Skip navigation

Week 4: Thousands of pieces of evidence pulled from Pickton property

Court hears details about blood splatters and syringes of blue liquid

Globe and Mail Update

NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. — Blood was everywhere: On the walls, the floor, the carpet, on kitchen cabinets and a bathroom doorknob, Mr. Mellis testified during the fourth week of Mr. Pickton's trial. There were also bloodied handprints on the walls and cabinet drawers.

A foam mattress in the sleeping quarters was soaked in blood, suggesting an "initial area of impact," he said.

Although his testimony was laced with jargon, Mr. Mellis's painstaking description of each blood-spattered object in the motor home told the story of a long attack — possibly with a blunt object — that culminated with the bleeding victim being dragged through the vehicle.

"The initial area of impact, contact, appears to have been the passenger side, rear corridor area of the motor home," Mr. Mellis told jurors.

In the opening days of the trial, prosecutors said they found the blood and fingerprints of Mona Wilson in the murder suspect's motor home, not far from his trailer on his Port Coquitlam farm, about 30 kilometres east of Vancouver.

Mr. Pickton is charged with killing Ms. Wilson, Sereena Abotsway, Marnie Frey, Andrea Joesbury, Georgina Papin and Brenda Wolfe.

Mr. Mellis and a team of investigators began searching the motor home on Feb. 7, 2002, two days after a firearms search was aborted because police found women's items.

As he spoke, Mr. Mellis held a booklet of photographs he snapped during the probe.

The kinds of blood stains he found ranged from "castoff" stains to single droplets to "transfer wipe" stains.

A castoff stain occurs when blood from an object — such as a weapon — or individual is quickly shaken off. "Transfer wipe" stains are left by a bloodied hand or limb.

Mr. Mellis told court castoff stains were found on walls, the carpet and bed headboard.

Judging from the direction of the blood drops on the walls and floors, Mr. Mellis said it appeared the struggle began in the sleeping area and moved to the front of the vehicle.

Handprint stains were found along the passageway leading from the sleeping area to the front door of the motor home, Mr. Mellis said.

Police found a pair of bloodied running shoes in a closet containing more cast-off stains.

Under cross examination from defence lawyer Adrian Brooks, Mr. Mellis agreed that the motor home was filthy and not properly secured.

Mr. Brooks noted that police also found alcohol bottles and a crack pipe in the motorhome. Mr. Pickton did not drink or take drugs, according to previous testimony.

Mr. Brooks also tried to pick at Mr. Mellis's theory that an injured person with a bleeding wound was carried or moved to the front of the vehicle.

If the victim was bleeding that profusely, why were only four drops of blood found on the floor? Mr. Brooks asked.

Mr. Mellis replied that the victim's wound might have been stanched with a cloth.

While the trial heard testimony about blood-soaked carpets and mattresses, and blood-spattered walls, it also heard of a search for much more subtle clues.

A tiny piece of fabric or the root of a hair might provide valuable DNA evidence if it held a blood trace, Peter Samija, the general manager of the RCMP's forensic lab in British Columbia, testified.

Mr. Samija told court about a staggering workload — with more than 200,000 samples collected from the property for DNA testing alone.

Asked by Marilyn Sandford, one of three lawyers defending Mr. Pickton on the first-degree murder charges, if the case had posed "very substantial challenges" to the forensic lab, Mr. Samija said yes.

A "conservative" estimate put the number of DNA samples at more than 200,000 and ". . . we [still] have additional work to complete," Mr. Samija said.

He wasn't sure how many samples have yet to be handled, but said "certainly [it is] far fewer than we've done so far."

Whatever the number is, it adds up to a lot of evidence and all of it had to be handled according to a detailed procedure meant to protect the integrity of each sample, Mr. Samija testified.

Much of it, just like on the popular television program CSI, was picked up with tweezers or on cotton-tipped swab sticks and placed inside sterile tubes that were sealed and taken back to the lab for analysis.

Search technicians, most of whom are civilian members of the RCMP with degrees in science or pharmaceutical science, would typically lay out a potential piece of evidence on a fresh brown sheet of paper on a clean lab table, Mr. Samija said.

Dressed in regulation-issue white lab coats, wearing latex gloves and masks, they would then begin to examine the material. Stains that weren't evident to the naked eye might be detected using "alternative light sources" that used different wavelengths to illuminate them.

Small clippings of material could be taken from fabric, or if the stain was considered a rich enough target, swabs would be taken with cotton tips.

Investigators would take it one careful step at a time, Mr. Samija told court, sometimes laying grids down on evidence to ensure that swabbed areas didn't overlap.

"Open one swab, close it [the sterile tube], move on to the other," he said. "It's a really simple procedure, for any of you who have watched that remarkable CSI program."

After a piece of evidence was examined in a lab, it was sealed in a container marked with a bar code to help with tracking. The brown paper sheeting was discarded and the lab table was sterilized. Then the process started all over again.

Court heard that police found a syringe containing three millilitres of blue fluid on an entertainment unit beside a stack of eight-track tapes.

Jurors had previously heard how a friend quoted Mr. Pickton saying that a good way to kill a prostitute was to inject her with windshield washer fluid.

Court also heard that on a box at the foot of Mr. Pickton's bed was a black jacket with papers on it. One note said: "Mellow, yellow, fellow," followed by "Andrea, 201 Roosevelt Hotel." Sgt. Kingsbury said the hotel was the last known address for Ms. Joesbury.

Also found in Mr. Pickton's bedroom was a roll of duct tape, plastic straps — the kind sometimes used by police to handcuff suspects — a woman's top, and a woman's boot.

Recommend this article? 13 votes

Back to top