Every true crime groupie has descended upon this little corner of the world or is at least paying keen interest these days as the trial of Robert Pickton began this week in New Westminster.
Pickton is the Port Coquitlam pig farmer who now faces trial for the murder of 26 women, most of them drug addicts/prostitutes from downtown Vancouver's east side. For those who don't know the geography of this region, Port Coquitlam is roughly an hour's drive east and slightly north of Vancouver. New Westminster is halfway in between the two. I live about 30 minutes from PoCo (as we call it).
Right now, Pickton's on trial for the first six murders. A second trial involving the other 20 identified women is slated to follow. It's believed he may have committed as many as 49 murders altogether. That's what's thought because he basically said it himself, telling a jailhouse informant that he wanted to reach 50 before he stopped.
This first trial is expected to last as long as a year and is already being tabbed as the most expensive in Canadian history. Along with the gruesome details of the crimes, the trial will expose the uncaring attitude of our society towards the people least able to defend themselves or find justice.
Beyond the murders themselves, which were so disgusting they're more the stuff of downtown Baghdad than downtown Vancouver, Pickton's main lawyer seems intent on distinguishing himself for everything we've come to expect from show trials, namely preposterous suppositions, grandstanding and subterfuge.
On the opening day, he was allowed to give a statement. Highly unusual, but he's not expected to get another chance to make his case for months as the prosecution parades an endless stream of witness before the jury. He agreed the body parts strewn around Pickton's farm - including those found in Pickton's trailer - belonged to the women (DNA tests already proved that, so his agreement on that fact is hardly a revelation). He further agreed that personal items found on the farm belonged to the missing women.
But, he told the court, that Pickton did not know the women and did not kill them and then suggested that the police officers who conducted interviews and investigations on the case did not have the expertise to do it.
This is no OJ trial. There is a mountain of evidence to suggest Pickton did exactly what Pickton himself basically said he did when he said in a videotaped interview, "I don't deserve to eat. I should be on death row...You make me more of a mass murderer than I am."
I believe fully in the premise that a person is innocent until proven guilty but for a lawyer to stand up and suggest that body parts spread around a farm, belongings of dead people found in a person's possession and statements of an accused person that seem to affirm the police suggestion of who killed these women are all the result of incompetent investigation is galling. It took the police long enough to bother arresting anyone but even Boss Hogg could have got this one right.
It also means the families of these women now have to listen to the gruesome details of those deaths and the subsequent butchering of the bodies. No one's real comfortable with the further suggestion some of those bodies were fed to pigs and the pigs may later have found their way into our food stream.
There was incompetence here, that's for sure. Police had been tipped off to Pickton as a possible suspect well before they acted, according to previous reports. It's beyond incompetence, really, because it smacks of complete uncaring for the fate of these women - poor, drug-dependent, many were Aboriginal. It was a horrific sequence all around.
Only a lawyer could make it worse and my suspicion is that over the next year, the lawyers in this case - particularly Pickton's - will do exactly that as they slowly drain hundreds of thousands of dollars from the public purse.
It seems to me that only the pigs themselves are innocent in this case and that the real pigs are the two-legged kind, and I'm not just referring to the popular colloquialism for cops. Yes, if Pickton wants to plead not guilty and have a trial, that is his right in Canada. But, please, the lawyers should not be allowed to play the rest of us for fools.