Huge Pickton farm search winds down

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

VANCOUVER (CP) - A search in a serial-killing investigation that began early last year and uncovered thousands of exhibits will finally end in the next few days at the now-infamous pig farm in suburban Port Coquitlam, police said Wednesday.


Dozens of officers aided by 50 archaelogy experts have searched for human remains at the property since last year.

Spokespersons for the missing women task force said the 21-month-long search of a seven-hectare farm owned by accused serial killer Robert Pickton and members of his family would end with the departure of investigators and anthropology students who have been examining all the soil for evidence.

"We're very comfortable with leaving the property," RCMP Cpl. Catherine Galliford said at a packed news conference at RCMP headquarters.

"We have searched all the soil we've needed to search and there has been nothing to indicate to us that we need to search anything further."

The forensic team now on site at the farm, about a 45-minute drive east of Vancouver, will leave the site within the next few days. They will be followed within a week by the equipment on site.

The property will then revert back to the owners, the Pickton family.

The accused was committed earlier this year to stand trial in B.C. Supreme Court on 15 counts of first-degree murder, following a lengthy preliminary hearing.

The charges against Pickton, 54, are in connection with a long list of missing women, most of whom disappeared over the last 20 years from a stroll area preferred by hookers in the rough-and-tumble Downtown Eastside.

His last court appearance was in September when his defence team told the court it needed more time to review evidence it is still receiving in the 15-count first-degree murder case.

He was to return to court Dec. 15 when a trial date might be set.

Investigators sifted through 338,000 cubic metres of soil and forensic experts will spend the next year processing the thousands of exhibits found, said Galliford.

"We have forensic experts who will be going through the exhibits, sorting them. We do have a lot of work ahead of us and the labs have definitely been keeping up with our investigation."

In his ruling in July committing Pickton to trial, the provincial court judge said that had the preliminary hearing started a month later than it did, he would have been able to commit Pickton on 22 counts of first-degree murder.

Of the 61 missing women there are still about 40 who are unaccounted for.

"We have our investigators reviewing the missing files that existed from the originating agenies," said Det. Sheila Sullivan, the Vancouver city police spokeswoman on the task force.

"We are in the process of identifying leads in those cases."

Galliford said Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer, is still someone the task force here is interested in.

Ridgway, 54, pleaded guilty in Seattle on Wednesday to murdering 48 women over the past two decades.

"At the beginning of the task force when it was first set up we did tell you that Mr. Ridgway was one potential suspect among hundreds of potential suspects and that hasn't changed," said Galliford. "So if you're looking at our group of hundreds of suspects or potential suspects, he is one of them."

Besides the search at the main site, police searched other properties also owned by the family nearby.

Last summer, investigators spent a few weeks at a riverside site near Mission in the Fraser Valley.

All the searches are now complete, said Sullivan.

The notorious case was ignited by a massive police raid Feb. 6, 2002 on a farm owned by the Picktons.

Pickton is charged with the murders of Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson, Diane Rock, Jacqueline McDonell, Heather Bottomley, Andrea Joesbury, Brenda Wolfe, Jennifer Furminger, Helen Hallmark, Patricia Johnson, Georgina Papin, Heather Chinnock, Tanya Holyk, Sherry Irving and Inga Hall.

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Serial killer suspect in 61 deaths

From correspondents in Montreal

Thursday, November 6, 2003

A US man who admitted today to murdering 48 mostly teenage prostitutes and runaways was a suspect in 61 similar killings in Canada over the past 20 years, Canadian police said.

Gary Ridgway made frequent trips to Vancouver in western Canada during his admitted murder spree that began 21 years ago, said Sheila Sullivan, spokeswoman for the special police unit investigating the murder of prostitutes in the city.

"Mr Ridgway has not been ruled out as a suspect in our cases up here," she said.

"I would anticipate that our investigators will probably have further discussions with those investigators in Washington State at some point in the future."

Ridgway, 54, pleaded guilty to 48 charges of premeditated aggravated murder under a deal with prosecutors that will spare him the death penalty.

Police in British Columbia province already have charged pig farmer Robert Pickton with 15 counts of murder in the deaths of some of the 61 missing Vancouver women.

They vanished over a 25-year period from Vancouver's seedy Downtown Eastside neighbourhood, long a street market for drugs and prostitution.



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

Updated: August 21, 2016