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Pig farmer accused of 15 murders

Robert William Pickton makes B.C. court appearance

Daniel Girard

WESTERN CANADA BUREAU

Tuesday, November 5, 2002

PORT COQUITLAM, B.C. Clean-shaven and clad in a new black jacket and pants, the man accused of being Canada's worst serial killer was more "ordinary" than expected.

Felicity Don/CP

DAY IN COURT: An artist's sketch shows accused serial killer Robert Pickton seated in court during a preliminary hearing in Port Coquitlam, B.C. yesterday. The hearing against the pig farmer was adjourned until Nov. 12

Robert William Pickton sat calmly in court behind newly installed bullet-proof glass yesterday, apparently oblivious to the fixed stares of the families of his alleged victims.

As Provincial Court Judge David Stone granted his request for a one-week delay in a preliminary hearing on 15 first-degree murder charges, Pickton never spoke. Nor did he look toward the public gallery where a handful of the families of Vancouver's 63 missing women studied intently the man most had never before seen in person.

"I was struck by how ordinary a gentleman he seemed to be," said Ernie Crey, whose sister Dawn disappeared in late 2000 but is not one of Pickton's alleged victims.

"Emotions were stirred," he said. "It was troubling to be only a few feet from him."

Other family members, some of whom travelled from Alberta and the eastern United States, politely declined to comment on their emotions at seeing Pickton for the first time.

Many were escorted from court by victim support workers intent on keeping them away from the media. Pickton, 53, was making his first court appearance in months.

He was escorted without handcuffs or leg irons into the prisoner's box, removing his jacket, folding it and neatly placing it on the empty chair beside him before sitting down.

The pig farmer, head tilted left, looked straight ahead, his hands folded in his lap as though at a job interview.

The light beard that covered Pickton's face during earlier court appearances made by video link was gone. The receding, stringy brown hair that reached his shoulders now rested on the collar of an open-necked dress shirt under his grey sweater.

The 45-minute hearing focused on legal arguments to do with the fight with the provincial government over funding of the defence. There were no details of the case against Pickton, who is accused of killing 15 of the 63 women predominantly drug addicts and prostitutes who are missing from Vancouver as far back as the late 1970s.

The 15 include Mona Wilson, Sereena Abotsway, Jacqueline McDonell, Diane Rock, Heather Bottomley, Andrea Joesbury, Brenda Wolfe, Georgina Papin, Jennifer Furminger, Helen Hallmark, Patricia Johnson, Heather Chinnock, Tanya Holyk, Sherry Irving and Inga Hall.

But Crey, who said he clings to "a grim hope" that the remains of his sister will be found in the continuing search of Pickton's pig farm 35 kilometres east of Vancouver, said it was still difficult to see the accused serial killer for the first time.

All spectators family, media or public were forced to pass through airport-style security before taking assigned seats inside the courtroom. A handful of seats went unfilled.

Judge Stone adjourned the preliminary hearing until next Tuesday to give Pickton's lawyer, Peter Ritchie, time to argue in British Columbia Supreme Court for more provincial government funding of the defence.

Ritchie, who quit as Pickton's lawyer three weeks ago over the funding dispute but will resume his work if the government agrees to pay for at least six defence lawyers, began his arguments before B.C. Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm yesterday afternoon.

"We're struggling mightily to see if we can get funding so that we can move this case forward," Ritchie told Stone in asking for a delay on Pickton's behalf. "Our client is not looking for any further delay in this case. He wants to get on with this matter."

Police began searching the Port Coquitlam pig farm Pickton co-owns in early February. He was charged with two first-degree murders in late February.

Other charges have followed as the police continue their investigation of the property, which is expected to last many more months. The four latest charges were laid on Oct. 2.

"This is very much a developing case as we go along here," Ritchie told Stone in complaining that a two-lawyer defence team cannot get Pickton's case ready.

Ritchie told reporters he can't be prepared to start the preliminary hearing next week even if he is successful this week in winning more money to fight the case.

But while Stone agreed to the brief delay, he made it clear that he will not allow the start of the preliminary hearing, which is expected to last at least three months, to be pushed back any further than next Tuesday.

"I want Mr. Pickton to have counsel but at the same time I'm not prepared to continue adjourning this matter," Stone said.

"We have to get on with this matter.

"If Mr. Pickton has no counsel the court will do its best to assist him."

Crown Attorney Mike Petrie said he's had about 1,500 pages of documents relating to the four latest charges delivered to Pickton's jail cell because, since Ritchie quit, the accused no longer has a lawyer acting for him.

Petrie said the delays are "frustrating" for everyone involved in the case.

"For the public interest, the court services interest and the crown interest, we would like to see the matter proceed as quickly as possible," he told reporters outside court.

Crey said family members are also frustrated by the delays, but pleased that they'll soon be able to sit in court and find out how their loved ones were allegedly murdered.

Courtesy of

Families confront pig farmer-Nov 4, 2002

Digging for evidence at BC's notorious pig farm-Oct 19, 2002

 

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Updated: August 21, 2016