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

Canadian Press

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

VANCOUVER (CP) - Four new first-degree murder charges were laid Wednesday against Robert Pickton in what police are calling the largest serial killer investigation in Canadian history.

(CP Picture Archive) Four new first-degree murder charges were laid Wednesday against Robert Pickton, bring the total to 15. (CP Picture Archive)

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, Clifford Olson.

Olson pleaded guilty in 1982 to killing eight girls and three boys in British Columbia.

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 Jacqueline McDonell.

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

Holyk was 20 when she was last seen in October 1996, Irving 24 when she disappeared some time in 1997. Hall, then 46, was last seen in the neighbourhood in February 1998 and 30-year-old Chinnock in April 2001.

Little else is known about the women.

"That's the unfortunate thing about our women," said Karen Duddy, executive director of a drop-in centre for sex-trade workers frequented by Chinnock, Hall and several other alleged victims.

"We see them and we're so busy dealing with their day-to-day issues that you really don't get to know them a whole lot personally.

"They're always in crisis."

Police began their search of Pickton's pig farm in suburban Port Coquitlam 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.

"This case is employing some of the most advanced, state-of-the-art scientific techniques available," Galliford said.

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.

Police said Wednesday there have been unconfirmed sightings of one of the people on the list. Transsexual Richard (Kellie) Little was reported missing in April 1997.

Police would not confirm whether the profile of potential victims has expanded beyond drug-addicted women working in the sex trade in the Downtown Eastside.

They did discount recent media reports that the task force had found the DNA of a missing North Vancouver man at the site, but would say no more.

"Going into detail about what the exhibits are or how we've actually accumulated exhibits may, in fact, indeed, harm the case," said Vancouver city police Det. Scott Driemel.

"That's a risk we're not going to undertake under any circumstances."

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 file a direct indictment against Pickton.

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

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.

"I know that the Crown are actively thinking about that option but they have not made a decision," Plant 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 preliminary 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 needs at least six, Ritchie said.

Outside court he said the case would be heard by a jury.

"This will be a jury trial," Ritchie told reporters. "This is the sort of case that goes to a jury trial."

 Copyright  2002 The Canadian Press

Courtesy of Canada.Com and The Canadian Press



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Updated: August 21, 2016