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Week 8: Court heard police paid for witness to attend drug program

Officer testifies he was "trying to keep the lines of communication open "

Globe and Mail Update

NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. — The jury at the Robert Pickton trial first heard the name Andrew Bellwood on the opening day of the proceedings Jan. 22. Crown prosecutor Derrill Prevett said Mr. Bellwood would be called as a witness to testify that Mr. Pickton had told him how he killed prostitutes.

The jury heard the name again during the eighth week of Mr. Pickton's murder trial in B.C. Supreme Court. This time, however, it was the defence that raised Mr. Bellwood's name in the trial.

During cross-examination by defence lawyer Adrian Brooks, RCMP Constable Douglas Forsyth confirmed that police covered the cost of a drug-treatment program for Mr. Bellwood in December, 2004.

As Mr. Pickton sat in the prisoner's box, watching the officer closely, Constable Forsyth also testified that the RCMP paid for Mr. Bellwood's domestic partner to enroll in a drug-treatment program at Edgewood, which cost $1,000 for eight days. Police also covered the cost of Mr. Bellwood's rent of $920 for three months while he was in the drug-treatment program.

Constable Forsyth's contact with Mr. Bellwood was described by Mr. Brooks as "witness maintenance." In response to questioning, the officer confirmed that he met a number of times with Mr. Bellwood, and, on at least one occasion, he picked up the dinner bill.

He was "trying to keep the lines of communication open with him," the officer told the court. Knowing Mr. Bellwood was to be called to testify, Constable Forsyth wanted to keep a good working relationship with Mr. Bellwood, he said.

By the eighth week of the trial Mr. Bellwood had not yet testified in court but the jury had already heard his voice. The police played a tape recording of Mr. Bellwood for Mr. Pickton to hear during a police interview after he was arrested in February, 2002.

On the tape, Mr. Bellwood says Mr. Pickton told him he strangled prostitutes, took them into the barn, bled them, gutted them and fed them to the pigs. Mr. Pickton sounds incredulous when he hears Mr. Bellwood on tape. "This guy is out to lunch," Mr. Pickton told the police. "Funny stories in there, aren't they?" Mr. Pickton said later.

Mr. Pickton is on trial for the murder of six drug-addicted prostitutes, Sereena Abotsway, Andrea Joesbury, Marnie Frey, Brenda Wolfe, Georgina Papin and Mona Wilson. A date has not yet been set for a second trial for Mr. Pickton who is charged in relation to the deaths of 20 additional women.

Also during the eighth week of the trial, the jury heard testimony about the numbers assigned to exhibits to keep track of them. RCMP Sergeant Tim Sleigh told court about officers who identified fingerprints and officers who verified the conclusions. He explained the intricacies involved in comparing fingerprints Referring to charts, police documents and photographs, the Sgt. Sleigh confirmed the identity of fingerprints of Mr. Pickton, his brother Dave and his friend Dinah Taylor on items found in Mr. Pickton's home and on the farm.

However, he was not asked and did not volunteer anything about the significance of the evidence.

Defence lawyer Adrian Brooks drew attention to the fingerprints of Dave Pickton and Ms. Taylor. Prosecutor Michael Petrie asked about fingerprints that turned out to belong to Robert Pickton.

Dave Pickton's right index fingerprint was found on a piece of cardboard in a metallic toolbox that was on top of a freezer holding the partial human remains of Ms. Joesbury and Ms. Abotsway, Sgt. Sleigh said.

Previously, the jury has heard that Dave Pickton was the subject of an investigation into the disappearance of prostitutes from Vancouver's skid row, but he was not a suspect.

Ms. Taylor's fingerprints were found at several places in Mr. Pickton's bedroom, including on a wooden headboard of a bed, on a spray can and on a piece of paper in the drawer of a bedside table. Investigators also found an application for B.C. assistance and a letter from the federal Department of Indian Affairs with her name and fingerprints.

Ms. Taylor had been arrested in February, 2002, two weeks before Robert Pickton, but was released without being charged. Earlier in the trial, Inspector Don Adam testified that Dave Pickton had told police that Ms. Taylor had done some of the killings. However, police did not believe him, Insp. Adam said.

The jury has also heard previously that receipts for hotel payments made out to Ms. Taylor, as well as her welfare stubs, were found in Mr. Pickton's trailer. Some of the papers were addressed to Ms. Taylor at "the trailer" at 953 Dominion Ave., in Port Coquitlam, the Pickton farm's address.

Robert Pickton's fingerprints were found on a handgun that police discovered in a garage workshop on the farm, Sgt. Sleigh told the court. The freezer with the partial remains of Ms. Abotsway and Ms. Joesbury was also in the garage workshop.

A print of Robert Pickton's right ring finger was found on a cardboard box on a table in the slaughterhouse, the officer said. A print of his right index finger was found on a knife blade.

His fingerprints were also found on a syringe wrapper discovered in a garbage can outside his home.

Sgt. Sleigh told the jury of the importance of fingerprinting to police.

"It verifies that a person has contact with an object, thing or place," he said, adding that fingerprint evidence can be extremely significant in determining if a person had access to a crime scene.

The jury also heard that roadside vendor Bill Wilson waited more than 24 hours before reporting to police about finding part of a skull across the highway from the stand where he sold handcrafted garden ornaments he made in his woodworking shop.

He did not contact police sooner because he did not want to get involved, Mr. Wilson told the court. "I did not know how the skull got there and I did not really want to be involved," he said.

"It had nothing to do with me," he said, adding that it was his "bad luck" to find it.

The jury had previously heard that a skull from an unsolved homicide case appeared to have been cut in a similar fashion to the three bisected skulls found on Mr. Pickton's pig farm. The skull was discovered on Feb. 23, 1995, outside Mission, B.C., the jury heard.

In response to questioning by defence lawyers, Mr. Wilson confirmed that he had been convicted and served time in jail for two sexual assaults and an indecent assault in Prince Rupert, B.C. before moving to the Mission area. "I was wrong. I pleaded guilty," Mr. Wilson said.

Mr. Wilson also told the court he had several saws in his woodworking shop. What kind of saw did he have? Mr. Ritchie asked. "All types," he replied, looking over the top of his glasses at the defence lawyer on the other side of the courtroom.

Mr. Ritchie asked if he was concerned when he realized the skull had been sawed in half. "No," he said after a short pause. He waited for another question.

Mr. Ritchie asked if he was concerned that the police might start to suspect him. "No," he replied.

The defence lawyer twice asked if he did not get involved because he had a criminal record. "I suggest you had a reason to not want to contact the police," Mr. Ritchie said.

"I said no this morning and I say no now," Mr. Wilson said.

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