Jurors who will begin hearing evidence today against a pig farmer accused of being Canada’s worst serial killer have been warned by the judge to expect testimony “as bad as a horror movie.”
Evidence has been so gruesome that some journalists covering the preliminary hearing have sought psychological counseling. During jury selection last month, Williams warned the potential jurors about what to expect.
Robert William Pickton is charged with the deaths of 26 women, mostly prostitutes and drug addicts who vanished from Vancouver’s impoverished Downtown Eastside neighborhood in the 1990s.
He is accused of luring women to his family’s 17-acre pig farm outside Vancouver, where investigators say he threw drunken raves with prostitutes and plenty of drugs. After his arrest in February 2002, health officials issued a tainted-meat advisory to neighbors who may have bought pork from his farm, concerned that it may have contained human remains.
Pickton, 56, will first be tried for six of the deaths and has pleaded not guilty to each. British Columbia Supreme Court Justice James Williams decided that the other charges would be heard in a later trial to avoid overburdening the jury.
After Pickton was arrested and the first traces of DNA of some missing women reportedly were found on the farm, the buildings were razed and the province spent an estimated $61 million to sift through acres of soil at the farm.
Accusations presented in more than a year of preliminary hearings have fallen under a publication ban that prevents the news media from revealing details to avoid tainting the jury pool. Williams lifted the ban for the trial – expected to last a year – after neither the defense nor the prosecution objected.
“I think this trial might expose the juror to something that might be as bad as a horror movie and you don’t have the option of turning off the TV,” he said.
If convicted of at least 15 of the deaths, Pickton would become the worst serial killer in Canadian history.