Biggest serial murder case in Canada

Port Coquitlam pig farmer faces four new charges in missing women case

CH News

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

PORT COQUITLAM, B.C. - Four new first-degree murder charges were laid against Robert Pickton Wednesday in what police are calling the largest serial killer investigation in Canadian history.

Four new first-degree murder charges were laid Wednesday against Robert Pickton. (CH News)

Pickton was charged with killing Heather Chinnock, Tanya Holyk, Sherry Irving and Inga Hall, four more of the 63 women missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside neighbourhood.

"This case is the largest serial killer investigation in Canadian history," said Const. Cate Galliford of the joint RCMP-Vancouver police task force handling the disappearances.

The list of missing women dates back to 1978 but 38 of the 63 women have disappeared in the last six years.

Pickton, 52, now faces 15 counts of first-degree murder; four more charges than the number admitted to by Canada's most notorious murderer, child killer Clifford Olson.

Tanya Holyk was 23 when she was last seen in October 1996. (CH News)

The pig farmer from this Vancouver suburb has previously been charged with killing Georgina Papin, Patricia Johnson, Helen Hallmark, Jennifer Furminger, Mona Wilson, Diane Rock, Sereena Abotsway, Andrea Joesbury, Heather Bottomley, Brenda Wolfe and Jacqueline McDonell.

All were drug-addicted prostitutes who disappeared from the poverty-stricken neighbourhood since 1996.

Holyk was 23 when she was last seen in October 1996, Irving 24 when she disappeared sometime in 1997. Hall, then 46, was last seen in the neighbourhood in February 1998 and 30-year-old Chinnock went missing in April 2001.

Sherry Irving, 24, pictured when she disappeared sometime in 1997. (CH News)

Police began their search of Pickton's farm property in February, later expanding to another property he owns with two siblings.

Members of the joint task force originally said they would be searching the farm for months, then at least a year, and now say they will likely still be combing the ramshackle rural property more than a year after they first began.

And the list of missing women is still growing. Another five missing persons cases that fit the same profile as the others are being reviewed and could soon be added, police have said.

Inga Hall, then 46, was last seen in February 1998. (CH News)

Pickton's preliminary hearing on the murder charges is set to begin in November.

As the date approaches and the list of alleged victims grows, the Crown is considering proceeding directly to trial.

Attorney General Geoff Plant said Wednesday the Crown can still proceed by direct indictment against Pickton.

Plant said the state of the investigation, the extent of police disclosure and witnesses must all be considered in going through a preliminary hearing.

"Sometimes the Crown thinks that the interests of justice require an early trial by way of direct indictment," he said.

30-year-old Heather Chinnock went missing in April 2001. (CH News)

There has been some suggestion that American media, which have shown an interest in the case, are not bound by publication bans that would prevent their Canadian counterparts from publishing details that come out during a preliminary hearing.

The attorney general said he had spoken to the assistant deputy attorney general Wednesday morning about the situation.

"I know that the Crown are actively thinking about that option but they have not made a decision," he said.

In provincial court, Pickton's lawyer, Peter Ritchie, was also concerned about media coverage of the case.

"Both Crown and defence are keenly interested to preserve the integrity of this case," Ritchie told the judge.

He urged the judge to make sure there is a ban in place for any evidence that comes out in court before trial.

"There are many aspects at the prelimary hearing that will attract massive media attention," he said.

Pickton appeared via a video link, frowning occasionally but otherwise motionless from the prison where he has been held since his arrest.

Ritchie said he is negotiating with the attorney general's office for legal aid funding for "a proper defence team."

There are tens of thousands of pages of disclosure in the case already, he said.

"This case has become exceedingly complex and complicated," Ritchie told the judge.

For example, Ritchie said they recently learned that police had wiretaps in the case, although he did not disclose who the wiretaps targeted.

Pickton is a millionaire so he isn't eligible for legal aid, Ritchie said, but his assets are all tied up.

He currently has two lawyers working on the case but that is not enough, he suggested.

"I have great concern for my client who is anxious to move ahead," he said.

 Copyright 2002 CH News

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

Updated: August 21, 2016