Victim Studies 009: Robert Pickton

on January 19, 2012 in Serial Killers, Victim Studies, Victimology by

Robert Pickton was found guilty for the murder of six women in British Columbia, Canada. Although he was charged with second-degree murder for murdering the six women, it is believed that he murdered over 60 people during his murder series. Pickton’s known murder series is thought to have spanned from 1997 to 2002, but it is suspected that the murders began in 1995. The method in which Pickton disposed of bodies makes it difficult to know just how many victims he had.

Before Pickton was arrested on murder charges he had been in trouble numerous times with the law. On one occasion, on March 23, 1997, Pickton was caught and charged with the attempted murder of a prostitute, Wendy Lynn Eistetter. Wendy claimed that Pickton handcuffed her and stabbed her numerous times. Wendy was able to escape after she stabbed Pickton with his knife and ran away. She was later found on the side of a highway and was taken to the nearest emergency room. Pickton was released after he paid his $2000 bond and the charges were later dismissed without explanation.

The Pickton farm was also searched prior to his arrest. Officers investigated the farm, but they found nothing incriminating. It is not known if there was nothing to be found or if the investigation was not thorough enough to find the evidence. Many relatives of the victims were furious with the search, as the investigators could have prevented many additional murders. Even after his arrest investigators were searching the large farm for forensic evidence for years. The longer the evidence took to find, the less likely it was going to be used in the case against Pickton.

All of the victims that Pickton was charged for murdering were middle-aged women. They were also known prostitutes in British Columbia’s Downtown Eastside. This particular area of British Columbia was well known for human trafficking, prostitution and drug use. Like many other serial killers, Pickton chose to murder prostitutes because he believed that no one would notice or care about their absence. Due to the nature of a prostitute’s job, it is not unusual for many of them to remain unseen by many people for long periods of time.

Sadly, in this case, Pickton was correct about the police not noticing their absence. It is because of the views surrounding this area that police, and the people who lived there, did not think it was odd when large numbers of women disappeared. Instead of investigating, many assumed that the women moved to a different area or simply died of drug related causes. Many of these women were not reported missing until months or even years had passed. There were no bodies being discovered, so the police felt they had no reason to believe there was a serious problem. However, the problem was getting more serious as the years passed. Between 1983 and 2001 over 54 women had gone missing and more women were missing from before 1983. One officer who suggested that there was a serial killer was demoted and later left the police force. Once the investigation began, officers noticed a trend between all of the missing women so, a search for the women began.

Unlike many serial killers, Pickton did not only murder members of his own race. His only concern seemed to be that they were prostitutes. It is believed that his victims were all raped prior to their deaths. The remains of the victims were either frozen or found in pieces, so there was no way to prove this. One witness who was called to the stand, Andrew Bellwood, claimed that Pickton admitted to raping his victims. It was believed that Pickton stated he would usually handcuff the women facedown on a bed and then would rape them. When Pickton was finished with the women he would strangle or shoot his victims to death. It is not known if he would have sex with the bodies postmortem.

After the murder took place Pickton dismembered the bodies using various saws. The forensic team was unable to find the exact saw that was used on the victims. The pieces of Pickton’s victims would then be fed to his pigs. Any pieces, which were too large for the pigs to eat, were first put through Pickton’s wood chipper, to later be fed to the pigs. It is believed that if there were any remaining body parts Pickton would throw them out with the pig waste at the West Coast Reduction plant. Pickton’s disposal process caused investigators to have trouble proving the many of the murders, as many of the victims would have disappeared leaving very little evidence on the farm itself.

Making matters more difficult was that Pickton was known to have very large parties on his farm. Some of these parties would bring over 1,800 guests to the Pickton farm and many of the guests were known to be drug users and prostitutes. This caused a lot of the DNA that was found on the farm to be called into question. The DNA evidence could have been from a syringe or blood off of the syringe, not necessarily from a murder. These parties also allowed Pickton to have a large selection of victims. Investigators later discovered that Pickton would serve many of his guests pork from his farm, or what they believed was pork. Since investigators had known that Pickton’s pigs ate human flesh, there was concern that there were also traces of human remains with the pork itself. Detectives had to request that the guests bring back any frozen pork to be tested for human remains.

It was discovered that there was DNA evidence from over 30 women, 2 jawbones, ribs, heel bones, vertrbrae, teeth, skulls and the hands of some victims. Bloody clothing was found along with a gun, which has a dildo attached to the end, and a syringe containing blue liquid. One of the witnesses claimed that Pickton would inject his victims with windshield wiper fluid to sedate or kill them. Pickton had allegedly bragged to this witness that it was easy to drug a junkie because they would already have injection marks. Pickton also testified that the dildo was being used as a makeshift silencer, but that did not explain the DNA which was found on it.

Pickton was arrested on February 22, 2002 for the murder of two women. By the time the case went to trail Pickton was charged for the murders of 26 women. The judge decided to process six of the murders while stating that the other 20 could go to court another time. The reasoning behind this was that all 26 cases would put too much of a burden on the jury members. Unfortunately for the victims and their families the 20 remaining cases were stayed on August 4, 2010.

It was not until December 9, 2007 that the jury found Pickton guilty on 6 counts of second-degree murder, not first-degree murder. On December 11, 2007 Justice Williams sentenced him to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole. In Canadian law, life imprisonment is considered to be 25 years. Although Pickton was only brought to court for the murders of 26 people it is believed by many that he was responsible for upwards of 60 women.

Sources:
Robert Pickton Murders and Vancouver’s Missing Women by Michael Newton on TruTV.com
Robert Picton on Wikipedia
Robert “Willie” Pickton from the Radford University Serial Killer Timelines

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