-degree murder, is expected to ask Provincial Judge David Stone for a delay in his preliminary hearing so lawyers can fight over payment of his legal bills.

It's a dispute that may push back the start of the preliminary hearing for months. Such a delay would also prove agonizing for victims' families and friends, many of whom have already waited years to find out what happened to their loved ones.

"We don't really want to know how it happened, but we do," said Jay Draayers, 28, whose older sister, Sereena Abotsway, accounts for the first murder charge against Pickton. "We want to know did she die a painful death or did she die somewhat easy.

"That's something everyone wants to know when their loved one dies."

Draayers, who plans to be in court today with his wife to see Pickton for the first time in person, admitted he's nervous about a glimpse of the man accused of killing his sister.

"I don't know emotionally what I'm going to be doing," said Draayers, whose foster parents, Anna and Bert Draayers, cannot attend the preliminary hearing because they have been subpoenaed as witnesses in the case. "I'll just have to deal with it at the time."

Abotsway, who disappeared just shy of her 30th birthday in July, 2001, was on a list of 63 women mainly drug addicts and prostitutes missing from Vancouver's downtown eastside since the late 1970s.

The 15 women Pickton is accused of killing were all on the list of missing women. They vanished as far back as October, 1996.

The preliminary hearing, which would almost certainly be the subject of a publication ban, will determine if there is enough evidence for the case to proceed to trial.

If convicted of the 15 charges, Pickton would be Canada's worst serial killer, surpassing Clifford Olson who confessed to murdering 11 children in B.C. in the early 1980s.

As the court case drags on, police continue their probe of the farm Pickton co-owns in Port Coquitlam, about 35 kilometres east of Vancouver. They expect to be there for many more months looking for DNA and other evidence of women on the list of the missing.

While Draayers said in an interview that it's difficult to think of his sister being found at the pig farm, he said confirmation of her death has enabled the family to try to grieve.

"We don't have to worry about whether or not she's still out there somewhere," he said. "It allows us to try as a group to get over it together."

Today's court appearance is also causing anxiety for the families of women still missing. Ernie Crey, whose sister Dawn was 43 when she disappeared in late 2000, plans to attend in part because he clings to "a grim hope" he will learn that she died there.

"Obviously, it would be very troubling and cause a lot of emotional pain," Crey said in an interview. "But it would also be necessary to hear what happened to her. That's just the harsh reality of it."

Pickton, 52, is also anxious going into court today, according to Peter Ritchie, the Vancouver lawyer who quit last month in a dispute over defence funding but will resume his work if the provincial government is ordered to pay more for the case.

"Remember, he's the one whose sitting in jail, anxious for many months to get this thing going," Ritchie said.

 

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Updated: August 21, 2016