Crown outlines some witnesses to testify at pig farmer's preliminary hearing

Monday, December 09, 2002

PORT COQUITLAM, B.C. (CP) -- A blood spatter expert will be among several witnesses called by the Crown to testify when the preliminary hearing for accused serial killer Robert Pickton begins next month, Crown prosecutor Mike Petrie said Monday.

"There will also be significant amounts of evidence with respect to searches," Petrie told provincial court Judge David Stone during a disclosure hearing. The preliminary hearing is scheduled to begin Jan. 13 in this suburb east of Vancouver.

Petrie said "bodily substances" were found on the farm and "other substances" and human remains.

Those items have been tested by forensic pathologists, forensic dentists, an anthropologist and other experts "on these types of digs."

Pickton, a Port Coquitlam pig farmer, is charged with killing 15 women who are among 64 identified as missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Since February, a farm owned by him and two siblings has been sealed off as investigators sift through tonnes of dirt searching for DNA and human remains. Police have already disclosed that DNA from many missing women has been found at the farm.

The prosecutor said investigators have set up an onsite forensic lab to identify substances found and try to determine if they are "human in nature." Petrie said the pig farm contained a slaughterhouse so investigators have to determine if items found are human or animal.

At the preliminary hearing, the Crown will call witnesses who work at the forensic crime lab regarding DNA found on the farm.

Witnesses who were friends or had an association with the accused will also be called to testify at the preliminary hearing, said Petrie.

In court Monday, the defence sought access to a significant amount of wiretap evidence and other materials gathered by the Crown. The Crown suggested it was doing its best to disclose materials sought by the defence and the issue was not one of refusal to disclose but of "timeliness."

Photographs taken of the farm and the interiors of some buildings will be given to the defence shortly, as will videotapes and their transcripts taken by police of potential witnesses.

Thousands of telephone wiretaps, including the logs and transcripts, "are forthcoming very quickly."

The defence has also received 44 of 56 DNA lab reports so far, said Petrie.

Crown said one of the problems with timely disclosure of materials the defence seeks is that the investigation is still underway.

"This case is unique in that it's not stopped and will continue to be investigated," said Petrie. "It's not a question of refusal but a question of trying to do it in the best possible way."

Throughout the legal arguments, Pickton sits mostly expressionless in a plexiglass enclosure, looking only at the judge or counsel and never at the public gallery.

Last week, the judge imposed a publication ban under Section 539 of the Criminal Code on evidence taken at Pickton's preliminary hearing. He made the order after ruling that the public and media would be allowed to attend the hearing.

The accused's lawyers had sought to have the public and media banned from the courtroom, fearing that evidence at the hearing would leak out and taint a jury pool when the trial begins.

 Copyright  2002 Canadian Press

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Updated: August 21, 2016