Thursday, September 28


Secluded garden helps families mark the memory of the women left dead and missing in the Pickton case

Globe and Mail

September 27, 2006

VANCOUVER -- A special memorial in a secluded place not far from Vancouver's skid row has been created by families of women alleged to have been killed by Robert Pickton.

The families have been reluctant to speak about the site. They hope to keep it as a sombre place to remember those who have no graves. They have been trying to shelter the area from the public eye in order to maintain its peaceful, meditative atmosphere. The Globe and Mail was allowed to visit the site this week on the promise of respecting their privacy.

The area is dominated by mementoes from the so-called healing tent that provided refuge to the families in 2002 and 2003 while police investigated the suburban property. Posters and heartfelt tributes are tacked to a wooden bench made from a fence that was previously on the edge of the property. A weather-beaten poster of 31 missing women, a faded missing-person's poster for Helen Mae Hallmark and a loving remembrance of Cindy Feliks are among the postings. Some of the tent's original plantings are in planters in the area.

Kathy-Jo Bryce, 25, has been coming to the site since the spring. She last saw her sister, Patricia Rose Johnson, in March of 2001. Police told her the following year that they believed her sister had been murdered. Her sister's remains were never found.

Ms. Bryce brought colourful flowering plants to the site this week. She prefers plants "because cut flowers die," she said. She comes as often as she can to light a candle and occasionally burn rose incense in memory of her sister, who had the middle name Rose. Here, she said, she also talks to her sister.

And she has a lot to say. At the time of her sister's disappearance, Ms. Bryce was addicted to drugs and worked as a prostitute, much like her older sibling. She wishes she could let her sister know how she has made an "awesome" turnaround in her life in recent years.

Ms. Bryce said she was 11 years old when she started with drugs. She had run away from home and moved in with a 57-year-old man who sold crack cocaine. She turned her first trick as a prostitute at 14 and was spending as much as $500 a day on heroin by the age of 15. She was 16 before authorities caught up with her and placed her in a group home.

"[The group home] was okay, I had lots of food," Ms. Bryce recalled. She also remembers that she didn't have a curfew and went out every night. She continued taking drugs and working as a prostitute.

"It was not that hard to get $1,500," she said.

The government continued to provide assistance as she got older. That money paid her rent; income from prostitution paid for her drugs.

Ms. Bryce tried to get off drugs many times but never stayed clean. A serious intravenous drug user, she shot up in her upper and lower arm. When she could not get a hit off her arm, she started injecting in the neck. She even shot up in her foot a couple of times.

"I was that bad. I never thought I was going to come out of it. I never saw myself as being anything else. I never saw myself working for minimum wage, going to school and doing anything other than what I was doing," Ms. Bryce said.

She was devastated in 2002 when she heard what had happened to her sister.

"I hit bottom real hard," she said. "I just did not give a care any more if I lived or died. Nothing really mattered to me. I did not care about my hygiene; I did not care who picked me up. It just did not matter to me."

Her downward spiral lasted more than a year. Then she decided she had to clean up for the sake of her sister's two children.

"I wanted to be there for my nephew and niece. I wanted to get healthy. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I did not want to be an addict any more and I did not want to be a prostitute any more."

With the help of methadone, she has stayed away from drugs for more than two years.

She no longer works as a prostitute, largely as a result of help she received from an organization called Peers Vancouver, which helps girls leave the sex trade. She is now working part-time in a pizza parlour for minimum wage and making plans to take a residential-care attendant course. She is engaged to be married.

"I never thought I would make it this far. I was an extreme heroin addict. I used to stand on a street corner like my sister and today I am clean," she said.

She believes her sister, if still alive, would no longer be addicted and working as a prostitute. "She wanted to get clean and, more than anything, to have her kids back with her," Ms. Bryce said. "If I could do it, she could do it."

She thinks about her sister often. Last week, Ms. Bryce got a tattoo of a rose with a butterfly on her ankle as a tribute to her sister. It was her second rose tattoo. But she had moved when she got the first tattoo and it came out too dark. "This time I stayed still. I just cried because it hurt," she said.

Ms. Bryce is disappointed that her sister is not among the victims named in the murder charges against Mr. Pickton for a trial that is slated to begin Jan. 8. Although Mr. Pickton is charged with killing 26 women, only six charges will go to court in the first trial.

However, she is grateful she has a special place to go to remember her sister. The site is important not just to her, she said -- the women who do not have graves should also not be forgotten.

"We want to have a spot to remember them and this is it," Ms. Bryce said.

I never thought I would make it this far. I was an extreme heroin addict. I used to stand on a street corner like my sister and today I am clean.

© Copyright 2006 Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Missing Vancouver Women
Vanished Voices-Angela Jardine
Seen Me Lately
Vancouver's missing women group

"Justice Delayed Is Still Justice"

Highway of Tears
Please help find our daughter
Sex Trade Workers of Canada
Missing & unidentified Victim's organization
Outpost for Hope
Holly's Fight for Justice

Monday, September 25

Victim's family members get expenses when Pickton trial starts in January

25, 2006 - 5:28 pm

Canadian Press

VANCOUVER (CP) - When the trial of accused serial killer Robert Pickton goes before a jury in January, the B.C. government will pay the travel and temporary living expenses of family members of victims.

"We are going to provide victims' family members with travel money to attend court," said Susan Dahlin, executive-director of the province's Victims Services Program.

The immediate family members of any of the 26 victims who Pickton is charged with killing will have a place to stay, also paid by the government.

"We put out the offer and it's up to them," said Dahlin.

Earlier this month, Justice James Williams ruled Pickton will face trial on only six counts of first-degree murder.

A trial on the remaining 20 will follow later.

The judge ruled a trial on 26 counts of murder would be too much for jurors to comprehend and would drag the case on needlessly.

Williams ruled the split was necessary in "the interests of justice" and that the evidence in the six cases is "materially different" than in the other 20 cases.

The Victims of Crime Act defines immediate family members and Dahlin said it essentially refers to immediate family members, such as parents, children or siblings.

The family members can choose when they want to attend the trial.

"We'll indicate to them in our travel package how long they can attend and it's up to them to choose the time slots."

Dahlin also said that victims services workers have been in contact with many of the family members in the last four to five months.

Some reports suggested that family members were upset with the judge's decision to split the charges into two trials.

But Dahlin said that was not the case.

"There was only one person who indicated a concern," she said. "I think many people actually felt relieved that the case was going forward. They want to see the case proceed."

While the family members are contacted regularly by victims services workers, there is no formal meeting planned with the families before the jury begins hearing evidence.

In the past four to five months, Dahlin said victims service workers travelled throughout the province and the country to meet with victims' families.

"Since then, some indicated they wanted more contact and some indicated they wanted less contact."

Crown spokesman Stan Lowe reiterated that victims' family members only have to call the Crown with any concerns or problems.

"We're more than happy to meet with them. The opportunity's always there to meet with the Crown and discuss issues."

Mike Petrie, the lead Crown prosecutor in the Pickton case, has said the Crown plans to file a new indictment in the coming weeks charging Pickton with the deaths of Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson, Andrea Joesbury, Brenda Wolfe, Georgina Papin and Marnie Frey.

The other 20 women not included in the judge's six counts are: Cara Ellis, Andrea Borhaven, Kerry Koski, Wendy Crawford, Debra Lynne Jones, Tiffany Drew, Sarah de Vries, Cynthia Feliks, Angela Jardine, Diana Melnick, Jacqueline McDonell, Diane Rock, Heather Bottomley, Jennifer Furminger, Helen Hallmark, Patricia Johnson, Heather Chinnock, Tanya Holyk, Sherry Irving and Inga Hall.

The jury pool will be assembled on Dec. 9 - a Saturday - and then broken into smaller groupings. The selection of the 12 jurors and two alternates is to begin Dec. 11.

Gone, but not forgotten

Mother of six remembered by family members who hope her killer is found


September 25, 2006

Annette Bernard says not a day has gone by in the past four years that she hasn't thought about her murdered niece - Edmonton prostitute and mother of six Edna Bernard.

The heart-broken aunt says she also often thinks about the sick individual who left Edna's charred remains near a Leduc-area highway, where she was discovered Sept. 23, 2002.

"They have to find who did this to her. Whoever it is, is sick," Annette, 65, told the Sun yesterday from her home on the Goodfish Lake First Nation, adding she believes her niece fell prey to an Edmonton-area serial killer.

"There's somebody who's crazy out there. It's not safe for any woman walking on the sidewalk because you don't know what this guy's going to do."

Saturday marked the fourth anniversary of the day Edna's burned body was found close to Range Road 245, just north of Highway 623 near Leduc. The cause of death has never been revealed.

Edna was last seen alive about 10 p.m. on Sept. 22, 2002, near 118 Avenue and 94 Street.

Four years later, the baffling case remains unsolved.

It is one of dozens of cases being probed by Project KARE, a police task force investigating the murders and disappearances of dozens of area prostitutes in the last 30 years.

"We look forward to the day her death will be solved," said Kate Quinn, head of the Prostitution Action and Awareness Foundation of Edmonton.

"Edna was a young woman who loved her family and children. She had many challenges in life and died a terrible death ... She never got the chance to build a new life for herself. I think that's a tragedy."

Edna's six children - the youngest is four and the oldest is 14 - are in foster homes in the Edmonton area, Annette said.

"She (Edna) was trying her best. She didn't have an education to become a secretary or something," Annette added.

Eugene Bernard, a cousin of Edna's, said the slain woman won't be able to rest in peace until the case is solved.

"We think about it every day. It bounces in and out of your mind," said Eugene, 37.

"Maybe one day someone's guilt will drive them crazy enough to confess to it."

Missing Vancouver Women
Vanished Voices-Angela Jardine
Seen Me Lately
Vancouver's missing women group

"Justice Delayed Is Still Justice"

Highway of Tears
Please help find our daughter
Sex Trade Workers of Canada
Missing & unidentified Victim's organization
Outpost for Hope
Holly's Fight for Justice

Saturday, September 23

Family of missing woman march the Highway of Tears

James Vassallo
Prince George Daily News

Thursday, September 21, 2006

PRINCE RUPERT; TERRACE - The family of Tamara Chipman plan to walk Highway 16 from Terrace to Prince Rupert today in honour of their missing loved one.

"It's the one-year anniversary since she went missing," said Tom Chipman, Tamara's father. "It's to keep it in the public eye."

The march, which will be done in a relay-type format with family members and supporters both walking and driving, is also designed to assist the apparently stalled police investigation.

"I guess there was a pile [of information] at first, but it's kind of mellowed out," said Chipman. "Hopefully, we'll get some more tips because the police seem to be running out of leads and the investigation's not going anywhere."

The march starts at Kitsumkalum Tempo Gas at 10 a.m. with walkers scheduled to arrive at 4:30 p.m. on Highway 16 near the industrial park in Prince Rupert -- the time and location Chipman was last seen. The public is invited to attend and support the marchers.

"It's to honour my niece obviously and make people aware we're still pursuing this; for the police, this is still at the top of their list," said Lorna Brown, Tamara's aunt.

"At approximately 7:30 p.m. we're also planning on a candlelight vigil at Mariner's Park."

Tamara Chipman, who was 22 when she went missing, has now been added to the list of Highway of Tears women who have disappeared or been murdered during recent years between Prince Rupert and Prince George.

Officially, nine women and girls have vanished along the 750 kilometres of Highway 16 between Prince George and Prince Rupert since 1990. However, human rights groups estimate the number of missing women is well over 30.

© The Vancouver Sun 2006

Friday, September 22

Kin of deceased was offered talk with Pickton judge

Police officer suggested voicing concern about splitting trial in two, sister says

Globe and Mail

September 22, 2006

VANCOUVER -- A police officer offered to arrange a phone call between a relative of an alleged victim of Robert Pickton and the judge in the notorious serial murder case, the relative said yesterday.

Lilliane Beaudoin, sister of Diane Rock, was upset with a recent ruling by Mr. Justice James Williams, of B.C. Supreme Court. The judge had split the murder charges against Mr. Pickton into a group of six and a group of 20. The prosecution team announced it will go ahead with the six murder charges in January and leave the rest for a second trial.

Ms. Rock, who disappeared months before Mr. Pickton was arrested, was not included in the group of charges that will go to trial in January.

Ms. Beaudoin received a call from a police officer on Vancouver's Missing Women Task Force shortly after Judge Williams released his ruling.

The female officer suggested Ms. Beaudoin could speak to Judge Williams to express her concerns about the splitting of the charges, Ms. Beaudoin said.

"This is what [the officer] said to me on the phone, that there was a possibility I could have a phone-to-phone conversation with the judge to express my feelings on the matter," Ms. Beaudoin said. "I just said why, so he could dance circles around me? She said, it's just to express my feelings.

"I told her, sure, if it was possible, I would go for it. And I have not received any phone calls from anyone from Vancouver since," she said.

Pardeep Purewal, a spokeswoman for the provincial government's victim services program, said she could not confirm that an offer was made to speak with the judge in the case. "We have no information [about an offer], and [speaking to the judge] would not be appropriate," Ms. Purewal said.

Ms. Beaudoin declined to identify the officer who spoke to her. She said it occurred to her at the time that the offer was unusual. But the officer said she hoped other family members would do the same thing, Ms. Beaudoin said.

The failure of anyone to phone Ms. Beaudoin back has added to her anger. "I have not heard anything, so I guess it is not going to go forward," she said.

Ms. Purewal said yesterday victims' families who were troubled with the ruling dividing the charges were offered a special meeting with Crown prosecutors.

The family members were told that the lawyers were available to meet with them, she said. A formal meeting has not yet been held, but prosecutors have spoken to some families who requested it, she said.

Mr. Pickton was arrested in February, 2002. His trial began last Jan. 30 with Judge Williams considering the admissibility of evidence. A jury is to be selected in December for a trial beginning Jan. 8.

Not everyone feels as Ms. Beaudoin does about the split. Others with relatives in the group set for a second trial were not interested at this time in speaking to anyone involved in the case.

Deb orah Jardine, the mother of Angela Jardine, who disappeared in 1998, said she was initially bothered by her daughter's case being delayed, but now believes it was "for the best."

"I was awake for quite a few nights trying to theorize what may be taking place and rationalize it," she stated in an e-mail response to questions.

She assumed the evidence against the six was critical and could set a pattern of serial killing for the outstanding cases. And she understood that the jury will be under considerable pressure.

"We certainly don't need a mistrial or something to go wrong halfway through it," she said.

But she hasn't lost her faith in the system. "I strongly believe it will all come together in time," Ms. Jardine said.

Pat DeVries, mother of Sarah DeVries who also disappeared in 1998, said yesterday she remains content to let the process unfold. "I heartily approve," she said in an interview.

"I am not worrying about who, what or when she was killed. I know it was gruesome and I know it happened."

Meanwhile, an expert in serial murder cases said the ruling to split the charges into two trials was highly unusual.

"I cannot think of another trial when something like that has happened," said Kim Rossmo, who has been involved in more than 30 serial killing cases. Mr. Rossmo, a former Vancouver policeman, is a research professor in the criminal justice department at Texas State University.

"It's very common-sensical [to keep the charges together in one trial]. Maybe not common-sensical in the world of lawyers. But for the rest of us. I think that is why people are having trouble understanding this decision," Mr. Rossmo said.

© Copyright 2006 Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.


Family takes issue with ruling in Pickton case

Missing Vancouver Women
Vanished Voices-Angela Jardine
Seen Me Lately
Vancouver's missing women group

"Justice Delayed Is Still Justice"

Highway of Tears
Please help find our daughter
Sex Trade Workers of Canada
Missing & unidentified Victim's organization
Outpost for Hope
Holly's Fight for Justice

Wednesday, September 20

Farm feud in court

Canadian Press
September 20, 2006

Vancouver -- Robert Pickton and his siblings are asking the B.C. Supreme Court to change the way their notorious pig farm is classified, a change that would lead to significantly lower property taxes.

In a petition to the court, Mr. Pickton, his brother, Dave, and his sister, Linda Wright, want an order that would give the property in Port Coquitlam farm status instead of residential and light-business status for the years 2003, 2004 and 2005.

The change would overturn the province's assessment authority classification and significantly reduce the amount of property taxes levied.

Two previous decisions went against the Picktons: the first by a property-assessment review panel and a second by the assessment appeal board that upheld the first
decision. Dave Pickton filed a four-page petition to the court recently, saying "the land has no present use" because it has been off limits since 2002. CP

A fair jury for Pickton can be found, lawyer says

Attorney-General echoes hope that reports in media haven't tainted pool of candidates

Globe and Mail

September 20, 2006

VANCOUVER -- Jury selection for the murder trial of pig farmer Robert Pickton may be easier than previously anticipated, his defence lawyer allowed yesterday.

Peter Ritchie, who has repeatedly expressed concerns about whether publicity surrounding the killings would compromise the possibility of finding 12 people to serve on his client's jury, reiterated yesterday that the impact of the case's exposure on those called for jury duty will be "a real consideration."

But in a marked shift in tone, he told reporters outside the courtroom he is optimistic that an unbiased jury can be selected.

He said he believes the court can "sensibly" work through any problems.
His confidence was shared by Attorney-General Wally Oppal, who said later in an interview that the public's sense of fairness and intelligence should not be underestimated.

"We sometimes are too careful," said Mr. Oppal, a former B.C. Supreme Court judge.
"We don't give the members of the public enough credit for understanding the system. If a judge tells a jury they are to disregard whatever they have heard prior to coming into the room, I think jurors will do that."

Members of the Pickton jury will not be expected to be completely unaware of the case, Mr. Oppal noted.

"There's no question there has been, for an obvious reason, an inordinate amount of publicity surrounding the upcoming trial, but it's important to remember . . . that does not disqualify a person from serving on a jury," he said.

"The court does not expect to find anyone who does not know something about the case.

"The test really is whether a person is able to set aside whatever they know about the case and render a fair verdict, based on the evidence they hear in the courtroom and the judge's direction on the law. That's the test."

Jury selection will be difficult, "but not an insurmountable challenge," he said.

Last year, Mr. Ritchie tried unsuccessfully to effectively seal the courtroom during pretrial hearings to ensure that prospective jury members heard no evidence before they were in the courtroom. His proposal would have made it illegal for a member of the public to repeat anything heard in court, even if they only mentioned it over a cup of coffee to a friend. He also tried unsuccessfully to have the courtroom closed to all but lawyers and a limited number of sheriffs.

Mr. Ritchie told reporters recently he has some suggestions related to jury selection he wants to make. He is expected to make submissions in court in late November.

Notices to 3,500 prospective jury members are to be sent out next month, and selection of 12 jurors from the pool of candidates is slated to begin Dec. 11. The trial before a jury on the first six counts of murder is to begin Jan. 8.

In court yesterday, Mr. Justice James Williams adjourned proceedings until Oct. 24, although the lawyers indicated they may ask him back to court earlier to rule on some matters. The murder trial began last Jan. 30 with a review of the admissibility of evidence. Although the hearing is open to the public, a court order prohibits the publication of evidence heard in court until the jury withdraws to consider a verdict.

Mr. Pickton has been charged with murdering 26 women from Vancouver's skid row who were addicted to drugs and worked as prostitutes. Last month, Judge Williams split the charges into two groups, based on the evidence. Crown prosecutors told court this month that they intend to proceed first with charges related to six women: Mona Wilson, Sereena Abotsway, Brenda Wolfe, Georgina Papin, Andrea Joesbury and Marnie Frey.

Mr. Oppal said yesterday that the decision to separate the charges into two trials does not require a publication ban on the first trial in order to ensure an unbiased jury for the second.

"I think the public has a right to know. I think it would be unfortunate, to say the least, if there was a ban on what took place during the trial of the first six. Is the public to be kept in the dark on that? And how effective would a ban be in any event?" Mr. Oppal said.

"We have to rely on the public to render a fair verdict. We have to rely on the public, that they have a sense of fairness, and most of all, they take an oath to try a case fairly."

© Copyright 2006 Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, September 19

'I'm okay with being attackedI

Killer Pickton director says his horror flick should make its audiences uncomfortable

Globe and Mail

Sept 19, 2006

VANCOUVER -- The horror film Killer Pickton sent chills down the spine of many who were involved in the multimillion-dollar serial-murder trial of British Columbia resident Robert Pickton.

Families of the victims were horrified by what they consider the exploitation of their relatives' brutal deaths for prurient entertainment. Others were concerned about the effect the film would have on Mr. Pickton's trial.

The court imposed stiff restrictions on publication of evidence in an effort to ensure that Mr. Pickton's right to a fair trial would not be compromised. The filmmaker had planned for the film to be released next month -- direct to DVD in Australia, where Canadian court orders are unenforceable. Some feared the film could lead to a mistrial.

But in a recent interview with The Globe and Mail, director Ulli Lommel said he decided to hold back distribution of the film until after the trial, out of respect for the court and the victims' families. He also revealed that he knew very little about the evidence against Mr. Pickton. Although the film is promoted as being based on a true story, Mr. Lommel said the Pickton character in his film is not the same Robert Pickton who is on trial in B.C.

"All characters -- his family, the victims, the police -- are all pure fiction," he said.

Mr. Lommel, who is considered a master of horror in the world of low-budget thrillers, was in Los Angeles, being interviewed by e-mail, on the advice of his legal affairs department. Here are the questions and his answers:

G & M: Tell us about your film. The promotional material says it is based on a true story. Is it a documentary, or is the true story a jumping-off point for a fanciful horror film?

Lommel: My so-called reality horror films are usually inspired by true events, but then I use it as a platform to take off and deal with issues I'm concerned with, such as our celebrity-obsessed society and the hunger of the vast majority of us to get their 15 minutes of fame. Most serial killers brag about their crimes and aim to be the top -- the one with the most killings. Their desire for fame can be traced back to our own obsessions. So in my mind, we are all guilty.

G & M: Do you recreate the crimes allegedly committed by Pickton?

Lommel: I am not certain which crimes the real Pickton allegedly committed. In my movie, the villain cuts up his victims in a wood chipper.

G & M: When did you first hear about the murders of the Vancouver women and what went through your mind at that time?

Lommel: I was amazed that it seemed to take such a long time to deal with this. But I guess, prostitutes don't count as valuable members of our society. And the fact that he may have allegedly mixed the victims' flesh with pig meat and then sell it was so freaky.

G & M: Was there any hesitation in your mind in bringing those scenes to the screen?

Lommel: No, I am committed to showing violence as a most gruesome act and not as pleasant and entertaining.

G & M: From whose perspective is the story told? Have you spoken to Robert Pickton or Pickton family members?

Lommel: It's from the villain's POV [point-of-view], but like I said, it is not really the Pickton they caught. Mine is called Billie Pickton, and all characters -- his family, the victims, the police -- are all pure fiction, I also have a disclaimer at the end of the movie that reminds the audience of that. And no, I have not spoken with anybody, since I did not want to make a documentary.

G & M: What was the budget? Were the actors involved in making the film from B.C.? Was anyone hesitant about doing what was required to make the film?

Lommel: No actors from B.C., the film was shot in New Hampshire, and everyone treated it professionally. My budgets are all under a million dollars.

G & M: Why did you want to make this film? How does this fit into your career in film?

Lommel: I started my directing career in 1973 with the cult classic Tenderness of the Wolves, about a serial killer who cuts up young boys and sells their remains to butchers. It's based on a true story. The film opened the Berlin Film Festival and played over a year in Paris and London theatres to enormous acclaim. It was shown at the New York Film Festival, and [The New York Times'] Vincent Canby gave it a very good review. But it was controversial, and I like stirring up things, I like to provoke thoughts, and my movies show violence as disturbing acts, as horrible transgressions. I detest Hollywood movies that show violence as exciting entertainment. That's evil, because violence and murder are horrible and disgusting, and not entertaining. But in return, I receive a lot of complaints, I guess, because people want to always have the easy way out and be entertained. We, as a society, have been entertaining ourselves to death.

G & M: Does it make any difference to you or to the film if Robert Pickton is found not guilty?

Lommel: The film was supposed to be released in Australia next month, but I pulled the film and it will be on hold until Pickton is judged, and then we'll see. Same thing for Canada. I also was able to stop the release. It cost me a lot of money, but I decided that it was the right thing, out of respect for the Canadian court and the victims. I like Canada very much, I like Canadians, they are not as brainwashed as most of us, and I've always been treated really nice when I've visited Canada, like for the Montreal Film Festival where one of my films played. I also want to make clear that I am not obsessed with violence against women. I made many different films, and several where women are strong and fight back, and I love and respect women. But I also want to be a mirror of society and show it as it is, as disturbing and uncomfortable as it may be.

G & M: Is the court order irrelevant to your work?

Lommel: I was unaware of the court order, and I've done everything not to interfere in any way, shape or form with the trial.

G & M: How do you respond to your critics who say you are catering to prurient interest and exploiting the grief of the victims' families?

Lommel: Mainstream Hollywood makes money off the misery by portraying violence as exciting entertainment, and thereby assisting in the climate that creates Columbine and other violent crimes. I only report the truth, but I understand that Hollywood lies are easier to swallow than the truth. So I'm okay with being attacked. People are manipulated and don't know better. Our society is a society of media slaves, of consumer zombies totally unaware of the truth. We are surrounded by double standards, hypocrisy and lies. But rather than waking up to the terrifying truth, people prefer to be victims.

G & M: It sounds like you expect or at least hope to make money off the misery of the victims' families, doing what you are condemning.

Lommel: I hope to continue to make movies that open people's eyes. I have a clear conscience.

G & M: What else do you have to say about the film and violence in film?

Lommel: Prior to the Pickton film, I made BTK KILLER, about the guy who bragged that he would bind, torture and kill. He was a respected man, a member of the church, etc., and nobody wanted to believe that he was the killer. How could such an upright citizen commit such heinous crimes? Well, how could he? Because evil is in all of us, and unless we stop separating "us" from "them," we'll never be able to get a hold of evil. We must stop finger-pointing and look into our own souls. We are all one. And we must stop celebrating violence as entertainment and begin to look at it as reprehensible, hurtful, disgusting, painful acts. And we must look at our own fascination with violence and our celebrity obsessions, which all contribute to the creation of monsters like BTK and others. I am committed to make my contribution by continuing to show violence in its true form. People should faint and cry when they see violence, not laugh and applaud and call it brilliant filmmaking.

G & M: Some families have called for a boycott of your film. Would a boycott of violent films be a more effective response to the celebration of violence?

Lommel: People should wake up and face the truth. I am an agent of the truth. I worked for 10 years with Rainer Werner Fassbinder, we together created the anti-theatre in postwar Germany. We have always been committed to the painful truth.

© Copyright 2006 Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, September 17

Woman says Highway of Tears cold cases must be reopened

JUSTICE I Daughter of murdered woman says old cases may hold clues vital to current investigations

James Vassallo
Prince Rupert Daily News

Saturday, September 16, 2006

PRINCE RUPERT I Many years before it was called the Highway of Tears, before there were symposiums, before there was media attention and concerned politicians, there was a six-month-old-baby without a mother.

The only thing the baby, now 29-year-old Vicki Hill, grew up knowing was that her mother, Mary Jane, was murdered on Highway 16.

"The police never found anything that I know," said Hill, who grew up in Gitsegukla but who now lives in Prince Rupert. "I've been trying to find out myself, it's been too long not knowing."

In 2004, with the help of Marlene Swift at the RCMP-based North Coast Victim Support Service, Hill was able to obtain the coroner's report about the incident. She also found a 1978 newspaper article that detailed what little the police knew, and all Hill knows today.

"The body of 31-year-old Mary Jane Hill of Kincolith was found on Highway 16, 20 miles east of Prince Rupert at around 5 p.m. on Sunday," the clipping reads.

"At this time police suspect foul play but the incident is still under investigation," the story read. "RCMP ask anyone who saw or had contact with Hill on the afternoon of March 26 to contact them. Any motorists travelling on Highway 16 in between the hours of noon and 6 p.m. Sunday between Tyee and Prince Rupert who may have noticed any unusual or parked vehicles are also asked to contact the RCMP."

Hill grew up with her father's side of the family, who never talked about her mother's death. It wasn't until several years ago when she attended a wedding in Kincolith that she even had one of the questions that had troubled her most of her life answered -- what her mother looked like.

"I was given a small black and white photograph of her by my mom's sister," she said.

"Everyone says I look like her."

Her mother's unsolved killing is an example of a number of incidents that happened before the public attention on the Highway of Tears.

Hill believes these need to be investigated because they could provide a link with the crimes of the last 15 years, where a killer may have made a mistake.

"I think they should [look at these old cases] they never had DNA test labs in those years. I think they should bring the cases to see if there's DNA, or semen or blood type or whatever," she said. "This all probably started back in the 1970s. You never know if it's the same guy still out there, if he did time and came back, but police should do something instead of just leaving [these crimes] and saying forget it.

"They've got to think it's not [the victims] that are suffering, it's the children and the families that are suffering."

Hill has what she first wanted -- she knows something about what happened to her mother and she has a picture of the woman everyone says she looks like. All she needs now is justice for the mother she never knew.

"I find it hard [not knowing my mother], but as a mother of two myself I'd rather have the best for my children," she said. "Finding who did this makes a difference in life for this generation."

Area residents planned to hold a protest rally on the highway today to remind the public about the missing women.

© The Vancouver Sun 2006

Friday, September 15

Fictional Pickton film pulled

From Friday's Globe and Mail
Sept 15, 2006

VANCOUVER — The director of a graphic fictional horror film has decided to hold back its distribution until after the murder trial of Port Coquitlam pig farmer Robert Pickton.

"It was supposed to be released in Australia next month, but I pulled the film," director Ulli Lommel said yesterday in an interview. "It will be on hold until [Mr.] Pickton is judged and then we'll see."

Mr. Lommel also said he has abandoned plans to have the film distributed in Canada.
"It cost me a lot of money, but I decided that it was the right thing, out of respect for the Canadian court and the victims.

"I like Canada very much; I like Canadians. They are not as brainwashed as most of us, and I've always been treated really nice when I visited Canada," the German-born director said.

The decision to hold back distribution came after media reports of plans to distribute the film in Australia, beginning Oct. 18, less than two months before a jury will be selected for the Pickton trial.

The 85-minute fictional thriller was billed as "a stomach-turning look" at the killing of as many as 125 Vancouver-based prostitutes and drug addicts over a 20-year period. A fictional figure called Pickton drugs women and feeds them into a wood chipper, mixing the victims' flesh with pork products that are sold to the public, according to the film's promotional material.

The film outraged family members and friends of the victims, who resented the commercial exploitation of their misery. However, Mr. Pickton's lawyer, Peter Ritchie, was not overly concerned about the impact of the fictional portrayal of events on the trial. He said he anticipated those who may be on the jury would stay away from the film.

Mr. Pickton is charged with the murder of 26 women who were addicted to drugs and worked as prostitutes, mostly in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Mr. Justice James Williams of the B.C. Supreme Court split the charges last month into a group of six and a group of 20. Prosecutor Michael Petrie has told the court that a trial on the first six charges will begin on Jan. 8. Jury selection is to begin on Dec. 11.

An unusually restrictive court order prohibits publication of evidence in the case before the material is presented to the jury. The publication ban, which is intended to ensure Mr. Pickton has a fair trial, also prohibits the media from publishing information that would identify websites or other sources from which prohibited material could be accessed.

Mr. Lommel, a well-known figure in the world of horror films, has been an actor in 57 movies, directed 39, and written 36, the movie-database website states.
He is the son of a German comic performer. His career in show business began as a child, the website states.

After appearing in several features, Mr. Lommel met German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder and joined his acting entourage. He then went on to make his own movies. He has been in films shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Centre Pompidou in Paris and at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.

Mr. Lommel's filmography also shows he directed Blank Generation and Cocaine Cowboys, two movies that include cameo appearances by icon Andy Warhol. He is currently a partner in the Shadow Factory, an independent studio whose films are released by Sony Pictures and Lions Gate Entertainment.

"His output has ranged from brilliantly accomplished drama with traces of exploitation elements, to out-and-out B-movies with a few distinctive artistic flourishes," the IMDb website states.

© Copyright 2006 Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, September 11

Highway of Tears private eye probing 9 cases has serious tips on 1 death

Dirk Meissner
Canadian Press

Monday, September 11, 2006

VICTORIA (CP) - A private detective probing nine unsolved cases of missing and murdered women along the so-called Highway of Tears in northern B.C. says he's received what he calls serious information about one case.

Ray Michalko, a former Manitoba and North Vancouver RCMP officer who started pursuing the Highway of Tears cases on his own for free, says he'll be in the Prince George area next month checking the information.

Michalko said the tip involves three people and their possible connection to the death of one woman. He wouldn't say which one of the nine women the tip involved.

"These three, I think, probably, have a criminal background," he said. "They may be there or they may be in jail. They're somewhere up north, I think."

Michalko said he wants to talk to people who know the trio and after that will decide if he should contact the police or approach the three people on his own.

"First, I want to talk to the people that know them and may have some information," he said. "Depending on what information I get I may talk to them directly or I may go to the police. I don't know at this stage."

Nine women - aged between 14 and 27 - have disappeared or were murdered along Highway 16 between 1989 and last February.

All but one were aboriginal; most were hitchhiking at the time. The highway stretches more than 750 kilometres from Prince George to Prince Rupert.

Michalko, 58, said he's been in the Prince George area once this year and his efforts have resulted in calls from people who believe they have information about the cases.

Since his last visit, a Vancouver women's group volunteered anonymously to pay Michalko's expenses.

"I have the names of five people, I'd rather call them people of interest, rather than suspects because I think suspects is a little harsh," he said

"Two of them are names that I've been given as a result of phone calls I've received. They're sort of a long shot as far as their involvement is concerned," said Michalko. "There's three others that I think are more serious, according to what I've been told."

He said he has a list of up to seven people who may have information about the three people.

Among the missing or dead women along the highway since 1989 are Aielah Saric-Auger, 14, Tamara Chipman, 22, Lana Derrick, 19, Ramona Wilson, 15, Delphine Nikal, 15, Roxanna Thiara, 15, Aleisha Germaine, 15, Alberta Williams, 27, and Nicole Hoar, 25. Only Hoar, who has been missing for four years, is non-native.

Aboriginal groups and others in the north believe the number of missing people could be as high as 30.

An RCMP spokesman said they are aware of Michalko and expect a meeting in the future.

"We're going to sit down and talk to Ray just to make sure that the lines of communication are open," said RCMP Sgt. John Ward, who recalls serving with Michalko at the North Vancouver RCMP detachment.

"I don't see that this is going to be a problem," Ward said.

The Mounties have met privately with the families of the missing and murdered women since an emotional gathering in Prince George last March where aboriginals called for help solving the cases and preventing further tragedies.

"We have a review team that's collecting all the files that are connected to the so-called Highway of Tears," Ward said. "It will assist us to see if we've missed anything."

A member of a Prince George area aboriginal council said the Mounties appear to have increased their efforts to solve the Highway of Tears deaths since the symposium last March.

But much of that is likely a result of public pressure, said Coun. Rena Zatorski of the Lheidli T'enneh Nation.

"Damn rights it is," she said. "Of course it is. They were embarrassed. They still are embarrassed and they should be embarrassed."

The Highway of Tears is a small piece of a bigger problem that aboriginals face across Canada, she said. Aboriginal women's groups estimate there's more than 500 missing and murdered aboriginal people throughout Canada.

"Maybe it's going to take a private investigator to make more headway than the RCMP," Zatorski said.

© The Canadian Press 2006

Saturday, September 9

Horror film based on Pickton due out before trial

From Thursday's Globe and Mail

VANCOUVER — A graphic horror film that purports to be based on the real-life story of Robert Pickton is scheduled for release next month on DVD in Australia, weeks before jurors are selected in his trial for the murder of 26 women.

The 85-minute fictional thriller, made by German cult-film director Ulli Lommel, is called Killer Pickton.The movie, filmed with actors, tells a tale "that is so disturbing that even the mention of it is banned in Canada," its promotional material says.

With blatant disregard for the presumption of Mr. Pickton's innocence, the film, which will be released on Oct. 18, offers "a stomach-turning look" at the killing of as many as 125 Vancouver-based prostitutes and drug addicts over a 20-year period by a fictional character called Robert Pickton.

The fictional Mr. Pickton drugs women and feeds them into a wood chipper, mixing the victims' flesh with pork products that are sold to an unsuspecting public. "Pickton lured his victims with the promise of drugs. When he got them into his house, all bets were off in this wall-to-wall horror spectacle," the promotional material says.
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Some family members of women who have disappeared from Vancouver's skid row were distraught yesterday over the pending distribution of the film.

"That's horrible," Sandra Gagnon, the sister of Janet Henry who went missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside neighbourhood, said yesterday in an interview.

"I find this unbelievable. It was hard enough for us families. I find this totally disgusting," she said. "I don't understand why people want to see movies like that."
But Mr. Pickton's lawyer Peter Ritchie indicated he was not overly concerned about the impact of the film on his client's trial. "I hope that anyone who may potentially be on the jury would stay away from that sort of thing," he said.
"Canadians are pretty sensible people," he said, adding that he anticipated those who might be on a jury would realize they should not go out of their way to watch the film.

So far, no plans have been unveiled to distribute the film in Canada.

As long as the film and any information obtained from the trial remain outside Canada, a court order restricting publication of evidence in the case until presented to the jury would have no impact.

The jurisdiction of the court in Canada ends at the border, Stan Lowe, a spokesman for the Crown prosecutor's office, said in an interview. The ban applies only in Canada, he said. "The issue is enforcement of the order," he added.

However, the RCMP is currently investigating whether the film violates Canadian law, an RCMP spokesman said later.

Mr. Pickton, 56, has been charged with the murder of 26 women. The court is currently reviewing evidence in order to decide whether the material is admissible before a jury. Selection of the jury is slated to begin on Dec. 11.

Mr. Lommel, 61, has played prominent roles in several Rainer Werner Fassbinder films and has directed numerous movies. One of his most recent was Green River Killer, which was about Seattle serial killer Gary Ridgway.

Mr. Lommel won the Euro Shocker award at the 2005 Fearless Tales festival in San Francisco, and starred and directed in the 1979 film Blank Generation, which included a cameo appearance by Andy Warhol.

The Shadow Factory, a Hollywood production company, announced plans last summer for a horror thriller based on the alleged exploits of Mr. Pickton. In the following months, more than 1,200 people signed an on-line petition urging a boycott of the movie if it was distributed in Canada.

"The film serves only to feed the prurient interests of misogynists while making violence against women a commodity," said the petition mounted by women from the Downtown Eastside.

"We feel the film is disrespectful to the memories of the murdered and missing women and their families. We are tired of the women being referred to as 'mostly drug addicted prostitutes,' as if killing them were not as heinous as killing other women. The film and publicity surrounding it show a total disregard for the humanity of the women."

Wayne Leng, who has been involved in the search for the missing women since his friend, Sarah DeVries, disappeared in 1998, said he exchanged e-mails with one of the actresses in the film.

She broke off the correspondence, saying she did not want to talk about the movie and jeopardize her career, Mr. Leng said in an interview.

Families of the missing women are upset with the film, Mr. Leng said.
"But nothing is going to stop it. This guy [Mr. Lommel] has done lots of thrillers. There is a market for it and there is money to be made," Mr. Leng said. "As horrible as it is, though, people do not have to watch it."

© Copyright 2006 Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Two-part Pickton trial draws fire from family

Globe and Mail
Sept 9, 2006

VANCOUVER -- Cynthia Feliks was not among the alleged victims of Robert Pickton when charges of first-degree murder were laid against the Port Coquitlam farmer in 2002. Her name was added to the list three years later, on May 25, 2005.
But now, Ms. Feliks has once again been left out.

Crown prosecutor Michael Petrie told the court yesterday that Mr. Pickton will face murder charges this winter for allegedly killing six women. A trial on charges of murder of 20 more women will be put over for later.

Ms. Feliks's name was not among the six. Her stepmother, Marilyn Kraft, felt betrayed by the announcement.

"They will go ahead with six, and all the other families will be left with nothing," Ms. Kraft said yesterday in an interview from Calgary. "They will not have another trial. This is it."

Ms. Kraft has been fighting authorities for nine years over the disappearance of her stepdaughter, who was last seen on Nov. 26, 1997. She said she sat through court hearings in 2003 to hear the evidence against Mr. Pickton and is aware of what prosecutors believe happened to her stepdaughter.

She is extremely upset that Ms. Feliks's alleged murder would not be before the court this winter.

"It took years to get the charges laid. Finally they laid the charges and now, what do they do?" she said.

The charges were split into two groups because a trial on 26 charges would have been too hard for the jury, she said, referring to a recent court ruling.

"But what about the families? This is so hard on the families," Ms. Kraft said. "I'm so tired of fighting. There is no justice for these women."

The decision to proceed with only six charges of murder follows a court ruling in August that split the charges into a group of six and a group of 20, based on the evidence. The prosecution had the option of which group would proceed first.

Mr. Petrie said the prosecution would go ahead with charges related to the alleged murder of Mona Wilson, Sereena Abotsway, Andrea Joesbury, Brenda Wolfe, Georgina Papin and Marnie Frey.

Stan Lowe, a spokesman for the prosecution team in the Pickton trial, told reporters the prosecution is focusing its attention exclusively on the trial of six counts of first-degree murder.

"Once that matter is completed before the courts, [the prosecution] will shift its focus to the remaining trial," he said.

He added that it's important to remember that all the counts remain before the courts.

Mr. Lowe also said the strength of the prosecution's case remains unaffected by limiting the trial to six murder charges.

"It's not a matter of strength at all. It's just a matter of the Crown adjusting its prosecution."

The prosecutors had to make adjustments in their strategy after taking into account a court decision that found that proceeding on all the charges of murder would be unmanageable for a jury, he said.

"Our role as Crown counsel is to respond professionally to the ruling," Mr. Lowe said. "Once the ruling was made, it was a matter at that point of adjusting to the ruling and making the most prudent decision, knowing all the circumstances."
Defence lawyer Peter Ritchie told reporters the decision to go ahead with six charges and delay 20 doees not reflect anything about the case. "[Mr. Pickton] is presumed innocent, according to our law, and that is the presumption that everyone acts under in our country," Mr. Ritchie said.

Asked whether he thinks a trial on 20 charges would ever proceed, Mr. Ritchie said, "That's speculation I prefer not to engage in at this stage."

The court is expected to continue reviewing the admissibility of evidence during the fall. Jury selection is slated to begin Dec. 11 and the trial is to begin on Jan. 8.

© Copyright 2006 Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Accused serial killer Pickton to face two trials, starting with six charges

Greg Joyce
Canadian Press
Sept 8, 2006

NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. (CP) - Accused serial killer Robert Pickton will face trial on only six counts of first-degree murder when a jury begins hearing the case in January, the Crown confirmed Friday.

But even though the slimmed-down case will simplify things, Pickton's lawyers say they will likely ask a judge for permission to question potential jurors more closely than usual before a panel of 12 is chosen.

Crown lawyers said Friday they will follow a court's recommendation last month and hold two trials for Pickton on charges that he murdered 26 women who disappeared from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside over several years.

"We looked at all the rulings and the nature of the evidence and it was determined from our perspective that it was the most prudent course of action to proceed with the six counts," Crown spokesman Stan Lowe said outside B.C. Supreme Court.
A trial on the remaining 20 will follow later.

Last month, Justice James Williams ruled a trial on 26 counts of murder all at once would be too much for jurors to comprehend and would drag the case on needlessly.
Williams ruled the split was necessary in "the interests of justice" and that the evidence in the six cases is "materially different" than in the other 20 cases.
The Crown said then it hadn't decided how to proceed, but prosecutor Mike Petrie told Williams on Friday that jurors will begin hearing testimony in January on six counts. The second trial on the remaining 20 charges is to take place sometime later.

Petrie said the Crown plans to file a new indictment in the coming weeks charging Pickton with the deaths of Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson, Andrea Joesbury, Brenda Wolfe, Georgina Papin and Marnie Frey.

Pickton turns 57 next month and appeared in court via video link. He was charged almost five years ago and his trial was expected to take two years, but now that the case has been divided, it's expected jurors will only have to sit through one year of testimony.

Defence lawyer Peter Ritchie welcomed the decision to begin with six counts.
"It's just too much to take on to go ahead with all the counts at the same time," he said. "The practicalities are such that we have a jury trial here and you can't expect a jury is going to be subjected to an ordeal (of 26 counts.)"
Jurors are to be selected in December.

Hundreds of people are expected to be called for jury duty. One estimate had as many as 3,500 people receiving notices, compared with a normal murder trial in which 500 people are called.

From those, 12 will be selected to be jurors.
The jury pool will be assembled on Dec. 9 - a Saturday - and then broken into smaller groupings. The selection of the 12 jurors and two alternates was to begin Dec. 11.

Ritchie told reporters outside court he might make applications for the defence to ask potential jurors questions they aren't normally asked.

Usually, Canadian candidates for a jury are only asked if they have heard of the case and if they can remain impartial. American lawyers have more latitude.

"Maybe the Americans are ahead of us in selecting juries efficiently," said Ritchie. "I'm going to be putting some ideas in front of the judge about that."
Ritchie didn't say specifically what kind of questions he wanted to ask, but said the obvious one is whether jury candidates have heard of the case and whether they've drawn any conclusions.

"Everyone, to some extent, has heard about this case. And so, we'll have to sort out through that to get 12 people who have a fair view," he said. "I think we can do it."

He added he thought it highly doubtful he'd ever find 12 people who had heard nothing about the case.

Following Williams' ruling last month, some legal observers suggested the defence or Crown may ask to have the first trial heard under a blanket publication ban in order to protect Pickton's right to a fair trial in the second case.

Ritchie said Friday the defence hadn't considered that yet, but he doubted they would make that request.
Lowe steered clear of saying what the Crown would do.

The other 20 women not included in the judge's six counts are: Cara Ellis, Andrea Borhaven, Kerry Koski, Wendy Crawford, Debra Lynne Jones, Tiffany Drew, Sarah de Vries, Cynthia Feliks, Angela Jardine, Diana Melnick, Jacqueline McDonell, Diane Rock, Heather Bottomley, Jennifer Furminger, Helen Hallmark, Patricia Johnson, Heather Chinnock, Tanya Holyk, Sherry Irving and Inga Hall.

© The Canadian Press 2006

Monday, September 4

Published pen-pal letters from Pickton spark furor

From Monday's Globe and Mail
Sept 4, 2006

VANCOUVER — Publicity surrounding letters purportedly from pig farmer Robert Pickton to a pen pal has sparked a controversy over his treatment while he waits in jail for his trial on charges of murder connected to 26 women from Vancouver's skid row.

An angry grandfather of one of the women allegedly killed by Mr. Pickton called yesterday for restrictions on Mr. Pickton's right to send letters outside the prison.

"I'm surprised they allow him to send uncensored letters out of jail," Jack Cummer said yesterday in an interview. "I get very angry at this whole process."

However, a criminal lawyer who is not involved in the murder trial said any attempt to limit Mr. Pickton's right to correspond with family and friends would be highly unusual.

"It would be pretty troubling if [police] could put someone in custody who wants to write to a friend that he's innocent and you say he cannot," Victoria lawyer Michael Mulligan said yesterday. "That's pretty objectionable."

Thomas Loudamy, of Fremont, Calif., provided a local Vancouver newspaper last week with two letters allegedly from Mr. Pickton.

Mr. Loudamy was quoted as saying that he wrote to Mr. Pickton because he was shocked by the case and the limited public information available about the accused. He said he used a woman's name as a pseudonym in an effort to be more appealing to Mr. Pickton.

In a letter addressed to someone called Mya, dated Aug. 22, Mr. Pickton allegedly wrote that he was not involved, that he was "a fall-guy" and that the criminals were still at large. He did not write specifically about the charges against him or anything related to the alleged murders or about the missing women.

He also indicated he was feeling good about how the case was proceeding in court. He praised the judge for a decision to split the 26 charges into a group of six charges and a group of 20.

He misrepresented the decision to separate the charges as a decision to drop most of the charges against him. If the court did not drop the charges, it could be hard to keep a jury together and the proceedings could end in a mistrial, he wrote.

He also indicated a connection with religion. He included a biblical quotation: Acts 14:22, which urges believers to remain true to the faith, and, he wrote, "suffer many hard things to get into the holy nation of God."

The letter was printed in neat capital letters, although the grammar and spelling were often wrong. Occasionally, he underlined phrases for emphasis.

Mr. Pickton's trial began on Jan. 30. The court is currently considering the admissibility of evidence. Jury selection is to begin in December.

Mr. Cummer's granddaughter, Andrea Joesbury, is one of the 26 women that Mr. Pickton is alleged to have killed. He said he was upset to see that prison authorities allow Mr. Pickton to send uncensored letters out of jail.

He questioned why Mr. Pickton was allowed to write letters to someone outside prison about anything he likes while lots of other information about the case has not yet been released.

"It's rather bizarre that he sent a letter to a complete stranger telling him, 'I'm innocent.' "Mr. Cummer was also disturbed by the sensationalism of the case. The letters attracted considerable publicity but his efforts to raise money to help battered women and sexually abused children have not received much public attention, he said, referring to a tribute CD with a song called Missing that has raised only minimal funds.

Mr. Mulligan said it was not uncommon for people in custody to send letters to family and friends while waiting for their trial.

"But in most cases, the letters do not get printed on the front page of a newspaper," he said, referring to the publication of a front page story about the Pickton letter in the Vancouver Sun.

Letters from prison while waiting for trial are often a defence lawyer's worst nightmare, he also said. "In court, those statements cannot help; they can only hurt," he said.

Under the rules in the courtroom, self-serving statements professing Mr. Pickton's innocence cannot be used in court in his defence, Mr. Mulligan said. But the letters could be used by the prosecutor in the case against the accused.

The letter could also undermine efforts by the defence team to argue that the judge should restrict media coverage of the court case. Defence lawyers could complain if evidence is disclosed before a jury is selected.

But the lawyers may have a more difficult task arguing that their client is not receiving a fair trial if their client is telling his side of the case in the news media, Mr. Mulligan said.

Neither defence lawyers nor prosecution lawyers replied yesterday to phone messages requesting an interview.

© Copyright 2006 Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, September 2

Pen pals from prison

Lori Culbert
Vancouver Sun

Saturday, September 02, 2006

FREMONT, Calif. - Hundreds of letters are filed in shoeboxes, and tucked away in corners of the small townhouse Thomas Loudamy shares with his fiance, their seven-week-old baby, and his fiance's father.

A flip through the envelopes reveals that the return addresses are all from prisons, and the names are well known to true-crime buffs: Andrea Yates, who drowned her five children in a bathtub; Susan Smith, who pushed her car into a lake with her two children inside; Charles Ng, who murdered and sexually tortured 11 people in California.

In a matter of seconds, Loudamy locates four letters from Canadians who are accused of or convicted of violent killings, including two infamous B.C. men -- Robert (Willie) Pickton and Clifford Olson.

Loudamy, a 27-year-old warehouse worker, estimates he has received thousands of letters written by about 400 American and Canadian inmates since he started his unusual pen pal hobby in 2001.

It all began with an interest in news stories about the wrongfully convicted. That caused him to get involved with a Canadian anti-capital punishment website and he started writing letters to death row inmates.

"I wanted to at least, maybe on a small scale, offer my services as best I could at the time," he said.

After a while, however, he found this depressing because his pen pals were eventually executed. So he branched out to writing to prisoners who are not on death row --and his letters are not necessarily directed now to people who he thinks are wrongfully convicted.

"[I have] sympathy for people that for one reason or another are just lost souls, certainly not for what they did or what they were accused of," said Loudamy.

The young father, who sports several tattoos that he got while working in a tattoo parlour, said he has never been in prison himself.

Loudamy would like to be a journalist, and potentially even write a book about his collection of letters. He says he also wants to pass them along to his infant daughter Grace to educate her about bad people in the world.

Ideally, he hopes an inmate will reveal new evidence in a letter that could help police close the file on an unsolved crime.

"Maybe . . . I could make some kind of a difference, in that a lot of people who have written to me have gone on to describe things that they were not convicted of," he said. "If I played my cards right in my correspondence with them, it would maybe help solve cold cases and things like that, which was a big motivator."

Loudamy said he writes 11 letters a day, six days a week. Some of the letters are replies to inmates, others are to new recipients. They are all done in longhand, because he believes a handwritten letter has a better chance of getting a reply.

When a Sun reporter and photographer visited his home in Fremont, he displayed about 300 envelopes that he said had been penned by an estimated 150 inmates.

But Loudamy claimed to have received thousands of letters in total. The remainder, he said, are in Texas, where he was born and raised, but he left them behind when he and his then-pregnant finance moved to Fremont in late 2005.

Loudamy said he got many of the addresses for the inmates from people he was communicating with in Internet chat rooms, who were intrigued by "notorious cases."

"A lot of them are stay-at-home moms [and] sort of, I guess, armchair sleuths and true crime fans," he said.

However, Loudamy said he has severed ties with the chat rooms because he claimed many of the participants were serial killer groupies.

"I went online one day and realized that what a lot of people were doing was using the addresses to write these people and then get [the inmates] to send, like, toenail clippings, fingernail clippings, samples of hair, that kind of thing. And that's where I had to draw the line," he said.

Loudamy kept writing on his own, and penned his first letter to Pickton in June 2005 because he was shocked by the case and the small amount of public information available about the accused. He got a reply a couple of months later.

He wrote back to Pickton in early February 2006, and got a reply in March.

Loudamy didn't write to Pickton again until early August 2006, and received a reply earlier this week.

"With everyone that I do write to I try to do as much research as possible about their background," he said.

Based on that research, he decides whether to write each inmate as himself or using a pseudonym that might be more appealing to that specific person.

With Pickton, Loudamy became Mya Barnett -- a woman, he said, who has had a troubled life.

The trick appeared to work, as the letters are very open and friendly to Mya.

"That sort of comes across in his letters, because he does sort of talk like we're old friends," Loudamy said.

He said he is always surprised by the amount of correspondence he gets from inmates, but believes he has honed his skills over the years to increase his chances of success.

"I've been doing it long enough to know what will grab their attention, as opposed to all of the other people obviously that have written to [Pickton]," he said.

Not everyone writes back; Canadian killers Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka have remained silent. So have home-making diva Martha Stewart and Survivor winner Richard Hatch, who were both charged with finance-related crimes.

But others, such as Olson, who has written multiple letters to journalists and other citizens over the years, have responded. Loudamy was angered by Olson's note, which purportedly revealed that the serial child killer spends a tremendous amount of time watching TV.

Loudamy said he is particularly intrigued by people who go through the Canadian justice system because he believes publication bans limit information available about the accused and that offenders are given relatively lenient court sentences in this country.

Some of the letters Loudamy has received are "incredibly disturbing," but he says he puts those away and tries not to dwell on them.

He said he has phoned district attorneys twice to inform them that inmates had provided new evidence to him in a letter, but he said those calls were never returned.

He said he once provided a letter from the so-called BTK serial killer, Dennis Rader, to a U.S. television station which used the material but did not interview Loudamy.

This is the first time he has spoken publically about his stockpile of letters.

Loudamy knows people will consider his hobby creepy, and until now has told few relatives or friends beyond his fiance and one of his sisters. Not even his parents know about his pastime.

"I didn't care to share it with anybody just because I don't want to come across at any point like I glorify it," he said.

While some may criticize him for showering attention on those who don't deserve it, Loudamy argues his letters could one day provide evidence for an unsolved crime.

"I realize that victims' families probably wouldn't see me as the best person necessarily for writing to these people," he said. "But if I could bring peace of mind ... to a victim's family ... that would be a goal of mine."

© The Vancouver Sun 2006

The Pickton Letters: His writings offer a glimpse into the thoughts of an accused serial killer

Lori Culbert and Neal Hall
Vancouver Sun
Saturday, September 02, 2006

FREMONT, Calif. -- A series of letters purportedly penned by Robert (Willie) Pickton, who is accused of killing 26 missing women, maintain his innocence and claim he is just the "fall guy" arrested in the multi-million investigation.

Pickton has given no media interviews since his 2002 arrest, and his court proceedings have been muzzled by a publication ban, so any letters written by him would provide the first public glimpse into the thoughts of the man accused of being Canada's worst serial killer.

"I my-self is not from this world, but I am born into this world through my earthly mother and if I had to change any-thing I would not, for I have done no wrong," says a letter dated Feb. 26, 2006, signed "Willie."

The four-page note, hand-printed in capital letters, is one of three that California resident Thomas Loudamy says were mailed to him by Pickton, who is being held in the North Fraser Pretrial Centre in Port Coquitlam awaiting his January 2007 trial.

The letters show the author believes he will be exonerated and is highly critical of police; is following the legal proceedings closely and plans to write a book; and has religious leanings, quoting two Bible passages in one letter.

One Bible passage included in the most recent letter, dated Aug. 22, 2006, is identified as being from the New Testament, Acts 14:22: "In each city they helped Christians to be strong and true to the faith. They told them that we must suffer many hard things to get into -- the holy nation of God."

The Sun has taken several steps to try to confirm that the letters and envelopes, which have Robert William Pickton's name in the return address, were in fact written by the accused killer. (The newspaper couldn't ask him directly because his lawyer has previously denied all requests for media interviews.)

The envelopes are stamped with the name and address of the North Fraser Pretrial Centre; all provincial correctional facilities use such stamps on outgoing mail for public safety, so that recipients know they are receiving correspondence from an inmate, said B.C. Corrections spokesperson Bruce Bannerman.

The Sun sent a copy of the envelope from the Feb. 26 letter to Canada Post, confirming the postage stamp -- which came from a stamping machine, as opposed to the type that is licked -- and the other Canada Post codings put on the envelope are not forgeries.

In addition, the meter number on the stamping machine belongs to an agency that does mailings for the B.C. government, said Canada Post spokeswoman Teresa Williams. (The pretrial centre is run by the province.)

"Canada Post reviewed the envelope and all appearances are that it is legitimately sent from who it says it was sent from [the pretrial centre]," Williams said.

The Canada Post markings on the envelope also confirm it was stamped on March 1, 2006 and put in the mail on March 2.

Ardith Watson, the warden of the pretrial centre, confirmed mail written by prisoners is sent to a mail centre, where it is stamped and sent along to Canada Post for delivery.

Loudamy, a 27-year-old warehouse worker from Fremont, Calif., has a unique hobby of writing to American and Canadian inmates who are convicted of crimes or are awaiting trial.

He showed The Sun hundreds of envelopes with return addresses representing a who's-who gallery of infamous killers, locked behind bars across North America.

Loudamy, an aspiring journalist, researches the background of the inmates to determine what type of person they would most likely write to; he uses his own name for some inmates, such as Clifford Olson, but for others he adopts a new persona.

Loudamy wrote three times to Pickton as Mya Barnett, a woman down on her luck but determined to survive.

He says he has received three replies from Pickton, in late 2005, in March 2006 and on Aug. 29 -- just four days ago. He provided The Sun with the originals of the last two letters; he was not able to locate the first note he says he received from Pickton.

The letters contain many grammatical and spelling errors. Many portions of them are also underlined for effect, and some words are repeatedly traced over.

The letters are laced with biblical overtones, and to date it has never been clear to the public that Pickton could be religious. The phrase "my father" in the letters appears to refer to God, as opposed to a biological dad.

(Pickton's dad died when Pickton was a young man.)

"I like what the judge has said in coart (sic)," he said, "that I want to give this con-demn-man a half decent-trial and I smiled and said to myself my father also was a condemned man of no wrongdoing, and for that I am very proud to be in this situation for they are the biggest fools that ever walked the earth, but I am not worried for every thing on earth will be judged including Angles," the Feb. 26 letter says.

The letters indicate the writer is keenly aware of the unprecedented cost and administrative challenges of the court proceedings.

The August letter praises Pickton's trial judge, Justice James Williams, for choosing the "short road" by severing 20 of the counts against Pickton, meaning he will likely be tried on only six murder charges at his first trial. The author notes that, to pursue all 26 counts in one trial would have meant "waisted" court time, difficulty in keeping a jury together, and the potential for a mistrial.

All three letters provide a tally of the number of days Pickton has been behind bars since his arrest on Feb. 22, 2002.

"By the time date of Augest 29th 2006 I will have been in hear at N.F.P.T.C. for a total of -- 1, 650 days to date, of which is just over 4 1/2 years in a-waiting for trial," the letter says.

The author details how multiple court sheriffs provide an elaborate escort each day from the pretrial centre in Port Coquitlam to New Westminster Supreme Court, where Pickton's pre-trial hearings have been underway since January.

The second and third letters speak about the cost of the massive investigation, and accuse the police of having a weak case and of arresting the wrong man.

"I have heard my case is over $100,000,000.00 one hundred million dollar case and for the police are no ferther a-head now than when they had first started way back in February of 2002," the Aug. 22 letter says.

"The short way is to put surveillance-cameras and to see who is doing all this. For then they well know the truth and to have the right people behind bars . . . they would save many other lives while the criminals that are in-volved still at large but no-body-cares for they got me as a fall-guy-any-ways."

(The provincial government estimated the cost of the missing women investigation to be $70 million by the end of 2003, and set aside an additional $46 million to fund the case between 2004 and 2007.)

The letters claim to know the number of lawyers and other people who will be involved in the trial -- "Over 20,000 people and 130 police officers all in total" -- but allege that much of the testimony will be fabricated.

"The police got so much money invested -- in this case, there will be many, many lies through-out as many things all come to surface. The police have paid many for them what to say when they are on the stand," the Feb. 26 letter says.

The author of the February letter indicates he has been pen pals with a "girl" for some time and, although he says he's worried she is not being honest, he wants to give her a chance to explain. "I do not like liers or cheaters, for I am honest and my word is true, for that I will never fall back on my word."

In an overly cautious and exceedingly polite manner, the writer of the letters asks Mya Barnett to send him a picture but discourages her from visiting the pre-trial centre out of concern for her safety.

Friends have said Pickton didn't smoke or drink, and the letter asks Mya if she does either.

The letters are written as if the author is an old friend of Mya's, and tenderly wishes her well. For example, the first page of the February letter goes into great detail about hoping she has a speedy recovery from a recent car accident, and encourages her to keep her new job at a travel agency.

"I am really very proud of you for that," the letter says.

The letter includes a religious poem which the author claims to have written with "my father," and also encourages Mya in glowing terms to remain strong despite the challenges in her life.

"Who ever you will end up with they will be a ver very -- lucky person to have you. Do not degrade you-self by any means for you de-serve the best, as the best is yet to come which you must wait."

Loudamy could not provide The Sun with the first letter he said he received from Pickton, because he left it in storage in Texas before moving to California in late 2005.

However, he recalled the first letter being similar to the last two in that it was printed in capital letters, it appeared to be religious, and the author made references to the legal proceedings against Pickton.

One difference Loudamy remembered is that the first letter indicated the author had been reading quite a bit.

Loudamy sends handwritten letters to inmates and does not keep copies. However, he recalled the initial letter he sent to Pickton was one page long and said Mya could use someone to speak with, that she was often between jobs, and would welcome any comments from Pickton.

Loudamy, who maintains he has no sympathy for Pickton, hopes that by releasing these letters publicly for the first time, they will provide a window for the public to learn more about the accused serial killer.

Edited versions of both Pickton letters are available online at

© The Vancouver Sun 2006

Friday, September 1

Apathy ruins plans to help B.C. prostitutes

Ambitious projects fall on tough times

VANCOUVER -- The desperate lives of drug addicts who worked as prostitutes were thrust into the limelight after pig farmer Robert Pickton was charged in 2002 with killing women who worked along the strolls of Vancouver's skid row.

People who said they wanted to make a difference in the lives of women addicted to drugs came out with ambitious plans to provide new detoxification beds, rural transition houses and a safe house.

But raising money proved difficult and fundraisers discovered major donors in the city were uncomfortable being associated with a charity devoted to drug-addicted prostitutes.

"Women in the sex trade are a hard sell," said Elaine Allan, who used to work at a women's drop-in centre in the eastside neighbourhood and knew some of the dead women.

"Unfortunately there is a stigma that exists around prostitution," said Anna Lilly, spokesperson for a celebrity effort that failed to raise enough funds to reach its goal.

The charities were also undermined by messy internal disputes and a bitter competition for funds. They quarrelled over who could speak on behalf of the victims' families, even arguing publicly about who could use the phrase "missing women."

Interviews this week with those involved in fundraising revealed that numerous plans have fizzled out during the past 4½ years. Trust funds for donations have withered. Ambitious plans were shelved.

Valerie Hughes was despondent when she looked back on how little has been accomplished. "Talking to you made me so sad," Ms. Hughes said about an earlier interview. Her sister, Kerry Koski, was allegedly killed by Mr. Pickton.

Ms. Hughes spearheaded a campaign by the Missing Women's Legacy Society for a new facility to help drug addicts in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. After four years of fundraising, the legacy society has assets of $21,630, according to its most recent annual statement. It collected $760 last year.

"We were so touched by the response at first," she said. "We based our plans on the continuation of the response. We learned that the media and the public have a very short attention span."

Mr. Pickton was arrested on Feb. 22, 2002. He has been charged with the murders of 26 women who were addicted to drugs and worked as prostitutes, mostly in the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood. If convicted on all charges, the 56-year-old Port Coquitlam bachelor would be among the deadliest serial killers in North America.

The Pickton trial, which began on Jan. 30, starts again on Sept. 8 after a month-long recess. As the lawyers work on their courtroom strategy for the next phase in the trial, family, friends and community activists said in interviews this week they are beginning to think again about how to use the onslaught of attention that will invariably accompany the court proceedings.

Numerous initiatives in recent years have helped agencies provide services to addicts and others in the Downtown Eastside. But those involved in charities specifically earmarked for drug-addicted prostitutes said their projects never really caught fire.

The Buried Heart Society planned to provide a new treatment and recovery home for addicted women in the Downtown Eastside.

The charity had to abandon its plans and settle for distributing modest grants of a few thousand dollars each to some groups active in the neighbourhood.

The facility was to be financed mostly with proceedings from a celebrity CD, recorded in 2002 by some of Canada's top music talent: Colin James, Barenaked Ladies singer Steven Page, Gord Downie of Tragically Hip, Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo, Neil Osborne of 54-40 and other musicians.

Official records were not available this week. Ms. Lilly estimated the project raised around $25,000 for Buried Heart.

Plans for a recovery home never got off the ground. "It involved more funding than we provided and they had no other source," Ms. Lilly said.

The fundraisers tried to encourage corporations and non-profit groups to buy the CD in bulk and give the music to their employees. "But we got nowhere. People felt uncomfortable with the subject matter, which was discouraging," she said.

Jack Cummer worked four years on a CD in honour of his granddaughter, Andrea Joesbury. He wanted to raise money to help women with drug problems move out of prostitution. He arranged for poet Susan Musgrave to write the lyrics to a song called Missing.

The CD, which was released this spring, has not yet brought in much money. Mr. Cummer, 76, said he was frustrated by the lack of promotion for the CD. "It seems to have fallen by the wayside," he said. "Just because someone says it was a good idea does not mean people will really get behind it."

Ms. Hughes said the Missing Women's Legacy Society campaign for an opiate detoxification centre and for "legacy house," a haven for women, stalled in 2004. A house had been donated but the charity could not come up with enough money to fix up the place to meet municipal safety standards. Reluctantly, Ms. Hughes had to forfeit the donated house.

Ms. Hughes, 50, said she had serious health problems in 2004, after police told her about the fate of her sister. She became both physically and emotionally exhausted.
Since becoming active again earlier this year, she has been working mostly on putting together memorial quilts. The charity is now dedicated to providing "quilts of hope" to women and children at risk. Ms. Hughes also has plans to support an art therapy program at Peardonville House, a drug rehabilitation centre for women in Abbotsford, B.C.

"Emotionally, I'm not able to do more. I do some fundraising, public speaking. But sometimes it's really hard," she said, adding that distributing memorial quilts is now her priority. "I really need 10 more sewing machines," she said.

Limited successes of charities for troubled women
Here are some charities that had limited success in raising funds for women addicted to drugs and working as prostitutes:

The Missing Women's Legacy Society hoped to set up a rapid opiate detoxification centre in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and a "legacy house" safe haven for women.
After four years it had assets of $21,630. The society collected $760 last year.

The Streets Where You Live was patterned after the celebrity song We Are the World, which raised $50-million (U.S.) in the 1980s to help famine relief efforts in Ethiopia. Streets brought together Colin James, Steven Pages of the Barenaked Ladies, Gord Downey of the Tragically Hip, Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo, Neil Osborne of 54-40 and other musicians. The song raised $20,000 to $25,000.

Funds from the CD were given to a charity called the Buried Heart Society, which also received $27,000 in 2003 from an auction of art by inmates. Organizers hoped for enough funds to cover the cost of a treatment and recovery home for addicted women in the Downtown Eastside. Via Nova Foundation, based in a church, was to build the residential treatment centre. Via Nova fell apart after its most active supporters moved on to other projects.

Another tribute song called Missing with lyrics penned by poet Susan Musgrave took four years to put together. The recording was released this year. The money was to support a program run by Haven Society in Nanaimo, to help homeless women secure housing and develop life skills. So far, the proceeds have been minimal.

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