On 30th January 2006, in a non-descript court house in New Westminster, British Columbia, Robert “Willie” Pickton shuffled about in the dock and when asked, pleaded not guilty to the murder of twenty seven women. Pickton was a multi-millionaire. He was also a pig farmer. And he was soon to be convicted as one of Canada’s most notorious serial killers. Yes, Canada. Even Canada, home of maple syrup and naive backpackers, has nasty serial killers. That Pickton was a millionaire, and a pig farmer, and drove around town in a converted bus with heavily tinted windows only adds to the grisly intrigue of it all.
Now Pickton was locked up for a very long time due to some thorough police work involving a lot of digging, but was also outed as a killer by our old friend the Protophormia terraenovae, the blue bottle fly, also known as the blue-assed fly. The Protophormia terraenovae has long played a role in forensic evidence given its prominence on corpses and steely disposition to survive a bit of cold snap.
Now Willie Pickton had lived on a farm with his brother David which, for the seasoned addict of any crime box-set, pretty much makes him guilty of something. That it was a pig farm, suggests that guilt involved feeding bodies to his pigs. Which, it turned out, he actually did. One of the farm-workers, a one Bill Hiscox – one assumes given he worked on the Pickton’s farm our Bill was perhaps a man lacking the inquisitive nose of a Hercule Poirot – later told police the farm was a “creepy looking place”, left as it had been to the winds of neglect. There wasn’t a great deal of farming that went on, bar the odd pig.
Indeed the farm itself was patrolled by one massive pig. Perhaps a boar of some sort. A wild boar, or Eurasian wild pig, as it is also known. This boar, or big pig, weighed almost 300kg, enough to make any self-respecting butcher reach for the nearest meat cleaver eyeballs spinning at the giddy prospect of a new kitchen perhaps, for Mrs. Butcher. The pig was described as a monster. It would run with the dogs and took a taste to the local postman. Parcels were left at the bottom of the drive. With little interest in the romantic and nourishing life of working the land, the Pickton brothers registered a charity with the government called the ‘Piggy Palace Good Times Society’ which had the wholesome aim of organizing special events. These events turned out to be raves featuring Hell’s Angels and prostitutes who had cabbed it in from Vancouver imagining – probably quite rightly – that the backdrop of a converted slaughterhouse would be good for business.
If the destitute farm, the wild pig, Hiscox’s sixth sense or the drug fueled raves weren’t offering a hint to the local police that the Picktons were up to no good, the fact that Pickton stabbed a prostitute a few years earlier should have put him right on the watch list. No one was charged over the stabbing as the prostitute was found to be a sketchy, unstable character, despite the knife wound to the gut.
It appears the police then sort of stumbled on Pickton’s murderous habit. That the wily Hiscox had noticed several women who had visited the property disappeared very soon after, was not the reason the police rolled in one morning. They were instead looking for illegal firearms. This despite having received a tip that Pickton had a fridge freezer full of human flesh, a tip which presumably came in on a Friday afternoon when those on call where more keen to get home for Friday night ice hockey. The police, after finding amongst other weapons, a .22 revolver with a dildo over the nozzle, did some digging. Literally. They got the necessary court papers and brought in two fifty foot flat conveyor belts and soil sifters. What they found, landed Pickton in the dock.
What they found were skulls cut in half with hands and feet stuffed inside. They found the remains of one victim in a rubbish bin. They found a jaw-bone and a few teeth lying on the slaughterhouse floor. It was like Halloween, but real. It was revealed that Pickton spent one Sunday afternoon grinding up human flesh to mix with some pork which he then sold to the public, giving the local health inspectors a bit of a turn. In his trial, the jurors were presented with a video of one of Pickton’s friends saying that Pickton suggested a good way of killing a prostitute, or you might imagine killing anyone, was to inject them with windshield washer fluid. Nasty move.
The prosecution eventually put him up on six charges. They felt that twenty seven charges of first degree murder were too much for the jurors to get their arms around and offered the defence an opportunity to find a legal loophole to cast enough doubt to get their man off. They didn’t. Pickton was convicted. He wasn’t though convicted of first degree murder, but of second degree murder. The difference between first and second degree murder for those who missed all 69 episodes of Columbo, appears to be in the planning. One is, one isn’t. Pickton didn’t plan his, so said the jurors, so he got pinned with second degree murder. The maximum sentence for second degree murder is twenty five years with no parole. British Columbia Supreme Court Justice James Williams gave Pickton, twenty five years with no parole. This it turns out is the same sentence he would have got for first degree murder. So work that out for yourself. His lawyers appealed, and lost. They appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, and lost. Pickton, according to Google, remains locked up in prison. As you would hope.
It is not immediately clear how Pickton came to be a millionaire. Still, not much good to him now.
Best steer clear of socially awkward men who live on pig farms.
A definite no no for Christmas drinks.