Emotionally exhausted

Relatives of some of the 15 missing women find Pickton hearing frustrating

Suzanne Fournier
The Province

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

The long-awaited first day of evidence against Robert Pickton left relatives of Vancouver's missing women frustrated and emotionally exhausted yesterday.

(Ernie) Crey

Pickton, 53, is charged with killing 15 of 61 women who have gone missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Many family members arrived early at the Port Coquitlam court-house, where Pickton's prelimimary hearing will continue for several months, only to face a day of puzzling, often inaudible evidence.

Some were also shocked at aspects of the evidence revealed in court for the first time.

"We fought for the right to be in court and hear the evidence against Robert Pickton, after his lawyer attempted to bar the public from these proceedings, and many of us do want to attend, even though we know the evidence will be graphic and disturbing on many occasions," said Ernie Crey, whose sister Dawn vanished in late 2000.

"We did get an opportunity today to hear Mr. Pickton's voice, learn a bit about him and his history and we were able to assess his demeanour for ourselves. I also feel that I want to honour my sister's memory by being here in court."

(Jack) Cummer

Jack and Laila Cummer, grandparents of Andrea Joesbury, one of Pickton's alleged murder victims, left in the late afternoon looking drained.

"It was difficult to hear and to understand some of what was being said," said Laila Cummer, "but we will be back in court [today]."

Pickton, who appeared bored and drowsy in previous court hearings, was considerably more animated yesterday, taking notes on a yellow legal pad and consulting a legal binder of transcripts given to him by his lawyer Peter Ritchie.

For the first time, Pickton looked directly toward media and families in the courtroom gallery and even gestured at sketch artist Felicity Don, commenting to the sheriff who sits with him in a bullet-proof glass cage inside the court.

Wearing a new beige sweater with navy-blue stripes, but still sporting his trademark greasy shoulder-length hair, Pickton shook his head at some evidence and occasionally smiled faintly when some of the evidence was cited.

CREDIT: Colin Price, The Province

A cameraman from a U.S. TV station films courtroom artist's sketch of Willy Pickton at the preliminary hearing.

Provincial court Judge David Stone, who will decide whether there is enough evidence to send Pickton to trial, has imposed a sweeping ban on publication.

Yesterday Stone, at the request of Crown counsel Michael Petrie, extended the ban to cover any mention of a specific witness.

Immediately after the hearing began yesterday, it went into a voir dire that could last for weeks and will ultimately determine the admissibility of evidence the judge is now hearing.

Despite the restrictions on reporting, a throng of media showed up to record events on the opening day.

Inside the courtroom, about half of the 30 seats reserved for family members were filled.

Pickton, 53, has been in custody since last Feb. 22. His Port Coquitlam pig farm is still the focus of a massive forensic search by police and archaeology students. 

 Copyright  2003 The Province

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

Updated: August 21, 2016