VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Pickton charged with 3 more murders
Additional counts surprise defence, women's families
Wednesday, April 03, 2002
Diane Rock, Heather Bottomley, Jacqueline McDonell
In a move that surprised his lawyer and families of the missing women, alleged serial killer Robert (Willy) Pickton was charged with three more counts of murder Tuesday, on top of the two already laid in the deaths of women who disappeared from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
All five of Pickton's alleged victims were killed after Vancouver police were first alerted to Pickton's Port Coquitlam pig farm in July 1998. And four of the women were allegedly murdered last year, after the RCMP joined the Vancouver police in reviewing dozens of cases of missing women.
Sereena Abotsway Mona Wilson
Pickton, who has been in custody since being charged Feb. 22 with killing Sereena Abotsway and Mona Wilson, appeared expressionless on a court television monitor Tuesday as Crown counsel Michael Petrie read the new charges in the murders of Jacqueline Michelle McDonell, Heather Kathleen Bottomley and Diane Rosemary Rock.
McDonell is said to have been killed between Jan. 21, 1999 and Feb. 5 of this year, when the joint police task force began a massive search of Pickton's Dominion Avenue farm.
Bottomley is alleged to have been slain between March 21, 2001 and Feb. 5.
Rock, who was reported missing just in December, is alleged to have been murdered between Oct. 19, 2001 and Feb. 5.
Despite the fact that four of the five murders are alleged to have occurred in 2001, police were still not commenting Tuesday on why more wasn't done to follow up on information received about the farm in 1998.
Nor would Vancouver police Detective Scott Driemel comment when asked if the task force had surveillance on the farm at the time of the 2001 deaths.
Pickton had been scheduled to make a brief court appearance in Port Coquitlam Tuesday, but there was an audible gasp in the courtroom when Petrie read out the additional charges.
Ada Wilson was there to see the man accused of killing her sister Mona, but broke down in tears when she heard of the new charges.
"I was just so shocked," she said afterwards.
Pickton's lawyer Peter Ritchie said he had just been notified of the new charges on Tuesday and had not yet received any details from the Crown relating to the additional counts.
"We know very little with respect to the charges that were laid this morning," Ritchie told provincial court Judge Patrick Chen.
He also told the judge he has not yet received all the disclosure requested in the first two charges against his client.
"We are most anxious to learn about the case against Mr. Pickton for a number of reasons," Ritchie said.
Ritchie asked Chen to allow defence counsel access to sealed information used to get several search warrants in connection with the Pickton charges.
Chen agreed to unseal the warrants, which are hundreds of pages long, saying some portions would still be blacked out by the prosecution.
Ritchie acknowledged that because his client is now facing five first-degree murder counts, "it appears the prospects for bail become increasingly dim."
Ritchie also told the court defence lawyers have felt "hamstrung" in their ability to communicate with Pickton in jail because they could not get assurances from the Crown that their conversations with Pickton would not be monitored.
"Frank discussions between counsel and clients are constitutionally protected and absolutely necessary," Ritchie said.
Responded Petrie: "It is my view he need not be concerned about that."
Ritchie also told the court he preferred to have his client continue to appear by way of monitor and not in person in the court, something that outraged relatives of the women who attended Tuesday.
Ada Wilson said she had a right to see her sister's accused killer and was upset to learn upon arriving at the courthouse, that Pickton would not be there in person.
"I want to see his reactions. I want to see his face. I've only seen pictures of him in the papers."
Her comments were echoed by Kathleen Hallmark, whose daughter Helen Mae disappeared in 1997.
Attorney-General Geoff Plant said later Tuesday he understands the families' concerns, but they must be balanced with other interests.
"We want to operate the justice system in a way that balances that interest with the need to ensure that the system is efficient and affordable. In the case of arraignment hearings and bail hearings, on a case-by-case basis, I think the public interest is well served if the accused appears by video conference," Plant said.
A Vancouver Sun investigation last fall found the initial Vancouver police probe was plagued by understaffing and a lack of resources.
The women, many of whom were drug-addicted and involved in the sex trade, started disappearing in 1983, but the majority of them -- 39 -- vanished in the last six years.
At a news conference Tuesday afternoon, police revealed little about what led to the additional charges against Pickton, who is due to appear again in court April 9.
RCMP Constable Catherine Galliford did confirm the charges came as a result of the massive search at Pickton's farm.
"The current charges against Mr. Pickton are the result of the continuing police search of a farm property located in Port Coquitlam," Galliford said. "As you know, that intense search is utilizing the best in scientific evidence-gathering and forensic science."
Police would not say whether a body has been found, although Driemel said the evidence was enough to meet the high burden necessary to get a first-degree murder charge laid.
And he confirmed DNA is part of the case, as it is in most major investigations.
"I think it's safe to say that DNA is certainly being looked at and being utilized in a significant way here," Driemel said.
He said the families of the three women now also confirmed as dead were notified of the charges Tuesday morning.
"From the beginning we have said that this investigation will succeed through the partnership of family, friends, police, the community, and the news media. The charges laid today are a result of this web of cooperation," Driemel said.
But police continue to say they are looking at hundreds of other suspects in connection with the 50 disappearances, though most of the task force's resources are currently focused on the Port Coquitlam farm.
"The work of the missing women joint task force is also not restricted to any one person or place. There are literally hundreds of leads and hundreds of suspects," Galliford said.
"Although police, and understandably the families of the women, are pleased with the laying of these additional charges . . . we want to caution the public that there is still a long process ahead. The matter must go before the court, the investigation must continue, and most importantly, the cooperation of all stakeholders must go on."
The case now includes 80 investigators from municipal forces and RCMP detachments and that number could still increase, Galliford said, adding the probe is one of the largest in Canadian history.
"We are certainly pleased with the progress that we have made," Driemel said.
Ada Wilson said the public is welcome to attend a memorial service being held for Mona Wilson on April 8 at 2 p.m. at Burnaby's St. John The Divine Anglican Church on Smith Avenue.
© Copyright 2002 Vancouver Sun
Updated: August 21, 2016