December 4, 2007 / 1:09 AM / 10 years ago

A waiting game at Canadian serial killing trial

NEW WESTMINSTER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Relatives of the women feared murdered by accused Canadian serial killer Robert “Willie” Pickton waited restlessly on Monday as jurors deliberated for a third agonizing day.

<p>The car carrying accused serial killer Robert Pickton arrives at the court house in New Westminster, British Columbia November 19, 2007. Relatives of the women feared murdered by accused Canadian serial killer Robert "Willie" Pickton waited restlessly on Monday as jurors deliberated for a third agonizing day. REUTERS/Andy Clark</p>

“It’s sad we have to wait for so long,” Elana Papin said as she kept vigil at the court in New Westminster, near Vancouver, with about two dozen other relatives of the women Pickton is charged with killing.

Papin’s sister Georgina is among six women who are the focus of the first of two scheduled murder trials for Pickton. He is charged with a total of 26 murders, with the remaining 20 counts to be tried later.

The jury of seven men and five women began deliberations late Friday after hearing 10 months of evidence -- sometimes gory -- from about 130 witnesses, as well as viewing lengthy video tapes of police interrogations.

The jury members worked through the weekend behind closed doors and have not asked any questions of the judge since they began their deliberations.

Police say Pickton lured drug addicts and prostitutes from Vancouver to his ramshackle pig farm and automobile junk yard in suburban Port Coquitlam. There, he is alleged to have killed them and chopped up their bodies in the farm’s slaughterhouse.

The 26 were among more than 60 women who disappeared from the poor Downtown Eastside neighborhood of the Pacific Coast city from the late 1980s until late 2001, shortly before Pickton’s arrest in February 2002.

Relatives of the missing women have long complained that police ignored warnings that a serial killer was preying on Vancouver because the victims were seen as outcasts.

The provincial government has paid an undisclosed amount of money for non-Vancouver-area relatives -- and in some cases close friends -- of the 26 women to attend the trial in its final days.

The relatives, mostly women, waited in the lobby of the courthouse surrounded by a small army of government victim-assistance personnel and reporters.

The relatives all believe Pickton is guilty but said they understand the need for the jurors to carefully consider the evidence, much of which is circumstantial in nature.

But the mood has also become strained as the deliberations continue. Concerns have grown that the defense succeeded in convincing jurors with its argument that police ignored other possible suspects as they focused on Pickton, the only person charged in the case.

The defense argued that while human body parts were found on Pickton’s property, that did not mean he was the murderer.

“The system is messed up,” said Rick Frey, father of Marnie Frey, who disappeared in 1997 and whose remains were found on the farm.

None of Pickton’s relatives has attended the trial.

Reporting by Allan Dowd, Editing by Rob Wilson

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