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Week 2: Defence hammers at police about interrogation

Court also hears about extent of forensic search on Pickton property

Globe and Mail Update

NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. — Staff Sergeant Bill Fordy was asked how many lies he had told Robert Pickton during a long interrogation the day after he was arrested in 2002.

Initially Staff Sgt. Fordy tried counting the lies on his fingers. He could remember only four. "There's another lie on the list but I don't remember it now," Staff Sgt. Fordy testified.

Police interrogation tactics were under the microscope during the second week of Mr. Pickton's first-degree murder trial, where for several days officers who interviewed the murder suspect were questioned about an 11-hour videotape made in February 2002. The jury watched that tape during the first week of the trial.

During his questioning in Week 2, Mr. Ritchie accused police of lying and misstating the evidence against Mr. Pickton during the interrogation.

Staff Sgt. Fordy, who interviewed Mr. Pickton for more than nine hours, was one of three officers in the interrogation on Feb. 23, 2002. At that time he was a sergeant.

Staff Sgt. Fordy told the court that the lies were an interview technique to enable an interrogator to establish a relationship with the accused.

But statements by an accused during an interrogation are admissible in court even though police lie during the interrogation, he said. "I know it's permissible to lie, so I don't fear lying to someone,"

Mr. Pickton, 57, is accused of killing Mona Wilson, Sereena Abotsway, Marnie Frey, Brenda Wolfe, Georgina Papin and Andrea Joesbury. He has pleaded not guilty. He will face another 20 charges of first-degree murder in a second trial.

Early during the trial's second week there was a bitter exchange between Mr. Ritchie and Inspector Don Adam over interview techniques.

Insp. Adam was the third and final officer in the 11 hours to interrogate Mr. Pickton the day after he was arrested. He grilled the murder suspect for about 90 minutes. At that point Mr. Pickton had been charged in the deaths of Ms. Abotsway and Ms. Wilson.

In court, Mr. Ritchie suggested the lies started minutes after Insp. Adam walked into the interrogation.

"You said: 'I'm not here to lie,' " Mr. Ritchie told the officer, his voice rising.

"Was that a lie?" Mr. Ritchie asked.

"Yes," Insp. Adam said.

Court also heard that the room where Mr. Pickton was interrogated was prepared with boxes of "props" before police moved in to speak to him.

Boxes labelled DNA, missing women's task force, toxicology and informant No. 24 were either empty or were loaded with blank papers or old binders, court was told.

Mr. Ritchie asked Staff Sgt. Fordy if the boxes were used to further the theme with Mr. Pickton that police had enormous amounts of material and his fate was inevitable.

"Exactly," Staff Sgt. Fordy responded.

But court learned it was the days and weeks after Mr. Pickton's arrest in 2002 that the search for evidence began in earnest.

"It was the largest, most extensive police search in Canadian history," Insp. Adam testified.

Court heard a mini-city was erected on Mr. Pickton's muddy suburban Vancouver farm in the Fraser Valley, where police set up nine trailers and imported their own electricity. There were 30 RCMP officers assigned to search the farm and police were pulled in from departments across the province.

Police would eventually take 400,000 swabs from furniture pieces and from inside Mr. Pickton's buildings, Insp. Adam told court. At one point, the Pickton probe had used up the country's entire supply of white suits.

Eventually, the property was divided into 216 grids and, by the end of the investigation, approximately 382,000 cubic yards of soil passed through police conveyer belts.

Anthropology students were called into to discern the difference between human and animal bones.

Insp. Adam said when police moved onto the farm property in 2002, they realized they had a massive search ahead.

"You don't go onto a farm like that and start rushing around as though you are on some Easter egg hunt looking for a hot piece of evidence . . . you take baby steps."

It was also during the second week of the trial that the jury heard that police arrested three suspects, apart from Mr. Pickton, in connection with the disappearance of missing Vancouver women, although no criminal charges were ever proposed or pursued against the three other people arrested in the case.

Court had been told that Lynn Ellingsen and Dinah Taylor were arrested nearly two weeks before Mr. Pickton was arrested and a third person, Pat Casanova, was arrested in January of 2003.

The jury had heard that Ms. Ellingsen once told police she witnessed Mr. Pickton "skinning a girl" in a barn on the suburban Vancouver farm.

Jurors heard during Mr. Pickton's video interrogation that Ms. Ellingsen attempted to blackmail him. Ms. Taylor was arrested on Feb. 9, 2002, Insp. Adam said. Jurors heard Ms. Taylor's name on the videotaped interview when police accused Mr. Pickton of cooking up a story with Ms. Taylor, who had fled the province.

Mr. Casanova's name was raised on the first day of the trial last week by Mr. Pickton's lawyer, Mr. Ritchie.

In his opening address, Mr. Ritchie told jurors to listen closely to the names and actions of Mr. Pickton's family and associates, including Mr. Casanova.

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