February 02, 2006

Robert Pickton: Canada's Worst Alleged Serial Killer

photo | 68 Vancouver women have gone missing since 1978First-degree murder charges have been laid in the largest serial killer case in Canadian history. 27 women have disappeared from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside between 1995 and 2002.

The prime suspect, Port Coquitlam pig farmer Robert "Willy " Pickton, has been in custody since his arrest in February 2002. In British Columbia Supreme Court in New Westminster on January 30th, 2006, Pickton pleaded not guilty to 26 of the 27 charges. Canada does not have the death penalty, so Pickton faces multiple consecutive life sentences if convicted.

The number of at-risk women missing from Downtown Vancouver since 1978 stands at a shocking 68. DNA from 31 of those women was found on the Pickton property by investigators.

How did it ever get that far?

Relatives of deceased women whose remains have been found on the Pickton pig farm have vocally criticized the Vancouver Police and the joint V.P.D./RCMP Missing Women Task Force for an initially "shoddy" response to women going missing, or for apparently not taking earlier complaints about the pig farm seriously enough.

Quotes from the Vancouver Metro, January 31, 2006:
"These women were victimized by a system that is intent on marginalizing them."
"...every time we read of hear about the case, the same issue comes up: many of the women he stands accused of killing were drug addicted prostitutes from the troubled Downtown Eastside... I keep wondering why is it that the media keep bringing that up as if it was the only thing that defined them. These were women who were also mothers, daughters, friends, they worked, they loved, and they deserve the same protection as everyone else. ...If we allow the police and state to make judgements that justify the violence committed, then we're treating them as "disposable" women."
Could a controversial Geographical Profiling method have identified the prime suspect sooner? Ex-V.P.D. officer Mr. Kim Rossmo thought so back in 2001, and testified so in a civil trial against members of the Vancouver Police Department. Mr. Rossmo had earlier suggested that a serial killer might be responsible for the disappearances, but some of his superiors in the Vancouver Police publicly denied this theory, and fought his promotion.

In 1996, then Detective Inspector Kim Rossmo, was a 16-year Vancouver police veteran whose research in geographic profiling attracted world-wide attention. He earned a Doctorate for his thesis, "Geographic Profiling: Target Patterns of Serial Murderers". At the time, he was the first Vancouver police officer to graduate with a Doctoral degree. Since then, his geographic profiling technique and related software tools have piqued the interest of the F.B.I. and Scotland Yard.

Meanwhile, the Crown has probably done as thorough an investigation of Pickton's property as possible, painstakingly sifting DNA and other evidence out of the acres of dirt on the Pickton pig farm. This will be a messy and gruesome affair, but relatives and friends of the missing women have been waiting for this process to begin for a long time.

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