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Week 15: Details about missing woman upset witness

Continued from Page 1

Yolanda Dyck had phoned police after seeing Mr. Pickton's picture in the paper in February, 2002. She told them she saw her friend, Sereena Abotsway, with a man who looked like Mr. Pickton shortly before Ms. Abotsway disappeared.

When Ms. Dyck first stepped into the witness box during that week of Mr. Pickton's first-degree murder trial, she appeared confident, eager to tell the jury about the incident in the summer of 2001.

But after intensive questioning by defence lawyer Peter Ritchie, Ms. Dyck looked sullen and upset. As the questions kept coming, she spoke much more quietly.

She contradicted statements she gave to police five years earlier. She could not explain why some details in her account had changed. Some memories came back and she remembered more details about the incident now than she had when she spoke to police in 2002, Ms. Dyck said.

Despite the inconsistencies, Ms. Dyck was certain she remembered exactly what Ms. Abotsway had said to her. "She said she was going to the country with a friend," Ms. Dyck said.

Mr. Pickton is on trial for the murder of Ms. Abotsway and five other women. Before his arrest, he lived on a farm outside Vancouver. Ms. Abotsway was reported missing on Aug. 22, 2001. Medical records indicated she may have disappeared about a month earlier.

Ms. Dyck said she met Ms. Abotsway at an alcohol and drug treatment centre in 2000 or 2001. In response to questioning from prosecutor Darrell Prevett, Ms. Dyck said the last time she saw Ms. Abotsway was in June, 2001, in the area of Broadway and Fraser Streets.

She said Ms. Abotsway was with a balding gentleman with light blond hair. The man, who was in his early 50s, wore a brown shirt, dark jeans and rubber boots, which was unusual because it was summer and not raining, Ms. Dyck said.

Ms. Dyck said she greeted Ms. Abotsway, asked her how she was doing, gave her a hug and left. She did not speak to the man.

She did not see Ms. Abotsway again. She said she realized she had seen Mr. Pickton when she saw his face on television and in the newspaper after his arrest in February, 2002. When asked if she saw the man in court, she pointed to Mr. Pickton in the prisoner's box.

Mr. Ritchie asked whether she might have identified the wrong person. "Maybe you made a mistake," Mr. Ritchie said. "No," she said, "I know who I saw."

Then the inconsistencies began. She told the court she waited a day before contacting police because she was "traumatized" once she realized she had seen Mr. Pickton with Ms. Abotsway. She told police in 2002 she was phoning them on the same day she saw Mr. Pickton's photo in the newspaper.

She told court she saw Ms. Abotsway with Mr. Pickton in June or July, 2001. She told police it was June. She remembered more in court about the location of their encounter than she recounted to police. She offered different accounts of the facial hair of the man with Ms. Abotsway, telling the court he had the beginning of a beard, but telling police on one occasion that he had a full beard and later, that he didn't have any facial hair.

Despite the inconsistencies, Ms. Dyck insisted she remembered Ms. Abotsway's parting words. Her memory of the encounter is better now than it was in February, 2002, she said. "Some things come back," Ms. Dyck said.

The court also heard the following during the 15th week:

Mr. Pickton has hepatitis C. A registered nurse, Rosie Watson, said Mr. Pickton told her he got the disease from using a male friend's toothbrush.

Women at the Roosevelt Hotel, a residential hotel in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, would chase after Mr. Pickton. "All the girls would go after him because they knew he gave them money," Hélène Major, a front desk clerk at the hotel, told the court. "They ran after him. It was sad but they were very short of money down there."

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