Pickton asks for evidence in murders

Lawyer may return: Farmer accused in prostitute deaths prepares own defence

Ian Bailey
National Post

Saturday, October 26, 2002

VANCOUVER - Robert Pickton, the accused serial killer, is sufficiently ready to represent himself in court that he was prepared yesterday to go over at least a dozen boxes containing the Crown's evidence against him.

Robert Pickton

Peter Ritchie, Mr. Pickton's former lawyer, made the point in British Columbia Supreme Court as he sought the help of a senior court judge to resolve a dispute over the provincial government paying for Mr. Pickton's defence.

A government lawyer said they would be discussing an interim funding agreement with Mr. Ritchie that could see the prominent Vancouver defence lawyer return to the case he recently quit.

"We're trying to be as reasonable as we can," said Silvia Martorana, representing the Ministry of the Attorney General.

But she said the government wants to be sure it has a full picture of Mr. Pickton's finances before committing to his defence.

Mr. Ritchie said he could not comment before seeing the offer. "I remain somewhat optimistic that we can resolve it quickly," he said. "But it's a cautious optimism."

Mr. Ritchie said his 52-year-old client, accused of killing 15 of 63 women who have vanished from the city's Downtown Eastside since the mid-1980s, would make an unlikely lawyer if he has to stand for himself at his preliminary hearing, now set to begin on Nov. 4.

"He's not a sophisticated person whatsoever," Mr. Ritchie told Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm.

The experience of being in jail since his arrest in February has made Mr. Pickton desperate to move his trial ahead even if he has to represent himself, Mr. Ritchie said.

Mr. Ritchie said he has about a dozen "bankers' boxes" filled with documents that outline aspects of the Crown case. "That's only part of the question here, because we need to investigate some of these things. [Mr. Pickton] can investigate nothing if he is in a jail cell."

Mr. Ritchie was asked how qualified Mr. Pickton would be to deal with the DNA evidence that is said to be crucial to the Crown case. "He is completely unqualified, like 99% of the population," he said.

Mr. Pickton, a pig farmer from Port Coquitlam, about 40 kilometres east of Vancouver, has been described as a millionaire because of land holdings he shares with his brother and sister there. Some of the land has been sold off over the past few years.

The jointly owned pig farm is now in the midst of a massive search for evidence involving more than 90 police officers, archeology students and support workers. Charges against Mr. Pickton have been prompted by the discovery of human remains on the property.

"The myth of Pickton's millions came from the media and nowhere else," Mr. Ritchie said. "It is entirely a myth that he is a man of substance."

Mr. Pickton has made a commitment to sign over to the government his current assets and any assets he might acquire. He has about $1,600 in a bank account and credit-card debts -- a situation that denies him the finances to pay for even a forensic accountant to come up with a better picture of his situation.

He said Mr. Pickton's brother handled most of the family finances.

Ms. Martorana said it would appear Mr. Pickton had considerable financial resources, citing revenues from the sale of his family land. "It does raise a flag. We look at that and ask, 'Where's the money?' "

Mr. Ritchie said he thought it unlikely the defence would be ready for the Nov. 4 start of Mr. Pickton's preliminary hearing -- a point Judge Dohm echoed.

"It must be obvious to everybody that that's not a date you're going to be able to keep," Judge Dohm said in court.

Mr. Ritchie said that was true, but that his client was eager to proceed.

Mr. Ritchie declined comment on reports that, the Internet auction Web site, had pulled a site offering to sell dirt from Mr. Pickton's pig farm. The offer, posted by a seller -- who does not appear to be connected with the Pickton family -- asking for an opening bid of US$9.99, had dismayed families of the missing women.

"That's a most unsavoury thing," Mr. Ritchie said. "I have nothing to say about that." 

 Copyright  2002 National Post



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