VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Pig farmer faces four more first-degree murder charges in missing women case
Thursday, September 19, 2002
VANCOUVER (CP) - Accused serial killer Robert Pickton was charged Thursday with four more counts of first-degree murder, bringing the number of charges against him to 11. Police also announced that the list of missing women who fit the profile of Pickton's alleged victims has officially grown to 63, with the potential for more to be added. The pig farmer from the Vancouver suburb of Port Coquitlam was charged Thursday with the murders of Georgina Papin, Patricia Johnson, Helen Hallmark and Jennifer Furminger.
(CP/Richard Lam) RCMP Const. Catherine Galliford answers questions during a media briefing regarding accused serial killer Robert Pickton in Vancouver, B.C. on Thursday. (CP/Richard Lam)
Like the others, all these women were drug-addicted prostitutes in Vancouver's seedy Downtown Eastside.
Helen Hallmark vanished in June 1997 - the earliest case so far to lead to charges.
Papin and Furminger disappeared in 1999 and Johnson vanished in March 2001.
The list of missing women dates back to 1978 but 38 of the 63 women have disappeared in the last six years.
Debbie Cumby, a support worker and former drug addict who knew Papin, said she didn't recognize her friend in pictures distributed by police.
When she knew Papin, she was not a sex-trade worker, Cumby said.
Despite her addiction, Papin liked to play guitar and sing, she recalled.
Cumby, who now works at the Circle of Life Thunderbird House in Winnipeg, said she sometimes feels guilty for leaving her friends behind when she left the streets.
But, "I feel lucky I left because my profile was the very exact same profile as theirs was," she said. "I was so heavily addicted I probably would have went with anybody just to get my shot."
Cumby said she is angry the disappearances went seemingly unnoticed for so long.
RCMP Const. Catherine Galliford, spokeswoman for the joint RCMP-Vancouver city police task force, said DNA found at the farm led to the latest charges and confirmed there are outstanding samples yet to be processed by police labs.
"We do plan on being on the farm property for many months to come," Galliford said. The search of a second property is expected to wrap up by the end of the month.
"We have forwarded many exhibits to the labs. One of the reasons our charges are coming so sporadically is that we have burdened the labs with a lot of exhibits that we need to have identified."
Pickton's two properties are being excavated and soil is being sifted in a painstaking search for evidence.
"This has been and will be a slow process with no definitive time frame," Galliford said at a news conference.
Police began searching Pickton's farms in Port Coquitlam in February. There are currently 91 police, archeologists, anthropologists and other staff at the two sites in the city.
Another 30 to 40 officers are investigating other avenues and reviewing reports of missing women.
"We are continuing to review files and there is the potential for more names to be added," Galliford said.
There are five missing women in particular that police are trying to locate and could soon be added, she said.
Galliford said there is no indication whether the search will expand beyond the two properties currently owned in part by Pickton. He and his siblings have sold off large tracts of the property in recent years to developers.
Police originally estimated the search of the farm would take a year. Galliford said Thursday they now expect it to take longer.
She said there are other suspects in the missing women investigation but would not comment on whether more charges would be laid.
Pickton now faces 11 charges of first-degree murder - the same number admitted to by Canada's most notorious serial killer, Clifford Olson.
Pickton is to appear in court on the latest charges Oct. 2 in Port Coquitlam.
Pickton was charged earlier with the murders of Mona Wilson, Diane Rock, Sereena Abotsway, Andrea Joesbury, Heather Bottomley, Brenda Wolfe and Jacqueline McDonell.
Although many families already believed the women to be dead, they are devastated by the news, said Wayne Leng, whose friend Sarah deVries is missing and who has kept in touch with many relatives.
"It's hard to even imagine that one person, if this is the case, this alleged serial killer could wreak so much devastation, pain and suffering on so many people," Leng said.
Papin's friends and family said they are just coming to grips with the fact she may have been a victim of a serial killer.
"When I heard the news, I just got a chill through my body," George Papin, Georgina's brother, said in a television interview. "I was just coming to grips with reality that 'hey this has happened. This has happened to my sister.' "
He said that the DNA evidence makes her death a fact.
"It's still hard to deal just knowing the brutality, the way she died," said Papin, who lives on the Enoch Reserve west of Edmonton. "The pain that she must have went through."
DeVries's family has been told her DNA was found at the site but no charges have been laid in her case.
Government officials say the massive investigation will cost up to $20 million this year alone.
The new charges come as the father of a missing woman launches a second lawsuit against police and government officials.
Doug Creison, whose daughter Marcie vanished in 1998, alleges the missing women's investigation was badly mishandled.
Karin Joesbury, mother of Andrea Joesbury, earlier filed suit against police and government officials, as well as Pickton.
Pickton's preliminary hearing on the murder charges is set to begin in November.
Key dates in the case of 63 women missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside:
September 1978: Lillian Jean O'Dare, now the first name on the list, disappears from Downtown Eastside.
1991: Relatives of growing list of missing women, along with advocates for sex-trade workers, establish annual Valentine's Day remembrance, press for tougher police investigation.
June 1997: Helen Mae Hallmark reported missing.
September 1998: Vancouver police set up team to review files of up to 40 women missing as far back as 1971. One tracked down, deaths of two others from illness, overdose, confirmed but no trace of many others.
January 1999: Jacqueline McDonell reported missing.
Sometime in 1999: Georgina Papin, Brenda Wolfe and Jennifer Furminger last seen.
April 1999: Vancouver police board posts $100,000 reward for information in case.
March 2001: Patricia Johnson last seen in Downtown Eastside.
April 2001: Heather Bottomley reported missing.
August 2001: Sereena Abotsway reported missing.
September 2001: Vancouver police and RCMP form joint task force to replace Vancouver's stalled investigation.
October 2001: Diane Rock reported missing.
November 2001: Mona Wilson reported missing.
December 2001: Task force investigators travel to Seattle to interview Gary Ridgeway, charged in four of 49 Green River homicides in Washington state.
January 2002: Task force adds five names to list, bringing total number of women missing to 50.
Feb. 5: RCMP officers, accompanied by missing-women task force members, enter pig farm in suburban Port Coquitlam on firearms warrant.
Feb. 6: Task force officers use their own warrant to begin searching pig farm for clues in missing women case.
Feb. 7: Robert Pickton, one of two brothers who own pig farm, charged with weapons offences as search of property continued.
Feb. 22: Robert Pickton charged with two counts of first-degree murder.
March 28: Joint task force announce five more women considered for inclusion on list of missing women from downtown eastside.
April 2: Crown announces three more first-degree charges against Pickton in Port Coquitlam.
April 9: Sixth murder charge laid against Pickton for the death of Andrea Joesbury.
April 23: Karin Joesbury, mother of Andrea Joesbury, files lawsuits against Pickton, police, the province and the federal government in relation to her death.
May 22: Pickton charged with first-degree murder of Brenda Wolfe.
June 6: Police begin excavating Pickton properties with help of archeologists.
Sept. 19: Father of missing woman Marcie Creison files lawsuit against police, city of Vancouver, the province and the federal government over investigation.
Sept. 19: Pickton charged with four more murders. List of missing officially grows to 63.
© Copyright 2002 The Canadian Press
Updated: August 21, 2016