Although serial killer Robert Pickton began serving his life sentence for murder more than three and a half years ago the story is far from over. Here’s a list of the most significant events that have happened in the Pickton case since the Supreme Court’s decision last summer:
- The Supreme Court of Canada upheld Pickton’s conviction on six murder charges and long-held publication bans on evidence that had been secret for years were lifted, although the trial judge, James Williams, ordered a new publication be placed on the name of the most important witness during the 2003 preliminary hearing, a woman whose testimony he discarded during the pre-trial hearings.
- The B.C. Government decided not to proceed with a promised second trial on the remaining twenty charges of first-degree murder, much to the dismay of the families of the murdered women.
- The B.C. government orders a public inquiry, to be headed by Wally Oppal, a former B.C. Attorney-General and Appeal Court judge. He will examine the police investigations conducted between January 23, 1997 and February 5, 2002 into women reported missing from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. (February 5, 2002 was the day Pickton was finally arrested on his farm.)
- The Inquiry will also investigate a criminal justice branch decision to stay charges against Pickton for attempted murder when he attacked a Vancouver prostitute in 1997, the woman whose name has been protected by Judge Williams’ publication ban.
- But — Wally Oppal’s appointment also stirs up strong opposition from victims’ families, upset that he did not support a second trial on the 20 remaining first-degree murder counts that had been promised by the trial judge after he severed the counts from 26 to 6, saying a trial on 26 counts was too much for any jury to manage.
- And many are also upset about the Inquiry’s severely limited terms of reference, terms that do not include much public participation in the process and seem to exclude events that happened outside the timelines.
- Police ask for help in identifying Jane Doe, a woman whose skull was found near Mission, B.C. in 1995 and whose rib and heel bones were found on the Pickton farm in 2002. A new drawing was released of what she probably looked like, along with the news that she was Caucasian, not part aboriginal, as was first thought. Pickton had been charged with her murder but the trial judge quashed the count before the trial began.
- Wally Oppal responds to public outrage over his limited terms of reference and asked the government to expand them. “We want to make sure that everybody who wants to be heard is heard, that’s really the object of this suggestion that we made,” he explains. “When you have an inquiry of this sort many people come forward, particularly those people who feel aggrieved and people who are vulnerable. So for that reason we want people to feel comfortable.”
- Police seize weapons from Westley Baker’s military surplus store in new Westminster — the store used by the Pickton brothers for their own guns. Baker was selling starter pistols and showing customers how to convert them into lethal weapons.