Sixth first-degree murder charge laid against man in missing women case

Tuesday, April 09, 2002

Andrea Josebury

PORT COQUITLAM, B.C. (CP) -- A sixth first-degree murder charge was laid Tuesday against a man accused in the case of 50 women missing from Vancouver's tough downtown eastside.

The charge against pig farmer Robert Pickton was included in court documents available just prior to his court appearance.

It's the second time Pickton, 52, has been charged as he makes a routine court appearance. Last week, the Crown added an additional three counts of first-degree murder to the original two.

Crown lawyer Mike Petrie told court the information leading to the charge wasn't confirmed until last Thursday, two days after Pickton's earlier court appearance.

"I want this to be very clear. This is not a charge that could have been laid a week ago. It is a result of the ongoing investigation."

Petrie and Pickton's lawyer, Peter Ritchie, agreed Pickton will begin a preliminary hearing Nov. 4, 2002. The hearing is expected to run through February.

Ritchie said in the meantime, he's hoping to get a better look at some of the Crown's evidence.

"We've received thousands of pages of disclosure and we anticipate thousands more," he told reporters outside court.

"I anticipate, because of the very volume of disclosure that's coming our way, that there is plenty more coming."

Ritchie said police have told him there are three officers working full-time on disclosure alone.

He declined to answer any questions about how his client is holding up under all of the charges.

Pickton appeared in court by video conference. Wearing a red jail-issued sweatshirt, he was motionless and spoke only to confirm that he could hear the proceedings.

Family members of the missing women filled the front two rows of the courtroom.

Kathleen Hallmark, whose daughter Helen Mae disappeared in 1997, said outside court she's gratified to hear police are continuing to find more evidence.

But she added: "I don't know if I'll ever find out what happened to Helen. That was 1997 and these charges are related to ones that have happened in the last few years."

The latest charge involves the death of Andrea Joesbury, who disappeared from the downtown eastside last June. Joesbury, who was 22 when she went missing, has also been identified by police as Angela.

A joint police task force has been painstakingly combing Pickton's pig farm in this community east of Vancouver.

The Vancouver Province reported Tuesday that a mother of one of the missing women has been told that police have found her daughter's teeth.

Police have since confirmed in a press conference that they have found human remains on the farm.

Mona Wilson's foster brother, Greg Garley of Peachland, said the family has also been told police have seized a wood chipper and a freezer from the pig farm.

Wilson was 26 when she was last seen in November. Pickton has been charged with her murder.

Pickton has also been charged with killing:

Serena Abotsway, who was 29 when she disappeared in August 2001.

Jacqueline McDonell, 23 when she was last seen in January 1999.

Diane Rock, 34 when last seen in October 2001.

Heather Bottomley, 25 when she disappeared in April 2001.

There are about 80 investigators working for the joint RCMP-Vancouver city police task force investigating the disappearances.

Police have been collecting DNA samples from family members.

Investigators originally anticipated the search at Pickton's farm would take a few months but that estimate has since increased. Officers will be at the farm for at least a year collecting evidence.

The women began disappearing in 1983. Thirty-nine of them have gone missing in the last six years.

Family and friends have been highly critical of the way Vancouver city police handled the disappearances prior to the RCMP joining the investigation a year ago.

Community activists have complained that because most of the women were prostitutes and addicted to drugs, they were treated as throwaways by police who ignored concerns there may be a serial killer prowling the poverty-stricken downtown eastside neighbourhood.

However, the province's solicitor general has rejected calls for an inquiry into police handling of the case while Pickton is before the courts.

Hallmark and other family members have contacted the U.S. law firm famous for defending O.J. Simpson to seek legal advice.

Ralph Lotkin, a partner of Simpson lawyer Johnnie Cochran Jr., has agreed to come to British Columbia early next month to meet with the relatives, Hallmark said last week.

Dreimel said the families are entitled to do whatever they feel necessary.

"We also understand that these are very emotional times for so many and for others, very confusing times and a time when there are still unanswered questions."

 Copyright  2002 Canadian Press

Andrea Josebury vanished June 2001

Man warned police four years ago-Apr 4, 2002



Missing Women Tip Line: 1-877-687-3377

Updated: August 21, 2016