December 10, 2007 / 6:08 PM / 10 years ago

A sad mystery in trial of Canadian serial killer

<p>An artist's sketch shows accused serial killer Robert Pickton (C) in court with lawyers Adrian Brooks (L) and Peter Ritchie in New Westminster, British Columbia.Felicity Don</p>

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - The trial of Canadian serial killer Robert "Willie" Pickton was filled with stories of pain and horror, but perhaps the saddest of all is the unfinished tale of Jane Doe.

Pickton will be sentenced on Tuesday after his conviction on Sunday for the second-degree murder of six women. Sentencing will conclude the first of two scheduled trials for the pig farmer, who is accused of killing a total of 26 women and butchering their bodies in his slaughterhouse.

Jane Doe's bones were also found on Pickton's farm and he was briefly charged with her death. But the charge was dropped by the court because police have never been able to determine who she was, where she came from, and when she died.

The moniker "Jane Doe" was used for identification purposes in court documents.

If anyone missed the woman when she disappeared in the early 1990s, they never reported it to authorities.

Police have known about the woman's death since February 1995, when half of her skull was found in the mud along the Fraser River in Mission, British Columbia, a bedroom community east of Vancouver on Canada's Pacific Coast.

The investigation into how she died went nowhere at the time. But after Pickton's arrest in 2002, DNA from the skull was matched with bones found on Pickton's farm. The severed skulls of three other women were also found in buckets on the farm.

Jurors were initially allowed to hear about Jane Doe, but the judge changed his mind midway through the trial. The reason for that ruling is subject to a court publication ban that may not be lifted until after Pickton is tried on the remaining 20 murder counts.

Pickton's named victims were among more than 60 women who disappeared from the drug-infested streets of Vancouver's poor Downtown Eastside neighborhood from the late 1980s until late 2001.

The women were lured to his farm with promises of drugs and money. They were killed, their bodies cut up in a slaughterhouse, and the remains disposed of.

Police identified the women found on Pickton's farm by matching them to the DNA of their relatives. No matches were found for Jane Doe's remains.

Rick Frey, whose daughter Marnie was one of Pickton's victims, said many families chose to ignore the young women who ended up in Downtown Eastside selling their bodies for crack cocaine and heroin.

"These people were written off," Frey said.

Wayne Leng, a former Vancouver resident who oversees a Web site about the city's missing women, said he still receives e-mails from families searching for women who disappeared after they moved to the Downtown Eastside

"(Jane Doe) represents all the women who have never been identified," Leng said.

Police say they have not given up trying to identify Jane Doe, but Frey fears that question will never be answered because she disappeared in the early 1990s, when police rejected claims that a serial killer was at work.

Editing by Peter Galloway

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