When the name Robert Pickton hit the news today, two silent years after conviction stripped his name from the front page – I stopped to ponder evil. Not mental illness or crimes of circumstance; pure, unadulterated evil.
Born in 1949, Pickton lived on the family pig farm in Port Coquitlam B.C. with his brother Dave. Fond of picking up prostitutes and drug addicted women on Vancouver’s downtown east-side, luring them to his farm with promises to “party” was a well know fact on the street. During the 90’s women started to go missing. In 1997 Pickton was charged with attempted murder; after driving a prostitute to his farm and having sex with her, he put a handcuff on one of her arms while stabbing her in the stomach. She stabbed him back, both ended up at the same hospital, nurses removed her handcuff with a key found in Pickton’s pocket. In 1998 the charges were dropped – prosecutors believing testimony from a drug addicted prostitute too unreliable. Clothing and rubber boots Pickton wore to the hospital sat forgotten in a police locker for 7 years. In 1999 police were tipped that Pickton had a freezer full of human flesh at the farm – he was interviewed but no search took place.
In February of 2002 police obtained a search warrant for the Pickton farm based on allegations of illegal firearms. By this time so many women had disappeared the B.C. Missing Women task force had been formed. During the firearms search they found an inhaler belonging to one of the missing women. A second warrant under the Missing Women Investigation lead to his farm “sealed” by R.C.M.P, Pickton charged with firearms violations, released and put under surveillance.
On February 22, 2002 Pickton was arrested and charged with 2 counts of first degree murder. October of 2002 the count was at 15, by May of 2005 he had been charged with 27 counts of first degree murder. Pickton was reported to have confessed 49 murders to a cell mate, sorry he got “sloppy” as he wanted an even 50.
Forensic teams weren’t looking for bodies; anything resembling a body had been ground up and fed to the pigs. The property was taken apart piece by piece, soil and rubble put through sifters in attempts to find teeth or small bones for DNA analysis. Those rubber boots sitting for 7 years had DNA from 2 missing women.
The trial began in January of 2006 – Pickton pleaded not guilty on all 27 counts. The judge dismissed one count, divided the remainder into a group of 6, another of 20 charges. The actual jury trial started January of 2007, for the first time a publication ban was lifted; Pickton facing the first 6 murder charges. I’m not going to write details of the crowns opening statement – descriptions of body parts mutilated for his amusement are public record if anyone feels they need to know more.
In December of 2007, the jury found Pickton not guilty of first degree murder, but guilty of second degree on all 6 counts. Canadian law carries punishment for second degree murder as life in prison with no possibility of parole for 10 – 25 years. The judge imposed the maximum – life with parole possible after 25 years.
In 2010 the Vancouver police and RCMP issued an apology for the way missing women investigations had been handled. A official inquiry called the Missing Women Commission made its findings on law enforcement screw-ups public in 2012. The crown decided not to take Pickton to trial on the remaining 20 counts, their logic being no greater outcome would result above his existing sentence. Families of these victims understandably distraught over losing a chance to face him in court. There remains 80 unidentified DNA samples – half men, half women. Evidence for additional charges of murder exist but the crown is done with Robert Pickton.
Pickton appeared briefly via video link in court today – it was a hearing to determine if the city of Vancouver or the Province would pay legal fees for families involved in the lawsuit. Pickton’s response – “it didn’t really matter to him”