Old photos may show digging

Suzanne Fournier
The Province

Thursday, May 30, 2002

Decades worth of aerial photos that at times show fresh digging on and around the property of an accused serial killer will be used to guide police when they begin a large-scale excavation of the site Monday.

The surrounding land now includes subdivisions, a mall and a school.

Members of the Missing Women's Task Force told families of the women at a traumatic meeting on Sunday that the photos will guide them as they excavate and meticulously sift soil for human bones, teeth and body parts at the Port Coquitlam pig farm of accused killer Robert William Pickton. The photos were taken for real-estate purposes.

Forensic scientists will use aerial photos to guide them as they excavate and sift soil in their search for human remains on property owned by accused serial killer Robert William Pickton.

"We were told they have aerial photos going back a number of years -- even 20 to 30 years -- and they told us we can see the actual places where land has been freshly dug at different times, areas that might be grave sites, I guess, so they said they'd start digging at hot spots first," said Campbell River fisherman Rick Frey, whose daughter Marnie disappeared in 1997.

Pickton, 52, is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of seven of 54 women who went missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

He owns the Dominion Road site with his siblings, David Pickton and Linda Wright. Over the last decade, they redeveloped the farmland into the Riverwood subdivision, a school and mall. David Pickton did much of the excavation work for the projects.

The revelation that aerial photos were being used drew fresh demands from family members for the expropriation and excavation of houses beyond the main Pickton pig farm, the only site where police confirm they have found human remains.

"One family member questioned [RCMP Staff-Sgt.] Don Adam about when they were going to move on those houses," said Frey, noting that excavation under houses is a serious issue for families of women who went missing more than five years ago. "She wanted to know, 'Would you rip them down if you had to?'"

Frey said police didn't commit to expropriations.

Police have promised in previous family meetings to look into expropriation, noted Ernie Crey, whose sister Dawn went missing in 2000. Police also pulled no punches about the fact they will hold onto any human remains until all legal proceedings are over.

"In reference to another human disaster [the 1998 Swissair crash on the Nova Scotia coast in which 229 people died] police said they won't release human remains to a family, which might hold a funeral, and then have more remains of that person discovered," said Crey.

Said another family member: "It was very traumatic. Several people had to leave the room overcome by emotion."

Lorraine Crey, sister of Ernie and Dawn, noted that families were shown hundreds of photos of women's clothing, purses, makeup, identification, medical bracelets and keys.

Police said they've recovered about 3,000 exhibits so far from the farm.

Excavation of the Dominion Road pig farm Monday will coincide with the start of work by up to 50 forensic scientists and students. A police search also continues at a nearby Pickton property that houses an after-hours club known as Piggy's Palace.

 Copyright 2002 The Province



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Updated: August 21, 2016