Pickton to appear in court for trial date

Port Coquitlam pig farmer is accused of murdering 15 women

Lori Culbert
Vancouver Sun

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Robert (Willy) Pickton will appear for the first time in New Westminster Supreme Court today, to begin the process of setting a date for a murder trial that is expected to last for months and hear from dozens of witnesses.

Robert (Willy) Pickton was committed to trial on 15 counts of first-degree murder in provincial court in July. (CP drawing by Jane Wolsak, from Global BC)

Pickton, who is accused of being Canada's worst serial murderer, is not scheduled to leave his jail cell but is to appear on a video link for today's court proceedings, which are expected to be brief.

"[Today] is simply an interim appearance date," said Crown counsel Geoffrey Gaul, who speaks for the Crown's office.

It is anticipated that the large Crown and defence teams will request they come back to court late this fall to discuss a potential date for the trial, which is not expected to start until mid-2004 at the earliest.

Pickton's six-month preliminary hearing in Port Coquitlam provincial court ended in July, when Judge David Stone ordered the pig farmer to stand trial on charges he murdered 15 sex-trade workers from the Downtown Eastside on his rundown farm.

Police have been searching the Port Coquitlam property since Pickton's arrest in February, 2002. That made the preliminary hearing unusual, Stone said, because new evidence was constantly being introduced to court.

Some of that evidence was regarding the murder of seven additional women. Stone said in his ruling that if the preliminary hearing had started a month later, Pickton, 53, would likely be facing 22 counts of first-degree murder today.

Stone said in his decision that the Crown could pursue the additional seven charges through a direct indictment. That procedure requires the consent of the attorney general and allows new charges to be laid against a person who has already been ordered to stand trial, without the need to hold another preliminary hearing.

"An indictment has not been filed yet. Crown counsel is still considering that issue," Gaul said Wednesday.

"Right now, Mr. Pickton has been committed to stand trial on 15 counts of first-degree murder. Whether the Crown will proceed to file an indictment that includes additional counts is a decision that has not been made yet."

Because police are still searching Pickton's farm, both the Crown and the defence continue to receive large amounts of new evidence that must be digested in preparation for a trial.

Pickton's trial is expected to last longer than the preliminary hearing, which heard testimony for 60 days over a six-month period. The Crown called 85 witnesses and anticipates asking at least that many people to testify during a trial.

A sweeping publication ban prohibits reporting any evidence discussed during the preliminary hearing.

The 15 women Pickton is accused of murdering are Patricia Johnson, Mona Wilson, Dianne Rock, Heather Bottomley, Tanya Holyk, Sherry Irving, Georgina Papin, Helen Hallmark, Sereena Abotsway, Andrea Joesbury, Brenda Wolfe, Jacqueline McDonell, Heather Chinnock, Inga Hall and Jennifer Furminger.

The seven other women whose DNA has been found at the farm are Tiffany Drew, Sarah de Vries, Marnie Frey, Cindy Feliks, Angela Jardine, Diana Melnick and an unidentified woman the court is calling Jane Doe, Stone said in his ruling.

All 22 were sex-trade workers from the Downtown Eastside who struggled with drug addictions.

A total of 61 women are now on a list of people missing from the Downtown Eastside.

 Copyright 2003 Vancouver Sun

Pickton team requests delay-Sept 12, 2003



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Updated: August 21, 2016