VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Victims’ relatives see accused, weep
Security is tight as alleged serial killer Picton appears in PoCo court
Friday, May 24, 2002
Relatives of Vancouver's missing women wept Thursday as accused serial killer Robert (Willy) Pickton appeared in court under tight security to face a seventh charge of first-degree murder.
Pickton glanced several times around the packed Port Coquitlam courtroom, even making eye contact with some of the family members of the women who have disappeared from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside in recent years.
With the latest count laid against him this week, Pickton is now charged with killing seven women who were on the list of 54 who disappeared from city streets.
He appeared to smirk slightly as he looked around and even shook his head as if to say "no" when Crown prosecutor Michael Petrie said the new murder charge relates to the death of Alberta native Brenda Ann Wolfe, who was 30 when she disappeared in February 1999.
The charge information accuses the Port Coquitlam pig farmer of killing Wolfe some time between March 5, 1999 and Feb. 5 of this year, which was when police began a massive search on his farm at 953 Dominion Ave.
It was the first time Pickton was physically present in court since he was first charged in February. Several subsequent appearances have been via video-link from the North Fraser pretrial jail, much to the dismay of family members of the victims who said Pickton should have to appear in person.
The court building had extraordinary security for the brief appearance, as dozens of sheriffs and RCMP officers were on hand. The emergency response team was also nearby in case there was a major incident. Court observers were screened and sheriffs even checked under courtroom seats.
"It has gotten a high profile. The fact it was on the news that he's actually going to be here in person has created a bit of a sensation," RCMP Corporal Peter Markgraf said outside court.
"Our position here is basically to have public safety for everybody else as well as him."
Pickton wore a red, jail-issue jumpsuit and cocked his head slightly backward throughout the 10-minute appearance.
Pickton's lawyer, Marilyn Sandford, told the court she is concerned about the pace of disclosure from the prosecution team, especially given that a preliminary hearing is scheduled to begin in November.
Since Pickton's last court appearance May 2, "I don't believe we've received any additional disclosure from the Crown," she said.
"It seems that things are getting bogged down in the information flow somewhere," she said. "It is a matter of concern for the defence."
Petrie vehemently denied that the pace of disclosure has been slow or inadequate.
"It is not as though this is coming out in dribs and drabs," he said. "The defence has more than enough, in my submission, to prepare."
Thousands of pages of material have already been turned over by the Crown, but the defence team wants notes from police investigators, as well as complete lists of witnesses and other suspects.
"Obviously, a request of that nature is going to require extensive preparation by the police and extensive vetting by the Crown," Petrie said, telling the court that prosecutors may call as many as 200 witnesses.
The Crown is proceeding as diligently as possible, Petrie said "to ensure that Mr. Pickton receives the fairest possible treatment before the courts."
Outside court, Sandford said Pickton was in "complete shock" over the latest charge and wants the matter to proceed through the courts as quickly as possible.
"He's very upset," Sandford said.
She walked away saying "sorry" when asked if her client could explain how human remains have allegedly been found on the property he co-owns with his two siblings.
The 80 investigators working on the case in a joint RCMP-Vancouver city police task force investigation will be joined in early June by an additional 50 people, including students and forensic experts trained in identifying human bones.
Seeing Pickton present in person Thursday was difficult for some of the families who attended Thursday's court appearance.
"It is a Catch-22 question when I say to myself I want to see him, but I don't want to see him," said Donna Joseph, whose younger sister, Janet Henry, went missing about five years ago. "I needed to see his face. But I'm sick. I am very sick."
Another sister, Sandra Gagnon, said she holds out hope that the family will learn what happened to Henry, especially given the latest charge in connection with the death of Wolfe.
"It gives me confidence that the police are doing all that they can to find our missing loved ones and to find out what happened to our missing loved ones," Gagnon said.
© Copyright 2002 Vancouver Sun
Courtesy of Vancouver Sun
Updated: August 21, 2016