Farmer accused of feeding women to pigs: court lifts ban
A sweeping publication ban was lifted in the case of a pig farmer accused of butchering women and feeding them to pigs, revealing damning evidence against the man police have called Canada's worst serial killer.
Most of the ban was lifted yesterday after British Columbia's attorney general formally stayed 20 murder charges against Robert Pickton.
Pickton was convicted of murdering six prostitutes in 2007 and sentenced to life in prison with no parole for at least 25 years.
He was also charged in another 20 deaths that had not gone to trial because the judge said they included materially different evidence from the other six counts.
Last week Canada's top court upheld Pickton's six murder convictions after he filed an appeal, saying the judge gave improper instructions. If the Supreme Court of Canada had granted Pickton a new trial, the prosecution said they would try him for the 20 remaining charges.
Yesterday government prosecutors said they would not pursue any more criminal proceedings against Pickton, including the 20 charges.
"The (prosecution) had to carefully assess whether it was in the public interest to proceed on the remaining 20 counts, and the (Criminal Justice) Branch concluded it was not," Neil MacKenzie, a spokesman for the Crown, said outside court after the charges were formally stayed.
The ban included evidence that Pickton picked up a woman, whose name is still protected, in a gritty Vancouver neighbourhood and stabbed her on his farm in 1997.
The woman, a key witness in the prosecution's case against Pickton, said the pig farmer put her in handcuffs and tried to kill her, with the two struggling in a knife fight that put both of them in hospital. She said she ran away, naked and bleeding profusely.
He was charged with attempted murder but the charges were stayed in 1998 before the case went to trial.
Police had never thought to do forensics tests on his clothing. If they had, they would have directly linked him with two other prostitutes who had gone missing from Vancouver's Eastside neighbourhood.
Women continued to disappear from the destitute neighbourhood for another four years.
Jurors never heard the woman's story. 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. That trial will not be held now that those charges have been stayed.
Pickton and his brother used to throw parties at the hog farm in a barn they dubbed "Piggy's Palace". Investigators have said they were drunken parties with prostitutes and plenty of drugs.
Pickton's younger brother David was under investigation as a prime suspect in the murders, but no evidence ever emerged to link him to any of the crimes and he was not charged. David Pickton still lives close to the farm.
Pickton's suburban farm became the biggest crime scene in Canadian history.
Hundreds of investigators, including anthropologists, spent months combing through soil and buildings at the farm where they found human remains.