Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Robert Pickton: The Vancouver Missing Women

A Quiet Loner

By Marilyn Bardsley

By mid-Oct, 2004, the 21-month search of Robert Pickton's 14-acre pig farm by 102 forensic anthropologists linked 30 women's DNA to the property. Twenty-seven of the women are among those listed as missing and three have not yet been identified. The newly identified women fit the same profile as the other female victims. "They have histories of working in the sex trade, histories of substance abuse and histories of frequenting the downtown eastside," Cpl. Catherine Galliford stated.

Vancouver police Sgt. Sheila Sullivan said that they had no information that linked all 69 missing women to the farm.

Pickton, who was arrested for trying to murder a prostitute on March 23, 1997, went free after charges were dropped. Also, a person who worked for Pickton tipped authorities to him in 1998, but the government did nothing to investigate the property until 2002.

Despite the wild parties that were held in the Piggy Palace on his property, Pickton is described by his friends as a quiet loner. Emanuella Grinberg of courttv.com reported that Robert Pickton "never drank or smoked but simply dedicated his life to working on the property he and his brother and sister inherited when their parents died in the 1970s." The farm raises and slaughters pigs.

Robert Pickton and his brother, David, who was convicted of sexual assault in 1992, operate a salvage business. But David has not been charged in these murders.

In March 2004, British Columbia's provincial health officer, Dr. Perry Kendall, publicly released even more alarming news in relation to serial killer Robert Pickton. According to a March 2004 AP Worldstream article, Kendall suggested that there was a possibility that the human remains from some of Pickton's victims may have been mixed with pork meat and processed for human consumption. He was quoted in the article saying, "It's very disturbing to think about, but (there is) the possibility of some cross-contamination. But the degree of it or when or how much we really don't know."

Investigators at Pickton pig farm
Investigators at Pickton pig farm

The Toronto Star reported on March 12, 2004 that Pickton would often entice prostitutes to his farm, along with other guests. The article further suggested that he was, "generous, cooking for them, handing out drugs, hosting wild, never-ending parties." Investigators fear that the food he was serving to his guests may have actually been the remains of some of his victims. According to UPI, the meat products from his farm were never distributed commercially, although some 40 friends and neighbors were given some of the meat for consumption. AP Worldstream quoted Kendall who asked "anyone who may still have frozen pork products from Pickton's farm to return those products to the police."

Robert Pickton in court hearings, sketch
Robert Pickton in court hearings, sketch

AP Online's article "Human Remains May Be in Canadian Meat" suggested that the risk of any human disease being transmitted to those that have consumed the tainted meat is minimal. If the pork was cooked thoroughly, it is likely that any infectious agents present in the meat would be destroyed, AP Worldstream reported. Regardless, the possibility that they may have accidentally consumed human flesh has repulsed and enraged those who received meat products from Pickton. Pickton's trial date has not yet been set, although it is believed to begin sometime during spring 2005, approximately 3 years after his arrest. Daniel Girard of The Toronto Star quoted Crown attorney Mike Petrie that the reason for the delay is because "more than 10,000 pieces of evidence from the farm," still have to be processed by investigators. Moreover, the state also needs more time to prepare their case against Pickton. According to Trude Hugner's article, the defense team, led by attorney Peter Ritchie, was already set to begin.

It is expected that Pickton's trial will begin in early 2005. Because Canada does not have a death penalty, Pickton faces a number of consecutive life sentences if convicted.

 

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