|May 26, 2005. 06:09 AM
Now there are 27 victims
CP FILE PHOTO
Accused murderer Robert Pickton
Canada's deadliest serial murder case just got deadlier
'The magnitude of the number of charges is really overwhelming'
NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C.—Canada's largest serial-murder case took another
dramatic turn yesterday with the laying of 12 more charges against
Robert William Pickton, who now stands accused of killing 27 women over
the past decade.
Pickton, 55, appearing by video link from jail, sat expressionless as
the new indictment was presented to British Columbia Supreme Court here
in connection with the women — mainly drug addicts and prostitutes —
missing from Vancouver's downtown eastside.
While at least four other women from a list of 69 missing from the
neighbourhood as far back as the late 1970s have also been linked to
Pickton's pig farm and the massive police investigation continues, Crown
spokesman Stan Lowe indicated this is likely the total number of charges
the accused will face in a trial scheduled to begin next year.
"By confining this trial to these 27 counts, it will afford certainty to
the trial process and allow the trial to move forward in a fair and
efficient manner," Lowe told reporters.
He refused to answer any questions, including whether additional charges
News of more charges brought relief to some families while others were
left devastated as they learned there's not enough evidence to indict
Pickton in connection with their missing relative.
"It's been a long wait, so there is some relief," Lynn Frey said in an
interview after her stepdaughter, Marnie, was added yesterday to the
list of Pickton's alleged victims.
The Freys were told more than two years ago Marnie, who last contacted
her family on Vancouver Island on her 24th birthday in August 1997, had
been confirmed dead.
"This recognizes her life was worth something," Lynn Frey said. "All
these women were loved by somebody but they just took the wrong road and
couldn't ever turn back."
Before yesterday, Pickton faced 15 counts of first-degree murder. But at
his preliminary hearing, which ended in July 2003, evidence was
presented on seven more women.
The new indictment includes each of those women, including an
unidentified one referred to as Jane Doe. It also contains five more who
were part of a group of at least nine women who have been linked to the
farm since then as part of the ongoing investigation. All of the new
charges are for first-degree murder.
"It was like a punch in the gut," said Lorraine Crey, whose sister
Dawn's DNA was found at the farm but, according to investigators, not
enough to lay a murder charge.
"There are no answers for our family," Crey told reporters. "We're back
to square one.
"But we're never going to stop searching to find out what happened to
Pickton, who has been in custody since his arrest in February 2002, is
charged with killing women who went missing as far back as February
"The magnitude of the number of charges is really overwhelming," said
Wayne Leng, who runs a website dedicated to the women (http://www.missingpeople.net/)
and is a friend of Sarah deVries, who vanished in 1998 and was one of
the new charges yesterday. "I never thought it would ever get this high.
"And then you think of all the other families who don't have any
answers. It's awful."
Meanwhile, as arguments began yesterday on what is expected to be three
weeks of hearings on the disclosure of evidence, defence lawyer Peter
Ritchie asked for a sweeping publication ban on the proceedings to
prevent potential jurors from being tainted.
Calling the details of arguments over the next few weeks "highly
contentious, highly inflammatory, extremely newsworthy and dramatic,"
Ritchie asked Mr. Justice Geoff Barrow to implement an unusual order
that would see the court open to the public but those who attend
restricted from disclosing any of what they heard. Ritchie, who later
admitted to reporters such an order would be very difficult — and
perhaps impossible — to enforce, said he's most concerned about details
of the case against his client appearing in foreign media or on websites
that can be accessed locally.
Such material could not only make it difficult to choose an impartial
jury, he said it might also damage the reputation of "innocent" people
the defence may link to the missing-women investigation and potential
illegal activities with unsubstantiated allegations.
"The safest way to proceed in order to protect our client is to close
the courtroom," Ritchie told the court, although he acknowledged the
judge was unlikely to do that.
Crown attorney Mike Petrie supported Ritchie's application, noting that
a new "sanitized" summary of the case against Pickton remained sealed
under court order. He also said the submissions during the disclosure
portion of the case could include "scandalous" allegations of others
being involved in the murders that remain unproven.
Lawyers representing various media outlets rejected Ritchie's suggestion
that such a restrictive media ban was required, noting the judge at
Pickton's preliminary hearing in 2003 was able to prevent publication of
evidence with a strict but more conventional ban.
Dan Burnett, whose clients include the CBC, said despite a few early
"glitches" the original ban at the Pickton preliminary continues to work
two years after it was imposed. He said such a high-profile case
requires even more public scrutiny and accountability.
Barrow was expected to continue hearing the arguments on a ban today.
Several months of legal arguments to determine the admissibility of
evidence are expected to begin in September. They will also be covered
by a publication ban. Opening arguments in the trial could begin as
early as January.
Additional articles by Daniel Girard
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