Christmas tree "mystery" at Canada murder trial

Fri Dec 7, 2007 3:22pm EST
 
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By Allan Dowd

NEW WESTMINSTER, British Columbia (Reuters) - With the jury in the trial of accused Canadian serial killer Robert "Willie" Pickton into its seventh day of deliberations on Friday it was a mystery Christmas tree that took center stage.

The tree was put up during the night by an unknown person outside the court in New Westminster and had 26 angel ornaments hanging from its branches -- one for each of the women Pickton is accused of killing.

"Christmas is a time for miracles, so why not here. This is where we need them the most right now," said Lori-Ann Ellis, sister-in-law of Cara Ellis, one of the women.

Relatives and friends of the dead women have been camped out at the court throughout the deliberations that began late on November 30, sitting on couches in the lobby and hallways, along with reporters and court officials.

This trial deals with six of the murders Pickton is charged with. A trial on the remaining 20 -- including the count involving Cara Ellis -- will be held at a later date.

Police allege that Pickton lured drug-addicted prostitutes to his farm in the Vancouver suburb of Port Coquitlam, killed them after having sex, cut up the bodies in the farm's slaughterhouse and disposed of the remains.

"The girls were fallen angels, but to their mothers they were still angels," Ellis said as she and other relatives of the women admired the small fir tree that was also adorned with a small set of lights.

Pickton is also waiting at the courthouse, in a small cell next to the courtroom. He is alone excepted for when sheriffs deputies check on him every 15 minutes or so. He has a single copy of National Geographic magazine with him.

(Reporting by Allan Dowd; Editing by Rob Wilson)

 
<p>Accused serial killer Robert Pickton (C) stands before Justice James Williams (background) in a New Westminster, British Columbia court in this courtroom sketch December 9, 2006. REUTERS/Felicity Don</p>