Details supporting 20 more murder charges against Pickton relegated to trial that never happened
This story includes details that may disturb some readers
There was a tremendous amount of damning evidence against Robert (Willie) Pickton that the jurors deciding his fate did not hear during his year-long trial in 2007, including an allegation from a sex-trade worker that he nearly stabbed her to death.
A series of behind-the-scenes legal rulings meant explosive Crown evidence was kept from the jury, which ultimately found Pickton not guilty of first-degree murder in the deaths of six women, but guilty of the lesser charge of second-degree murder.
Publication bans kept this information under wraps until the Supreme Court of Canada quashed Pickton's bid for a new trial, prompting B.C.'s attorney-general to stay 20 additional charges of first-degree murder against Pickton.
At the top of this shocking list of missing evidence was that of a woman who (who can't be named) said Pickton picked her up in the Downtown Eastside and brutally stabbed her on his farm in 1997.
Police found widespread evidence on Pickton's farm linked to the other 20 women he was charged with killing, but those details were kept from the jury because the judge ruled they would be heard during a separate trial, which will not be held now that those charges have been stayed. The excluded evidence includes revelations that:
- The DNA of 10 of the women was found on items in two freezers in Pickton's workshop, where police found the butchered remains of two women he was convicted of killing.
- Also in the freezers were packages of ground meat containing the DNA of victims Inga Hall and Cindy Feliks.
- Cara Ellis's DNA was found on Pickton's jacket and Andrea Borhaven's DNA on his boots -- clothing seized after the 1997 knife attack but forgotten in a police locker for seven years.
- On Pickton's property, police found multiple objects linked to the 20 additional victims, including Jennifer Furminger's DNA on a saw in the slaughterhouse; the DNA of Pickton and Jacqueline McDonell on handcuffs in the accused's bedroom, and Pickton's DNA on two condoms found inside two purses linked to Sarah de Vries and Dianne Rock.
- Wendy Crawford's partial leg bone was found in the cistern of the old piggery, near the remains of two women Pickton was convicted of killing.
There were multiple other bones and teeth buried in Pickton's property, which the Crown privately called the "killing fields," but that information was not shared with the jurors.
The jury also did not hear about an astounding collection of women's belongings that could not be connected by DNA to any of the known victims. For example, on one cluttered shelf in the slaughterhouse -- close to where police found the jewelry of Andrea Joesbury, whom Pickton has been convicted of killing -- there were three necklaces, one pair of earrings and three single earrings, a hair elastic, a cosmetic pencil sharpener, a woman's watch and a woman's watch face, two pendants and lip balm.
The Crown argued a blow-up sex doll bearing Pickton's DNA found in his bedroom closet near items belonging to the victims was relevant because "of the potential sexual nature of Mr. Pickton's dealings" with the women, but the judge agreed with the defence that it would tarnish his character for the jury to hear about the toy.
"The doll in question is rather peculiar and bizarre in appearance. The thought that Mr. Pickton engaged in sexual activity with this item could reasonably be expected to repulse members of the jury. In my view, there is a real concern that admission of the doll would be prejudicial," Williams said in his ruling.
There was another piece of evidence that would surely have tarnished Pickton's character even more, if the jury had ever had a chance to see it.
Immediately after Pickton's Feb. 22, 2002 arrest, he was videotaped in his cell. The jury saw portions of the tape when he was speaking to his cellmate (an undercover officer), but what was edited out was shocking: When the cellmate was briefly removed, Pickton stripped off his clothes and masturbated, despite having been told there was a security camera in the ceiling.
Whether the six murders Pickton was convicted of committing were sex crimes was never debated at the trial because the victims' remains did not provide that evidence.
When prosecutor Michael Petrie told the jury at the end of the prosecution's case on Aug. 13, 2007 he was "satisfied the evidence the Crown should be calling has been called," what he surely meant was he had called the evidence he was allowed, by law, to reveal to the jury.
Some of the information was held from the jury after the judge ruled in 2006 that Pickton should face two separate trials: the first on six counts, and a second on 20 counts.
Even after that ruling, the Crown wanted to tell the jury about the ground meat and the leg bone found in the cistern, as "similar fact evidence."
In his ruling, Williams said he was satisfied "that the DNA material found in the freezers is some part of the remains of Ms Feliks and Ms Hall, that they were murdered and that they were dismembered."
However, Williams ultimately ruled there was no conclusive link between Pickton and the ground meat or the leg bone, that they would not have added much to the Crown's case, and permitting the evidence would have been prejudicial to Pickton and made the trial longer.
The defence was opposed to the jury hearing about all the unidentified women's jewelry and other belongings found scattered throughout the slaughterhouse because the jurors might "improperly" conclude that the items constituted a "trophy" display of possessions of other missing women.
The judge also agreed with arguments by the defence that the jury shouldn't hear about additional guns stashed in the loft of Pickton's workshop because it would make the accused seem like a "gun nut."
Regarding Furminger's DNA being found on an electric saw, Williams said "a reasonably available inference is that it may have been used to dismember human beings." But because the DNA did not belong to any of the six women at the centre of the first trial, its inclusion would be "significantly prejudicial" to Pickton.
He ruled the condoms with Pickton's DNA were admissible, but the fact that they were found in purses belonging to Dianne Rock and Sarah DeVries was not.
"The order for severance ... has resulted, from time to time, in collateral consequences to the Crown's case," he added.
How knowing about this evidence might have affected the jury's decision will never be known because in Canada, jurors cannot be interviewed about how they reached their verdict.