This artist's drawing of alleged serial killer Robert Pickton was done Jan. 11, 2002, in court at Port Coquitlam, B.C., during an appearance to complete details for his preliminary hearing. He is charged with 15 murders of missing Vancouver women, dating back to 1996.
Flash: The missing women  
Mystery to lift (Jan. 13)  
Shedding some light on 'Willy' (Jan. 10)  
Pickton faces four more charges (Oct. 2)  
Another missing woman's DNA found (Sept. 17)  
List of missing women grows (Mar. 29)  
Investigation could last year: police (Mar. 21)  
B.C. watchdog won't probe case (Mar. 19)  

Hearing begins for accused B.C. serial killer
Robert Pickton calmly takes notes as proceedings get underway


Monday, January 13, 2003

PORT COQUITLAM, B.C. (CP) The man accused of being Canada's worst serial killer took notes on a yellow legal pad, occasionally smiled and chatted with a sheriff and listened attentively as his preliminary hearing began today.

Robert Pickton, nattily dressed in a grey sweater with black horizontal stripes and a crest on the chest, sat behind a bulletproof glass enclosure as the hearing began in provincial court.

The long-awaited hearing, under a publication ban that prevents dissemination of any evidence presented, got underway almost a year after police swooped down on a farm owned by Pickton and two siblings Feb. 5, 2002.

The preliminary hearing is held to allow Judge David Stone to determine if there is enough evidence against Pickton to proceed to a trial that would not likely begin for at least a year.

The Crown told the judge last week that the initial stage of the hearing would likely last until the end of April. It could then extend through the summer, or into the fall if there was a summer break.

Pickton, a Port Coquitlam pig farmer, is charged with killing 15 women who are among 61 identified as missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

As two police officers testified, Pickton sat slightly slumped in his high-back chair behind the enclosure, writing on a legal pad and periodically turning to speak to the sheriff seated with him in the enclosure.

He appeared to be paying close attention to everything that was being said.

Immediately after the hearing began, it went into a voir dire that would allow the judge to determine the admissibility of evidence he hears.

At least 10 TV cameras, including some from U.S. media outlets, recorded events on the opening day. The camera operators waited outside in the damp cold along with numerous still photographers and a small army of reporters.

Seating set aside for the public in the courtroom was filled to capacity, as were the first two rows allotted to the media. Several seats were empty in the middle rows set aside for relatives of the missing women and Pickton's alleged victims.

Outside court, Dawn Sangret said she came to show support for the missing women, some of whom she said she knew.

"I'm here because of Elaine Dumbra ad some of the other girls I knew," said Sangret, explaining that she is a trolley driver and got to know some of the women during stops she made in Gastown, which borders on the Downtown Eastside.

"I got to know the girls when they tried to bum money from me," she said.

Dumbra is not among those listed as an alleged victim but is one of the women who is missing. She was last seen in 1984.

Ernie Crey, whose sister Dawn is also among the missing, has been a regular at many previous court appearances by Pickton.

"It's a way of showing respect for Dawn and the others," Crey said during a break. "I want to be here to hear it (the evidence) although it is going to be hard."

Crown spokesperson Geoff Gaul was asked about possible breaches of the publication ban by U.S. outlets at the hearing, including the Associated Press, Reuters, the Washington Post, the Seattle Times and some Seattle-based TV stations.

"If there are any breaches that is up to the police to investigate."

Last month, Pickton's defence team lost a battle to have all media and the public excluded from the courtroom for the preliminary hearing.

The judge, however, said he would listen to subsequent applications from the defence if there were breaches of the ban.

The 53-year-old Pickton has been in custody since late February, when he was charged with the murders of Sereena Abotsway and Mona Wilson.

A huge police investigative team has been painstakingly searching Pickton's Port Coquitlam farm for almost a year.

In the ensuing months, he was also charged with the murders of 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 were among 61 women from the Downtown Eastside mostly drug-addicted prostitutes who disappeared from the poverty-stricken neighbourhood.

The murder counts against Pickton so far are four more than the number admitted to by Canada's most notorious serial killer, Clifford Olson.

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Updated: August 21, 2016