Crown suggests serial killer Pickton had accomplices

By Shannon Kari, National Post

March 18, 2010 10:59 AM

Police and prosecutors are refusing to comment on arguments filed in the Supreme Court of Canada that suggest there is "considerable" evidence convicted serial killer Robert Pickton did not act alone.

The expanded Crown theory, which will be put to the Supreme Court next week when it hears an appeal by Pickton on March 25, states he may have had accomplices.

Pickton, 60, was convicted by a jury in 2007 of six counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of women lured from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside to his farm in Port Coquitlam, B.C.

The pig farmer is serving a life sentence and facing 20 other counts of first-degree murder, which are on hold pending the outcome of the Supreme Court hearing.

There have been suggestions that more than one person may have been involved in at least some of the murders.

Yet no one else has been prosecuted and the Crown stressed at the trial of Pickton that he was the sole suspect. "The Crown intends to prove that these murders of these six women were the work of one man, the accused, Robert William Pickton," said the prosecution in its opening address at the trial.

In written arguments filed at the Supreme Court, the Crown says there are two equally valid ways Pickton could have been convicted.

"Pickton was the architect of these murders," the Crown states. In expanding on arguments first made in the B.C. Court of Appeal last year, it lays out an "alternate route to liability" that it says is "well founded" in the evidence.

There is "considerable and obvious" evidence that Pickton may not have acted alone, but as the person in charge of a "murderous joint venture," the Crown states. "The pool of evidence clearly left open the possibility that others were acting in concert with Pickton," it adds.

The Crown is permitted during a trial to put forward more than one way a jury can convict an accused. In the Pickton appeal, it is now arguing he either killed the women on his own or is guilty as a "coprincipal" in the murders.

There were never alternative theories suggested at the actual trial, though, said Peter Ritchie, who was lead defence lawyer at the lengthy court proceeding.

Ritchie is not involved in the appeal.

"The Crown was adamant Pickton acted by himself," Ritchie said this week.

"If there was a suggestion other people were involved, we would have defended the case that way," he said.

Neither the Crown nor the special police task force that investigated the murders of more than two dozen women is willing to address the accomplice theory.

"We cannot speak to this, as it is before the courts. There is the possibility of other trials," said RCMP spokeswoman Cpl. Annie Linteau.

A spokesman for the criminal justice branch of the B.C. Ministry of the Attorney-General also declined to comment. "At this point, it is not possible to address the case in isolation from the appeal process," Neil MacKenzie said.

The defence pointed to alternative suspects during the trial, which were dismissed as "red herrings" by the prosecution.

"If the Crown believes there is evidence that others were involved, you would think an investigation would proceed with vigour," Ritchie said. "Instead, one is left wondering."

Copyright (c) Canwest News Service



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