Robert Pickton’s place in serial killer history

Robert PicktonThe Supreme Court decision to deny Robert Pickton a new trial means the pig-farmer murderer, at least officially, earns an unremarkable position as just another run-of-the-mill serial killer. Pickton was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder. Other Canadian serial killers have murdered more. Of course, Pickton was originally charged with slaying 27 women, and at least 65 women disappeared from a poor Vancouver neighbourhood where Pickton hunted victims. But history will show, officially, that he killed half a dozen.

Robert PicktonPickton (inset right) was elevated to a position of serial killer infamy in 2001, after police began dissecting his British Columbia pig farm, where they found DNA, remains and other evidence that tied him to the slaughter of 27 women. Pickton picked up prostitutes from a impoverished Vancouver neighbourhood and took them to his farm. Complaints to police about the disappearance of dozens of women were mishandled for years. After sex with his victims, Pickton killed and butchered them, in some cases, feeding remains to pigs. One of the 27 murder charges was thrown out by a judge before trial. The remaining counts were split into groups of 20 and six. Pickton was tried on the smaller group first and he was eventually convicted of six counts of second-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison. He appealed. Prosecutors said if his appeal to Canada’s top court for a new trial was rejected, he would not be tried on the remaining 20 charges. The court ruled today that Pickton got a fair trial and there was no miscarriage of justice. The Crown decision to end the prosecution of Pickton has the powerful effect of denying many families the satisfaction of knowing that Pickton faced justice for those killings. It’s an important objective for the family of a victim, and something deeply emotional. Discontent over that decision will linger for a long time.

This turn of events also denies Pickton official status as Canada’s most prolific serial killer. Decades from now, the record will show six convictions. It also puts Pickton in a familiar position among serial killers – his confirmed death toll may never be known. That’s the case for many of the country’s most notorious multiple murderers, who rarely confess swiftly to all of their misdeeds, in part, out of a twisted desire to torment families and authorities for decades to come about their true body counts. Serial killers often seek ongoing infamy and media attention through protracted, sometimes cryptic revelations. It helps them to avoid lives of isolation and misery, as they rot behind bars. Instead, they receive regular visits from police and revel in the unending attention.

Here’s a list of some other notable Canadian serial killers, including several who killed more than Pickton’s ‘official’ kill total of six:

» Russell Johnson admitted to killing seven women in southwestern Ontario in the 1970s, though he attacked many others and there could be other murder victims. Johnson, who was diagnosed as a sexual sadist and necrophiliac, was dubbed the Bedroom Strangler. He scaled apartment buildings, some as tall as 15 storeys, then stole into the bedrooms of sleeping women. He raped and strangled some, while also mutilating others.

» John Martin Crawford may have killed seven women in Alberta and Saskatchewan beginning in the early 1980s. He was convicted of murdering four poor Aboriginal women.

» Clifford Olson was convicted of 11 murders, children and youth in British Columbia, though he has variously claimed to have killed many others or claims to have been a cohort of other killers.

» David Threinen killed four Saskatoon children in the summer of 1975.

» Henry Williams killed two women and raped and bludgeoned a third, who survived. His killing spree happened in the Toronto area in the mid 1970s.

» Gary Leo Genereaux likely killed at least three, though he was convicted of just one murder, the 1973 rape-murder of 11-year-old Michelle Keogh of Cobourg, Ontario. Investigators believed Genereaux likely committed two other still-unsolved murders in the Kingston, Ontario area in 1973.

» Leopold Dion raped and murdered at least four young boys in Montreal in the early 1960s.

» Wayne Boden had at least five known victims, beginning in 1968. He was dubbed the “vampire rapist” because he bit the breasts of his victims, leaving behind bite marks used to help convict him.

» Allan Legere killed at least four people in New Brunswick in 1989.

» Paul Bernardo, along with his accomplice wife Karla Homolka, has to be considered a serial killer. Bernardo was convicted of killing two teenage girls, Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy. He and his wife drugged and raped her younger sister, Tammy, leading to her death, though they claimed they didn’t intend to kill her. Bernardo was not tried for Tammy’s death. He may have killed others, including Elizabeth Bain, who disappeared in the Toronto area in 1990.

This photo montage shows some of the missing women from Vancouver’s lower eastside. The full photo spread is at a website that documents the cases and developments in the Pickton court proceedings:

Missing women

Here’s surveillance video of Pickton in a jail cell talking to an undercover officer posing as another criminal (in 2 parts):

» All Cancrime posts on serial killers

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