Pickton now faces 15 murder charges

Accused's lawyer seeks government funding, U.S. media ban

Kim Bolan
Vancouver Sun

Thursday, October 03, 2002

Port Coquitlam pig farmer Robert (Willy) Pickton was charged Wednesday with four more counts of murder, making him allegedly the worst serial killer in Canadian history.

Special to the Sun. Artist's drawing shows Robert (Willy) Pickton facing more murder charges at the Port Coquitlam courthouse.

Pickton, 52, is now facing 15 counts of first-degree murder.

Child killer Clifford Olson, who admitted murdering 11 children in the early 1980s, is currently Canada's most notorious serial killer.

Pickton could be seen over a video monitor in a Port Coquitlam courtroom Wednesday as Crown counsel Mike Petrie referred to the additional charges in the deaths of Heather Chinnock, Inga Hall, Tanya Holyk and Sherry Irving.

Canadian Press. On the Pickton farm in Port Coquitlam, a loader keeps moving yet more soil for sifting as the search continues.

Pickton stared straight ahead, expressionless, wearing the same kind of red prison-issue T-shirt he has worn since his first court appearance last February.

His lawyer, Peter Ritchie, waived reading of the new counts, saying he intended to visit his client at the North Fraser Pre-trial jail after the court appearance to fully brief him.

Ritchie also raised two concerns related to the preliminary hearing, which is due to begin Nov. 4.

He said his client, who along with two siblings owns property valued at millions of dollars, is broke and needs government funding to help cover his defence costs.

And he said U.S. media should be banned from the preliminary hearing if they do not agree to abide by the standard ban on publication.

The four latest charges all relate to women who were on the list of 63 missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside in recent years, most of whom were involved in drugs and the sex trade.

Until Wednesday, all Pickton's alleged victims disappeared after June, 1997. But the latest charge in the death of Holyk, who was just 20 when she vanished, dates back to October, 1996 -- well before the problem of women disappearing had been identified by Vancouver police.

The charge also predates a March, 1997 incident at Pickton's farm involving a sex trade worker who said she was stabbed, but escaped from the property. Charges in that case against Pickton were later stayed.

Holyk grew up in Klemtu, on Swindle Island off the northern end of Vancouver Island. Her sister Cathy once wrote about her disappearance, pleading, "If you're out there and see this please, please tell me you're okay. I Love You a lot!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Also among the confirmed dead are Chinnock, who was born in 1970 and last seen in April, 2001, Hall who was 46 when she disappeared in February, 1998 and Sherry Irving, who was born in March, 1973 and vanished in April, 1997.

Chinnock's fiance Gary Biggs earlier told The Vancouver Sun she used to visit the Port Coquitlam farm regularly and actually enjoyed her time there as a break from the tough streets of the Downtown Eastside.

Vancouver police Detective Scott Driemel, of the joint Vancouver-RCMP Missing Women Task Force, said the latest charges "stem from the ongoing police investigation and the continuing search of farm property in Port Coquitlam."

"Because this case is before the courts we cannot discuss the precise nature of the investigation or comment on any exhibits that may be presented to the court," Driemel said.

RCMP Constable Catherine Galliford said the Pickton case "is now the largest serial killer investigation in Canadian history."

"We want to go on record as recognizing the tremendous work that the various police labs are doing in this case and the long hours being put in by specialists in various branches of forensic science," Galliford said. "This case is also employing some of the most advanced state-of-the-art scientific techniques available."

While the number of missing women still officially stands at 63, police said earlier they are considering adding another five women to the list.

But Driemel said there has been an unconfirmed sighting of one of the women now on the list in Chilliwack.

He asked for public assistance in locating Richard (Kellie) Little, an aboriginal transsexual with a cleft palate who was born in March, 1969.

The list of missing women dates back to 1978, but 38 of the 63 women disappeared in the last six years. Seven of the murdered women disappeared just last year.

Pickton was previously charged with killing Georgina Papin, Patricia Johnson, Helen Hallmark, Jennifer Furminger, Mona Wilson, Diane Rock, Sereena Abotsway, Andrea Joesbury, Heather Bottomley, Brenda Wolfe and Jacquilene McDonell.

After a summer with little in the way of new announcements in the missing women case, Wednesday's charges were the second set in a week, leaving families of some of the other missing women reeling.

Ernie Crey, whose sister Dawn remains among the missing, said the news is emotionally draining for families.

"It is like sitting on tenterhooks all the time. Anytime the phone rings we think it could be news for us, or any time there is a knock on the door we expect to see a uniformed officer with some news for us," Crey said.

Karen Duddy, executive director of a drop-in centre for sex-trade workers, said she saw both Chinnock and Hall at the centre.

And she said the other women still on the streets cannot believe how many of the missing have now been confirmed dead.

"Their jaw is just opening. They cannot believe that it could possibly be all in the one place. They are dumbfounded. They just cannot comprehend how this happened," Duddy said.

Police began their search of Pickton's pig farm last February and expanded the search in April to a second nearby property of which he is a part owner. The first search is expected to continue for months, while the second one is winding down.

Outside the courthouse Wednesday, Ritchie declined to comment on his client's state of mind or his defence strategy.

He reiterated his concerns about his client's dwindling financial resources and how that is impacting the formation of a larger defence team to deal with tens of thousands of pages of evidence disclosed by the Crown.

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

Pickton family members confirmed to The Sun that they were told in September they had been wiretapped.

If no funding agreement can be reached with the government, Ritchie said he will file a Rowbotham application in B.C. Supreme Court next week.

Named after an Ontario case, a Rowbotham application requests a stay of charges against an accused if he or she does not have the means to hire a lawyer, but does not qualify for legal aid.

"We were hoping to be able to deal with that without having a formal application made," Ritchie said.

Attorney-General Geoff Plant said Wednesday his ministry is negotiating a financial agreement with Pickton's lawyers.

"Mr. Ritchie said today that two lawyers is not enough of a defence team to meet the charges against Mr. Pickton and I agree," Plant said. "My officials are working hard to come up with some proposal that we are going to discuss with Mr. Ritchie and I hope that we can reach some agreement."

Because Pickton has some assets, the government needs to assess how much of a contribution is expected by the accused before the government will kick in some cash.

"My view is that he should be making some kind of contribution," Plant said.

Ritchie also said some U.S. media outlets have already indicated they intend to violate the publication ban on the preliminary hearing, which could taint jurors.

"We want to preserve the integrity of this process -- the potential juror pool should not be affected by sensational media coverage," Ritchie said.

"I am going to be asking that the judge not allow them to come into our courtrooms so that we here in Canada can protect our legal system."

Plant also said he is considering proceeding by direct indictment, which would mean no preliminary hearing would be required.

Plant said it may be time to meet with the federal justice minister to discuss whether there needs to be legislative changes regarding publication bans.

"I have begun to think about the difficulties we now face enforcing a publication ban in any meaningful way in the million-channel universe," Plant said. "But there are some important considerations around making sure that justice is seen to be done."

 Copyright 2002 Vancouver Sun

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Updated: August 21, 2016