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Old Posted Dec 9, 2007, 8:35 PM
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Pickton guilty on all counts

Pickton guilty on all counts
Family relief greets second-degree murder verdicts

Vancouver Sun
Published: Sunday, December 09, 2007

NEW WESTMINSTER - Robert (Willie) Pickton has been found guilty of second-degree murder - not first-degree murder as charged - in all six counts he was facing at his year-long trial, the jury foreman announced today in New Westminster Supreme Court.

Two young female jurors wept and wiped tears from their eyes as the foreman, a grey-haired retired man, announced the verdicts around 11:30 a.m.

The 12 people stood to show their unanimous support for the verdict, most of them not glancing at Pickton at all.

The jury has been deliberating since Nov. 30 the fate of the Port Coquitlam pig farmer, who was charged with killing 26 women who disappeared from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Pickton, 58, pleaded not guilty. This trial, which dealt with only six of those murder charges, began Jan. 22 and heard from 128 witnesses.

Pickton has been found guilty of killing Mona Wilson, Andrea Joesbury and Sereena Abotsway, who all disappeared in 2001; Georgina Papin and Brenda Wolfe, who vanished in 1999; and Marnie Frey who went missing in 1997.

Family members of the victims who have been here every day for two weeks waiting for a verdict jumped at the news, many wiping tears from their eyes.

Each time the jury pronounced Pickton not guilty of first-degree murder, family members in the courtroom called out "No!"

Outside the courthouse immediately following the verdict, Rick Frey, father of murder victim Marnie Frey, said he knows in his heart what happened to his daughter and was content with the verdict.

Bonnie Fowler, Georgina Papin's sister, elatedly phoned an acquaintance to announce six counts of murder.

But Murray Watson - who grew up with Helen Hallmark, one of the women missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside - said he was disappointed the jury did not find Pickton guilty of first-degree murder, but added at least they convicted him of second degree.

"The million-dollar question now is whether there will be a second trial," he said outside the courthouse.

In tears, Trisha Baptie, a former sex trade worker hired by online magazine to report on the Pickton trial, said regardless of the second-degree murder verdict, Pickton is going away to jail for the rest of his life.

She said the trial has served to remind people that the victims were women, and not just junkies or sex trade workers.

Police found their partial remains on Pickton's Port Coquitlam farm, as well as personal possessions linked to four of the victims by DNA.

The key evidence for the Crown was two lengthy videotapes of Pickton speaking with police following his February 2002 arrest, during an 11-hour interrogation and to an undercover officer in his jail cell.

The Crown contends he confessed to those officers that he killed 49 women and had one more planned, but got caught because he was "sloppy." Pickton also said he used a rendering plant to get rid of bodies.

A clear motive for the murders never emerged at the trial. He sat throughout the 10-month hearing in the prisoner's box in the high-security courtroom, rarely moving or reacting to the often-graphic evidence presented to the jury.

Pickton's fate was in the hands of seven men and five women, who deliberated every day for 12 hours, and at night were sequestered in a New Westminster hotel.

Emotional family members of the missing women have been waiting for this news for a long time. They gathered at New Westminster Supreme Court for closing arguments in the case, heard between Nov. 19 and 30.

Since then, they have been in courthouse hallways, sometimes playing cards and piecing together jigsaw puzzles, while anxiously awaiting news from the jury. After complaining for years that police didn't take seriously the disappearances of their loved ones - mostly sex-trade workers and drug addicts - the relatives and friends were hoping they would finally find justice with a guilty verdict.

The Crown has indicated it will proceed with a second trial on the other 20 charges. It is to be discussed next Jan. 17 in B.C. Supreme Court.

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