Canada: Jury must weigh mountain of gruesome evidence, credibility-challenged witnesses

NEW WESTMINISTER, B.C. – The jury in the Robert (Willie) Pickton multiple-murder trial has a mountain of evidence to consider after retiring Friday to consider its verdict.

By CanWest News ServiceDecember 1, 2007

NEW WESTMINISTER, B.C. – The jury in the Robert (Willie) Pickton multiple-murder trial has a mountain of evidence to consider after retiring Friday to consider its verdict.

Since the trial started Jan. 22, 2007, the seven-man-five-woman jury has heard often-dramatic testimony from 128 witnesses – 30 for the defence and 98 for the prosecution – including police, forensic experts, and Pickton’s friends and associates.

The most shocking evidence were revelations that the heads, hands and feet of Mona Wilson, Sereena Abotsway, and Andrea Joesbury were found in pails at the farm.

The remains of Joesbury and Abotsway were discovered in buckets in Pickton’s workshop freezer. Wilson’s remains were found in a large garbage pail in his slaughterhouse. The heads of all three had been cut in half with a reciprocating saw, and evidence revealed they’d been shot in the head with a. 22-calibre gun.

Three such saws were seized at the farm, plus 10 blades, but no human DNA was found.

Police also found a pistol of that calibre, with a lifelike phallic sex toy attached to the end of the barrel, on a shelf in Pickton’s laundry room. The sex toy bore DNA matching Wilson, plus DNA possibly belonging to Pickton.

The. 22 slugs recovered from the pails were damaged too badly to be matched to a gun.

The jury has also viewed hundreds of photographs. Photo-aided testimony from a pathologist, concerning the autopsies of the three women, drove one juror to tears and appeared to distress others in the jury.

Pickton does not contest the fact that those women’s body parts, along with the remains from three other victims, were found at his farm. He denies killing the women.

An RCMP forensic lab worker testified DNA matching Abotsway was found on a filmy black blouse found in Pickton’s bedroom closet.

Stains on an orange garbage bag on a table in Pickton’s slaughterhouse contained DNA matching Joesbury, as did earrings that said “Lucky” found in that building along with a silver ring.

In a squalid motorhome parked near Pickton’s trailer, stains with DNA matching Wilson were found on 26 areas or items – including a foam mattress, clothing, blood smears on walls, bottles, cigarettes, a shower coil with a mangled end, and a space heater.

A stain on the bathroom wall in Pickton’s trailer yielded a DNA profile matching Joesbury. DNA matched to Joesbury also turned up on earrings and a ring found in the slaughterhouse, and on a pillow slip in Pickton’s laundry room.

Also in the trailer was a tote bag – stained with blood – that jurors heard contained Abotsway’s inhaler, a Bible, runners, a pair of black pumps, and three other books. Another bag, a black one for garments, was found full of blood-stained clothing on a bed in the spare bedroom of Pickton’s trailer, court heard.

Two syringes with DNA from Pickton and Abotsway were discovered in his trailer.

Investigators found a hair matching the DNA profile of Abotsway on a blanket in Pickton’s trailer. A DNA profile matching Joesbury was found on a green lipstick, and another lipstick from the trailer bore a DNA profile matched to Brenda Wolfe, who went missing in March 1999, and whose jawbone was found in a manure trough outside Pickton’s slaughterhouse.

DNA matching Pickton was found on handcuffs lined with faux leopard skin, on four condoms tied in a knot found outside the slaughterhouse, and on a broken condom found in his workshop.

A handcuff key bearing Wolfe’s DNA was discovered in a workshop at the farm.

Leg shackles found there bore Pickton’s DNA.

Pickton’s defence team sought to convince the jury that the farm was a bustling place, accessible to many people, other than Pickton.

STAR WITNESSES:

Witnesses for the Crown made dramatic allegations, but suffered serious challenges to their credibility under cross-examination by the defence.

Lynn Ellingsen, 37, an associate of Pickton’s who once lived in his trailer, testified that she saw a prostitute with “chipmunk cheeks” dangling from a pig-butchering chain in Pickton’s slaughterhouse. Pickton, covered in blood, cut up “something awful” on a steel table beneath the woman, she said. Ellingsen identified the woman as Georgina Papin, who was reported missing on March 4, 2001.

But Ellingsen admitted she’d been smoking crack that night. Jurors also heard she’d once been hospitalized with hallucinations after smoking crack, and had been committed for psychiatric care in 1997. She gave often-contradictory evidence, and court heard that police had spent $16,000 on her, and that she threatened not to testify in the trial if she didn’t get more.

Scott Chubb, who had worked driving trucks for Pickton family businesses, said Pickton told him a good way to kill a female heroin addict was to inject her with windshield fluid. Chubb, 39, alleged that Pickton said police wouldn’t have an autopsy done because the victim would already have needle marks from drug use. A syringe containing windshield fluid was seized from a console in Pickton’s trailer by police.

A forensic expert testified that it would take at least 150 syringe-fulls of such fluid to deliver a toxic dose. Chubb flip-flopped and backpedalled throughout his testimony. Jurors heard he was paid for information by the RCMP, that he’d borrowed a handgun from Pickton then sold it, and that he had been a heroin user, and collected drug money.

Andrew Bellwood, who lived at Pickton’s farm for a few weeks in 1999, said Pickton play-acted the murder of prostitutes while kneeling on a bed, and described how he’d slip handcuffs on them during sex. “He’d reach for their hand, slide it up behind their back and slowly put on the handcuffs, stroking their hair, telling them, ‘It’s going to be OK, everything’s all over now,’ ” said Bellwood, 37.

Bellwood alleged Pickton told him he’d strangle the women with wire or a belt, then bleed and gut them in the slaughterhouse.

Pickton then described how much of a “carcass” his pigs would consume, Bellwood said. “Whatever the pigs didn’t eat would end up in the 45-gallon drums of entrails that he would put . . . the pig guts in, and haul that to disposal mixed in with the waste of slaughtered pigs,” he testified.

Bellwood was attacked by the defence for his history of crack addiction, theft, and fraud.

A worker at West Coast Reduction, a rendering plant in East Vancouver, testified that he would pick up barrels of burnt meat chunks from Pickton at the farm.

WHAT PICKTON SAID:

Key to the Crown’s case are statements Pickton made to an undercover policeman in a jail cell, just after his arrest for murder. The accused killer chuckled and grinned as he told the undercover cop he’d planned to murder 75 women. Pickton said his arrest came before he reached his initial goal of 50, “the big 5-0.”

He said he was going to “let everything die for a while . . . then do, do another 25 new ones.”

In a conversation about disposing of items, Pickton said he used a rendering plant. Police caught him because he was “Mr. Sloppy.”

“Four I was sloppy with,” he said.

Pickton boasted of worldwide fame and described himself as a “legend.” “I’m . . . about as big as . . . Bill Laden,” he boasted.

When his cellmate suggested Pickton would soon be like Saddam Hussein, Pickton responded, “Kinda nice to be similar to Saddam what did you call him.”

But during his official interrogation the day after his arrest, Pickton protested that he was “just a pig man,” and denied committing murder. He dismissed the proposition that he was responsible for upwards of 50 killings as “hogwash” and a possible set-up.

Pickton’s mood swung wildly during interrogation. Agitated while pleading his innocence in tones of panicky desperation, he appeared to plunge into despair, cradling his head in his hand. He wept as he gestured at a poster board of 48 missing women and vowed that he’d trade his life for one of theirs’.

At one point he suggested he’d admit guilt if police would shut down the search at his family farm. He claimed others were involved in the disappearances of women, but he was the “head honcho” and would take the fall.

FRIENDS AND ASSOCIATES:

Jurors heard from Pickton’s close friend, Gina Houston, that the accused had fingered another good friend, Dinah Taylor, alleging she was responsible for three or four killings, with the bodies buried at the farm.

Houston testified that Taylor was “enraged” when she learned Pickton had paid a woman who had cleaned his trailer more money than he had given Taylor. “She just kept saying she wanted to kill the bitch,” Houston said. Taylor was arrested on suspicion of murder in the missing-women investigation, but never charged.

Also arrested was Pat Casanova, on suspicion of 15 murders in the missing-women case, including those of five of the six women Pickton is on trial for allegedly killing.

Casanova, like Taylor, was never charged. He bought pigs from Pickton for sale to the Filipino community, and the two slaughtered and butchered together.

On the witness stand, Casanova admitted to having sex with prostitutes in Pickton’s bed.

INSIDE PICKTON’S MIND:

Pickton’s defence team strove to present their client as dimwitted and prone to telling tall tales.

Pickton’s jail-cell stories about living in a chicken coop at age two, and a claimed plan to release two suitcases of bats into an elevator shaft at a four-star hotel were indicative of a simple mind, his lawyer, Peter Ritchie, suggested.

Pickton’s lawyers introduced information about his mental abilities for the jury to consider in the context of the statements he made to police. The accused had failed Grade 2, then was put into special education.

He scored 86 on an IQ test given him in jail by a psychologist, who said Pickton had a cognitive disorder. That score of 86 put Pickton at a higher intelligence level than 18 per cent of the population his age, and falls in the same range as 68 per cent of the Canadian and American population, court heard.

Pickton earned a “B” in a Grade 9 agriculture course he took by correspondence while in jail.

Vancouver Province

ebaron@png.canwest.co

© (c) CanWest MediaWorks Publications Inc.

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