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PoCo pig farmer faces 27 first-degree murder charges

Ethan baron
The Province

Monday, January 30, 2006

Robert Pickton, accused of being Canada's worst serial killer, is expected to appear today in a New Westminster court to plead not guilty to murdering 27 women.

A forensic investigator rakes through a pile of sifted dirt looking for evidence as the probe continues in January, 2003, at the PoCo pig farm owned by accused serial killer Robert Pickton. Photograph by: The Canadian Press file

Pickton, 56, who ran a pig-butchering business on his Port Coquitlam property, is charged with the first-degree murder of 27 women linked to Vancouver's Downtown Eastside sex trade.

"This is a horrific, horrific story," said Rick Frey of Campbell River, whose daughter Marnie was one of the women Pickton is accused of killing.

Frey said he would welcome a not-guilty plea.

"It's important that this thing goes the full duration, as ugly and gory as it's going to be," Frey said. "All the questions that we've been asking have to be answered."

Sixty-eight women have vanished from the eastside. Investigators found DNA from 31 of them on the Pickton property.

Today, arguments are set to begin in B.C. Supreme Court over what material will be allowed as evidence in Pickton's trial.

"I'm just glad that it's finally underway," said Sandra Gagnon, sister of Janet Henry, who went missing from the eastside but is not included in the Pickton indictment. "But it's tough, regardless."

The evidence-related proceedings, called a voir dire, are covered by a publication ban that prohibits reporting details of court proceedings. An addition to the standard voir-dire ban outlaws publication on the Internet as well.

The voir dire is expected to last six months, with the trial proper starting in the fall.

Rick Frey is hoping the trial will shed light not only on the fate of his daughter and other missing women, but on the initial "shoddy" police response to women going missing.

At the courthouse, sheriffs have put in place extra security, with metal detectors and search points at the entrances to both the courtroom and the courthouse.

The main courtroom has been modified for the trial, with a single seat-box for the accused and bullet-proof windows on three sides of the box and by separating the courtroom from the gallery.

A special overflow courtroom has been equipped with closed-circuit TV to accommodate the expected flood of media and members of the public.

The B.C. government has also furnished a media room in an office building nearby, with allocated spaces for news outlets from around North America. Each outlet will pay a fee to use the space.

More than 200 journalists have been issued accreditation to cover the trial. The special photo-ID accreditation allows access to 15 seats reserved for media in the main courtroom gallery, which holds 50 people, and to 35 of 106 seats in the overflow courtroom.

Two local sketch artists are expected to spell each other off in one of the 15 reserved seats in the main room to provide images for the media. Photography and TV filming is prohibited inside the courtroom.

In addition to news outlets from across Canada, the New York Times and the Washington Post have indicated they will cover the trial.

ebaron@png.canwest.com

Ran with sidebar "Downtown Eastside missing-women's investigation in a nutshell" on page A3.

 The Vancouver Province 2006

The Vancouver Province

 

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Updated: August 21, 2016