Dig for remains starts at BC pig farm

Families of missing women told not to expect bodies back

By Daniel Girard


Monday, June 3, 2002

VANCOUVER With police set this week to expand their search at the pig farm of an alleged serial killer, families of Vancouver's missing women are braced for the possibility of more grisly finds.

Heavy equipment and a few dozen archaeology students are being brought in to begin excavations on the 4.5-hectare property, which so far has yielded evidence related to seven of the 50 missing women that prompted police to lay seven first-degree murder charges against Robert William Pickton, 52.

(Richard Lam/CP)

POLICE INVESTIGATION: Media vehicles line the road by a farm in Port Coquitlam, B.C. in early February, where police are investigating the disappearance of up to 50 women missing since 1983. The house is owned by Robert William Pickton.

So far, the massive police probe has concentrated on buildings and the surface area.

It will turn now to a meticulous sifting of the soil for human bones, teeth and body parts.

"For those families who are involved but haven't had word (of missing women), we're just looking for some kind of information related to their whereabouts," said Rick Frey, whose daughter, Marnie, 24, vanished in 1997. "It's something you don't want to know but you have to know."

Families and friends of the missing women, mainly drug-addicted prostitutes from the city's poor downtown east side, met recently with officers from the RCMP-Vancouver police task force, coroners and a crown attorney for an update on the investigation.

As well as being asked if they could identify photographs of some 3,000 or so personal effects found at the farm, including women's clothing, purses, medical bracelets and keys, those in attendance were told the search was entering a more detailed stage.

Robert William Pickton, 52, now faces seven charges of first-degree murder.

Police now refuse to comment on the case, aside from media briefings called when they lay new charges. A few weeks ago, they said they were hiring about 50 people who specialize in osteology, the study of human bone.

A forensic dentist has been retained and police are contracting for excavating and screening equipment to help their search of the farm in Port Coquitlam, 35 kilometres east of British Columbia's capital.

Officials likened the scene at the farm to "a massacre" and warned families attending the recent meeting that they likely would never get back bodies of their loved ones but only "fragments," Frey said, from his home in Campbell River on Vancouver Island.

"It's going to be hard on people," he said. "If they found 3,000 exhibits on top (of the ground), who knows what they'll find underneath?"

The families also discussed with police the possibility of the search later expanding to include a neighbouring subdivision, mall, elementary school and park, all built in the past few years on land that was once part of the pig farm, Frey said.

Police would not make any commitments to expropriating that land, he added.

The next court appearance for Pickton, who owns the farm with his brother and sister, is set for June 11.

For years, local police have been accused of disinterest and incompetence in connection with the earliest disappearances, which go back to 1983. Most took place in the past six years.

Since the RCMP joined the probe and police descended on the farm in early February, it has grown into one of the largest police investigations in Canadian history. They expect to be there at least a year.

The first two murder charges came in late February. The evidence includes DNA and body parts, allegedly linking Pickton to seven women who went missing between January, 1999, and last November.

A search began in April on a second property nearby, owned by the Picktons and notorious for an all-night-party spot, known as Piggy's Palace.

Ernie Crey, whose sister, Dawn, was 43 when she disappeared in late 2000, said his brothers and sisters have "mixed feelings" about the expanded search.

"We want to know what became of our sister Dawn and whether or not the investigation at that site will tell us that," Crey said in an interview. "But it's true, too, that we don't like to think that's where her life came to an end, if that's the case.

"It's like a moonscape," Crey said of the farm, a collection of rundown buildings, abandoned vehicles, worn heavy equipment and mounds of soil from a landscaping business.

Police said the equipment contractors and the students, from area universities and colleges with archaeology and forensic science programs, all signed confidentiality agreements and were subjected to criminal background checks

Courtesy of The Toronto Star



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

Updated: August 21, 2016