Pickton judge to proceed with only six counts

By Janis Warren
Black Press

Maple Ridge News

Aug 12, 2006

A Coquitlam woman whose sister is listed as Count 25 on the charge sheet for accused Port Coquitlam killer Robert Pickton says she's upset with the trial judge's ruling this week to allow only six counts to proceed next year.

But Val Hughes, the sister of Kerry Koski, who disappeared from the Downtown Eastside in 1998, said she understands Mr. Justice James Williams' decision that it would be too overwhelming for a jury to hear evidence on all the 26 murders.

"I'm very disappointed," Hughes said. "I temper that with an understanding that Kerry will have her case heard in court. And, if that doesn't happen, all hell is going to break loose."

The Supreme Court judge's ruling Wednesday sent shock waves to many families of the women who were allegedly slaughtered on Pickton's Dominion Avenue farm.

Wayne Leng, a friend of Sarah de Vries, who's listed as Count 18 on the charge sheet, runs a website devoted to the missing women's case.

He too understands the need to go ahead with only six charges because of the enormity of the case.

"Whether Pickton goes to trial on Sarah's charge or not, I still believe that she was murdered out on the farm," Leng said via email. "I can live with that knowledge and a trial won't change that. I'm not sure the families of the other murdered women can, though."

The request to proceed with only six charges came from Pickton's defence team.

The six charges refer to the murders of Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson, Andrea Joesbury, Brenda Wolfe, Georgina Papin and Marnie Frey.

Geoff Gaul, spokesperson for BC's Attorney General ministry, said the judge ruled the six counts be severed from the indictment because they are "materially different" from the other charges.

He was unable to specify how the charges are different as evidence from the proceedings remains under a publication ban until the trial starts Jan. 8, 2007.

Severance is not uncommon: An accused is allowed to make an application to have the charges heard separately or be tried without a co-accused, Gaul said.

He also was unable to say how much the Pickton case has cost to date (taxpayers are on the hook for both prosecution and defence lawyers' fees as well as court costs).

Gaul declined to speculate if the case for all 26 charges would cost more than the Air India trial.

"The Air India trial was extremely expensive and the allegations [in the Pickton case] are horrific," said PoCo-Burke Mountain MLA Mike Farnworth, who is the NDP critic to the ministry of Public Safety.

"I don't think the general public fully comprehends what this trial is going to be like. It's gruesome."

Still, he added, "It would be my expectation that all of those families get due process and closure and justice through the trial process."

Meanwhile, Hughes finds solace by working with Missing Women's Legacy Society, an organization she helped start that honours the missing through public education and helps drug-addicted women.

The organization is currently running the Quilts of Hope Legacy Project at Peardonville House, a residential treatment for chemically-dependent women located in Abbotsford.

The quilts are given to women recovering from addiction.

Hughes wonders how the women at Peardonville and women on the Downtown Eastside will receive the news.

"What does this to them? It was hard enough to get the police to look further. This stuff speaks to a single issue, do we care about women in B.C.?" she said.

The Missing Women's Legacy Project is looking for donations of sewing machines (in working condition) and scraps of cotton cloth for the quilts. Call 604-931-1315.

- with files from Monisha Martins.

Copyright 2006 Maple Ridge News

Maple Ridge News



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

Updated: August 21, 2016