I’ve chosen to research and write this piece with quite a funny story behind it, I was actually talking about this case to my boyfriend a few days ago, I asked if he remembered seeing the news coverage or if he remembered the killer’s name (because I didn’t) and he argued that this wasn’t a real case and that I got it confused with an early Criminal minds episode. Yes, they did have an episode based on this case, but I knew when I watched the episode that I recognised the case and of course I was right and it was the case of Robert Pickton. You may not know the name, but you’ll remember it after we’ve been through the case, most memorably was how Pickton disposed of his victims, there’s been a couple of different theories and claims, Pickton himself claimed he’d ground up their flesh and mixed it with the pork he was selling to the public from the farm, another is that the victims were fed to the pigs and we all know that pigs will eat whatever is put in front of them, even bone fragments.
Robert William Pickton was born 24th October 1949 in Port Coquitilam, British Columbia. Not much is known about his childhood other than his family owned and worked on a farm, he does have siblings, he has one sister and a brother, David who he worked on his farm with. Pickton’s parents passed away in the 1970s, leaving the farm to the children. It was reported that later Pickton began to sell parts of his land to housing estates and shopping centres. In 1992 Pickton and his brother were running the farm, a worker on the farm Bill Hiscox called the farm a “creepy looking place” he also noted that the farm was “patrolled” by a 600lb boar, one of the many pigs on the Pickton farm, the boar was aggressive and would chase and bite people at the property. Pickton was described as a “pretty quiet guy, hard to strike up a conversation with” he also had what’s described as bizarre behaviours that would draw attention.
It wasn’t long before the Pickton brothers started to neglect the farming operations and while struggling they registered with a non-profit charity called the Piggy Palace Goof Times Society” through the Canadian government in 1996. The brothers claimed to “organise, co ordinate, manage and operate special events, functions, dances, shows and exhibitions on behalf of service organisations, sports organisations and other worthy groups”. The events the brothers held however were raves and “wild parties” these parties were frequented by Vancouver sex workers and it’s reported that the Hell’s Angels would attend also, the events were said to have attracted as many as 2,000 people.
Pickton’s violent nature began to show itself on 23rd March 1997, Pickton was charged with the attempted murder of a sex worker named Wendy Lynn Eistetter, he stabbed her several times during an altercation at the farm. Eistetter told police that Pickton handcuffed her, but she escaped after suffering several lacerations, Eisterrer said she managed to disarm Pickton and stab him with his weapon, this resulted in Pickton seeking medial treatment at Eagle Ridge Hospital.
Pickton was released on a $2,000 bond and the attempted murder charge was dismissed in January 1998. Pickton was in trouble with the law again when the Pickton brothers were sued by Port Coquitlam officials for violating zoning ordinances, the reason was neglecting the agriculture for which it had been zoned, and having altered a large farm building on the land for their parties, they ignored the legal pressure and continued to hold a New Year’s eve part in 1998, resulting in the brothers being faced with an injunction banning any future parties, the injunction gave local police authorisation to “arrest and remove any person” attending any future events at the farm. After all this the farm lost its non profit status for inability to procure financial statements.
Bill Hiscox one of the workers on the farm that I mentioned earlier noticed that women who visited the farm would always go missing, this pattern continued over the course of three years, until 6Th Februrary 2002 when police executed a search warrant for illegal firearms the brothers had at the property. After the Pickton brothers were taken in to custody, the police obtained a second warrant to search the farm as part of a BC Missing Women Investigation. Personal items belonging to several of the missing women were found at the farm. The farm was sealed off by Vancouver Police Department and Pickton was charged with weapon offences the next day, unfortunately he was later released and put under police surveillance.
Around 3 weeks later on 22nd February 2002, Pickton was finally arrested and charged with two counts of first degree murder for the deaths of Sereena Abotsway and Mona Wilson. Three more charges followed on 2nd April for the murders of Jacqueline Mcdonell, Diane Rock, and Heather Bottomley. The more they investigated the more they found on Pickton as a sixth charge was added on 9th April for Andrea Joesbury, followed by a seventh for Brenda Wolfe. On 20th September four more charges were added again for Georgina Papin, Patricia Johnson, Helen Hallmark and Jennifer Furminger. The charges kept coming as the months rolled on and on 3rd October the charges of murder for the deaths of Heather Chinnock, Tanya Holyk, Sherry Irving and Inga Hall bringing the total so far to fifteen. This has been called the largest serial killer investigation in Canadian history. It got even bigger on 26th May 2005 as 12 more charges were brought against Pickton for the killings of Cars Ellis, Andrea Borhaven, Debra Lynne Jones, Marble Frey, Tiffany Drew, Kerry Koski, Sarah de Vries, Cynthia Feliks, Angela Jardine, Wendy Crawford, Diana Melnick and a Jane Doe, bringing the final count to a massive 27 charges of first degree murder, and those are just the murders that the police are aware of, who knows how many the pigs actually ate.
The estimated cost of the investigation into Robert Pickton was $70 million by the end of 2003 as the excavation of the Pickton family farm still continued through November 2003, as of 2015 the property has been fenced off and is under lien by the Crown in Right of British Columbia and all buildings on the land have been demolished.
The case takes a darker turn when the testimony was released from Pickton’s preliminary inquiry that was held in 2003, the inquiry revealed the charges against Pickton for attempted murder in connection to the kidnapping and stabbing of sex worker Wendy Lynn Eistetter, Eisetter testified that Pickton had driven her to his farm, had sex with her, slapped a handcuff on her left hand and stabbed her in the abdomen. She went on to say she’s stabbed Pickton in self defense, and that later they were both treated at the same hospital, where nurses used a key from Pickton’s pocket to take Eistetter’s handcuffs off. It was said that Eistetter had drug issues and the prosecution believed her too unstable to testify and secure a conviction. Interestingly, the clothes and rubber boots that Pickton was wearing on the night of the attempted murder were seized by police and left in a storage locker for more than seven years, lab tests were conducted on the items in 2004 and revealed the DNA of two other missing women, meaning Pickton was possibly killing before his failed attempt on Eistetter.
Vancouver Police detective constable Lorimer When her said in 1998, he learned of a call made to a police tip line saying that Pickton should be investigated in the case of women’s disappearances, Shenher described in his 2015 book about Pickton’s case that he struggled to attract enough police resources and attention to the case until the 2002 search of Pickton’s farm. In 1999 it is confirmed that Canadian police had received a tip that Pickton had human flesh in his freezer on the farm, they interviewed Pickton, who denied killing the missing women and obtained consent to search the farm, unfortunately they never conducted that search.
The trial began on 30th January 2006 in New Westminster, Pickton pleaded not guilty to the 27 charges of first degree murder. It took a year to determine what evidence would be admitted before the jury and reporters were not allowed to disclose any of the material presented in the arguments. One of the charges was rejected on 2nd March 2006 by Justice James Williams due to lack of evidence.
On 9Th August 2006 it was decided by Justice Williams that the charges would be served in a group of six counts and another group of twenty counts. The trial proceeded on the six charges, the mother twenty were stayed on August 4th 2010, due to the publication ban on the trial it hasn’t been made publicly available. Justice Williams gave reason for his decision in splitting the charges saying that all 26 charges would have put an unreasonable strain on the jury, as the trial could go on for 2 years, and that the risk of a mistrial was increased.
Pickton’s trial was set to start on 8th January 2007, but was postponed to 22nd January. Pickton faced first degree murder charges in the deaths of Frey, Abotsway, Papin, Joesbury Wolfe and Wilson. The Canadian public heard for the first time during the trial the horrors that were found on the Pickton farm due to the media ban being lifted. During the long investigation of the property skulls cut in half with hands and feet stuffed inside, the remains of one victim were stuffed into a bin bag, and the victim’s blood stained clothes were found in Pickton’s trailer, part of another victim’s jawbone and teeth were found next to Pickton’s slaughterhouse and a .22 calibre revolver with a dildo attached containing both his and his victim’s DNA. The jury were also played a videotape of Pickton claiming he attached the dildo to his weapon as a make-shift silencer.
The following evidence was released on 20th February 2007, it included testimony from lab staff that found 80 unidentified DNA profiles, roughly half male half female, items found in Pickton’s trailer: the .22 revolver with the dildo attached, boxes of .375 Magnum handgun ammunition, night vision goggles, two pairs of faux fur lined handcuffs, a syringe with three millimetres of blue liquid inside and some “Spanish fly” aphrodisiac, a videotape was played of Pickton’s friend Scott Chubb that said Pickton had told him the best way to kill a female heroin addict was to inject her with windshield washer fluid, then another tape was played of Pickton’s associate Andrew Bellwood and said that Pickton mentioned killing sex workers by handcuffing and strangling them, then bleeding and gutting them before feeding them to his pigs, and photos were included of the contents of the bin bag found in Pickton’s slaughterhouse, which hid some of the remains of Mona Wilson.
The jury trial took many months and on 9th December 2007, the jury returned the verdict that Pickton was not guilty on six counts of first degree murder but is guilty on six counts of second degree murder. On 11th December after hearing 18 vctim impact statements, judge Justice James Williams sentenced Pickton to life with no possibility of parole for 25 years, this was equal to the sentence Pickton would have got if he had been found guilty of first degree murder. While passing the sentence Justice Williams said “Mr. Pickton’s conduct was murderous and repeatedly so, I cannot know the details but I know this: what happened to them was senseless and despicable”.
From reading the evidence from this case it seems to me that Pickton, despite “getting away” with it for so long he wasn’t some criminal mastermind, other than his disposal method making it hard to find his victims there was nothing he really did to hide himself or his crimes, workers described him and his farm as creepy, people noted that women would go there and regularly go missing and he basically confessed by telling his associate how to kill a young woman. How did someone so open and reckless get away with it? I believe it was attitudes and perceptions of sex workers at the time, this is the case with police forces all over the world there’s a belief that sex workers “can’t be missing” or “ask for it by going off with strangers” so as a result these people aren’t looked for and investigations close as soon as they open. The thing to remember is anyone can be in danger, no sex worker, male or female asks to be brutalised or killed nor do they deserve it, to put it bluntly the world is shit and everyone’s doing what they’ve got to in order to survive and no one deserves to be killed for it, in this case if more resources and attention had been given to the tip offs about the farm then around 10+ lives would have been saved from Pickton, as a woman I’m glad a sexual sadist and danger to women is locked up