NEW WESTMINSTER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Canadian serial killer Robert “Willie” Pickton was sentenced to life in prison with no hope of parole for 25 years on Tuesday after a gut-wrenching court hearing in which victims’s families described their emotional devastation.
“Mr. Pickton there is really nothing that I can say to adequately express the revulsion the community feels about these killings,” Justice James Williams said as he handed down the harshest sentence possible for the second degree murder.
Relatives of the victims erupted in cheers in the courtroom. Pickton did not react.
Pickton, 58, was convicted on Sunday for the murders of six women whose bodies were butchered in the slaughterhouse of his pig farm near Vancouver. He is charged with 26 murders and faces another trial on the remaining 20 murder counts.
“Nobody should meet death the way she did,” Jay Draayers, a half brother of victim Sereena Abotsway, wrote in a statement read to the court. Abotsway’s head, hands and feet were discovered in a bucket on Pickton’s farm.
Some of the victims’ relatives sobbed openly and even reporters and attorneys fought back tears as the statements were read.
Pickton sat emotionless in the prisoner’s box as the family statements were read. He gazed at his hands that were folded on his lap.
Pickton leaned forward as if ready to speak when the judge later asked if he had anything to say, but his lawyer quickly said he would not address the court because he is still facing the 20 additional murder charges.
The life sentence was mandatory for a conviction on second degree murder, so the judge was deciding when would be eligible to apply for parole, within a range of 10 to 25 years.
Prosecutors had asked for the toughest sentence possible, calling the murders “cold blooded” and saying Pickton had shown no remorse. Canada does not have a death penalty.
Pickton’s victims were drug addicts and prostitutes in the poor Downtown Eastside of Vancouver on Canada’s Pacific coast, but lead prosecutor Michael Petrie said it was important that the public know they were not “disposable people.”
Pickton lured the women to his farm in the Vancouver suburb of Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, where he killed them and cut up their bodies to dispose of them.
The victims relatives talked of the brutality of the killings, and the pain of hearing their loved ones described in media reports only as sex trade workers and not as women who had families.
“Mr Pickton, why did you hurt my real mother and those other women?” 15-year-old Brittney Frey, daughter of Marnie Frey asked in a statement read by a relative.
The defense sought leniency saying Pickton also had a history of kindness. It noted the jury declined to convict him of the more serious charge first degree murder that required prosecutors to prove the killings were planned in advance.
But Pickton’s attorney Peter Ritchie also acknowledged it was unlikely whatever sentence he received that a parole board would free a serial killer from prison.
The six murder victims were among more than 60 women who disappeared in Vancouver from the late 1980s until late 2001, shortly before Pickton’s arrest in February 2002.
Editing by Alan Elsner