Hands off Pickton's assets, government told

Alleged victim's brother says relatives should come first

Kim Bolan
Vancouver Sun

Friday, October 11, 2002

The brother of one of Robert (Willy) Pickton's alleged victims says the B.C. government should not take the accused serial killer's assets in exchange for funding for his defence team.

Randall Knight, a younger sibling of Georgina Papin, said he is concerned about an offer from Pickton's lawyer to hand over all of the pig farmer's assets "down to his shoelaces" so he can get government money to pay his lawyers.

Pickton was charged last month with killing Papin after her family was notified that some of her remains were found on a Port Coquitlam farm that has been the subject of a massive police search since February. The Alberta native disappeared in March 1999 when she was 34 years old. She was formally added to the list of missing women just last year.

Knight, who lives in New Jersey, where he was adopted as a small child, said any assets should be held in trust so families of the missing women can make claims against them if Pickton is convicted.

"It seems like the guy has some money tied up in property. It doesn't seem fair that it should go to the government when the government didn't do their job in the first place," Knight said.

Pickton, 52, is facing 15 counts of first degree murder in the deaths of women who were on the list of 63 missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Knight didn't even know of his sister's death until he found a photo of her on a missing person's Web site last month.

He then contacted his family in Edmonton, whom he had met only once about 17 years ago.

"Through the years we all lost contact," said Knight, a 35-year-old computer specialist.

He travelled to Alberta last week for his sister's memorial service and now plans to move there and help Papin's children file a lawsuit in connection with their mother's death.

"I was in 17 foster homes before I was adopted. I had my own issues growing up," Knight said. "It is kind of like the bonding of my family again because of this. They may have lost a sister, but they have gained a brother. We have had some real serious bonding this past week."

So far, one civil suit has been filed against Pickton's assets, and his lawyer, Peter Ritchie, has placed a $375,000 lien on the property as a retainer for legal services.

Denis Bernsten, a Victoria lawyer who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Karin Joesbury, said Pickton's offer to hand over his assets is meaningless because nothing can be sold until the civil case is resolved.

Joesbury's daughter Andrea is also one of Pickton's alleged victims.

"He could only give away the property subject to our claim. Our claim is registered against title," Bernsten said. "It is useless if our claim is successful."

Pickton's two properties, which are co-owned with two siblings, are both tied up indefinitely by an unprecedented police search that began on his Dominion Road farm in February and expanded to his Burns Road property in April.

"The property is not going to be dealt with for a very long time in any regard," Bernsten said. "But once it is eventually dealt with in some way, then certainly our claim is on there. If we are successful in our claim, whoever he sells the property to now or gives the property to now gets it subject to that claim."

The suit filed by Bernsten, which he called unprecedented, is against both properties in their entirety, not just against Pickton's share of the land.

The lawyer said the statement of claim says the siblings should have been aware of what was going on at the farm.

"This type of claim is quite unique. It is the first time I have ever seen it being done," Bernsten said.

Attorney-General Geoff Plant said he could not comment specifically on Pickton's assets and whether the government or anyone else should get them.

He also said that government funding for Pickton's defence team is not conditional on handing over the assets, even though Pickton's lawyer has offered in this case to do so.

But Plant said generally anyone charged with a crime could end up spending all their money on lawyers:

"If I were speaking hypothetically I could point out that someone who was charged with a serious criminal offence in circumstances that might well also have civil liability could quite typically spend all of their worldly wealth trying to defend themselves in the criminal process, irrespective of the outcome of that, and end up at the end of the day with nothing."

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 Copyright 2002 Vancouver Sun

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Updated: August 21, 2016