VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Number of murder counts against Pickton could stay at 15 when trial begins
Tuesday, September 16, 2003
VANCOUVER (CP) - The number of first-degree murder charges faced by accused serial killer Robert Pickton could remain fixed at 15 when his trial finally begins, says a Crown spokesman.
Geoff Gaul of the B.C. Attorney General's Ministry said additional charges may not necessarily be laid against Pickton despite a provincial court judge's comment in July that he could have committed Pickton on an additional seven counts of first-degree murder.
"That's a decision the Crown makes, whether we're going to proceed with just the 15, or whether we prefer an indictment that has additional charges." he said.
Gaul was unable to say when the Crown would file the indictment that indicates whether it intends to proceed on 15 or more charges.
Provincial court Judge David Stone presided over Pickton's preliminary hearing into allegations he killed 15 women who disappeared from Vancouver's seedy Downtown Eastside.
In his ruling in July in which he said there was sufficient evidence to commit Pickton to trial on the 15 counts, Stone also said that had the hearing begun a month later than it did, he would have been able to commit him on 22 first-degree murder charges.
Some relatives and friends of the other seven women said Tuesday they would be upset if additional charges are not laid.
"I certainly want them to lay a charge," said Wayne Leng, a close friend of one of the missing women, Sarah de Vries.
"If they were only to go with the 15, what are they saying, that these other women weren't murdered or what?"
Marilyn Kraft, mother of Cynthia Feliks, said the Crown must lay additional charges.
"I would feel very upset if that's what they do," she said. "We've been notified she's dead and if they don't lay the additional seven charges it means they don't even think she lived, much less died there."
Pickton, who has been in custody since late February 2002, appeared briefly in court last week and his defence lawyers said they were still receiving material from the Crown related to the case.
He was to return to court Dec. 15 when a trial date might be set.
The charges against Pickton, 53, are in connection with a long list of missing women, most of whom disappeared over the last 20 years from a stroll area preferred by hookers in the notorious Downtown Eastside.
Although the trial won't begin until next year at the earliest, RCMP Cpl. Cate Galliford said investigators still hoped to wind up the exhaustive search at Pickton's seven-hectare property in suburban Port Coquitlam sometime this fall.
"We're hoping that the search will end this fall," said Galliford.
But that could change if the search turns up more evidence.
"If we come up with a significant find then we may be out there for a longer period of time," she said.
The issue of further charges will certainly come up Sunday when relatives of the victims meet with the missing women's joint task force to receive an update on the progress of the investigation.
The length of the investigation regarding Pickton and the missing women's case in general will cost taxpayers as much as $70 million when the final bills are in, said Solicitor General Rich Coleman.
"It will no doubt be the most expensive domestic investigation in Canadian history," said Coleman, alluding to the fact that the international Air India investigation has cost more.
B.C. taxpayers will pick up 70 per cent of the cost with the remainder coming from Ottawa under a cost-sharing agreement, said Coleman.
Pickton is charged with the murders of Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson, Diane Rock, Jacqueline McDonell, Heather Bottomley, Andrea Joesbury, Brenda Wolfe, Jennifer Furminger, Helen Hallmark, Patricia Johnson, Georgina Papin, Heather Chinnock, Tanya Holyk, Sherry Irving and Inga Hall.
The 15 victims were among a total that eventually rose to 63 missing women from the Downtown Eastside - mostly drug-addicted prostitutes.
© Copyright 2003 Canadian Press
Updated: August 21, 2016