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Week 15: Details about missing woman upset witness

Court heard from woman who had known Georgina Papin for more than 20 years

Globe and Mail Update and Canadian Press

NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. — Evelyn Youngchief could handle the questions about her friend Georgina Papin at Robert Pickton's murder trial until she was asked about the size of Ms. Papin's shoes.

"The most remarkable and distinctive thing about Ms. Papin was she had very tiny feet," defence lawyer Richard Brooks said during the trial's 15th week. He asked her to confirm that Ms. Papin wore a Size 5 shoe.

Ms. Youngchief paused and reached for a tissue. "Yes, she had little feet," Ms. Youngchief said. "The last time I saw her, she was wearing the shoes I gave her," she said, adding that the shoes had four- or five-inch platforms.

Ms. Youngchief repeatedly dabbed her eyes as the questioning continued. She told the court that Ms. Papin appeared to have dropped between 20 and 30 pounds in the five months before she last saw her in January, 1999.

She was asked whether Ms. Papin had tattoos. Ms. Youngchief's voice trailed off and she appeared to be looking off in the distance.

Speaking softly, she said she saw them but she could not remember what they were.

Ms. Papin is one of six women that Mr. Pickton is accused of murdering. Ms. Papin's partial remains were found on the Pickton farm. She was reported missing on March 4, 2001, two years after she stopped picking up prescription medicines and using the province's medical services plan.

Ms. Youngchief said she met Ms. Papin in Edmonton 21 years earlier, when both were prostitutes. Ms. Papin was still working as a prostitute in 1998, Ms. Youngchief said.

She confirmed that Ms. Papin had a serious problem with heroin and crack cocaine.

Ms. Papin was street-wise, really tough and could be really mean when she was angry with someone, she said. She carried pepper spray or a knife, the jury was told.

Ms. Youngchief also recounted that Ms. Papin was wearing bandages on her wrist when she last saw her. Ms. Papin told her that she had had a fight with her ex-boyfriend.

Another witness during the 15h week of the trial, Mary-Lou Wasacase, sat in the witness box and looked sadly at a large poster of 48 women leaning on the wall next to her.

Most of the pictures were police mug shots; few were flattering.

She was asked to pick out Brenda Wolfe and Mona Wilson — two of the six women Mr. Pickton is accused of killing She saw the picture of Ms. Wolfe — ``No. 48," she said — and was asked if the picture more closely resembled Ms. Wolfe when she first met her or when she last saw her.

``Closer to when I last saw her," said Ms. Wasacase in a barely audible voice.

Ms. Wasacase also identified Ms. Wilson — ``she's No. 4" — on the poster, in which all 48 women are pictured with numbers below their faces.

The poster is known as exhibit six in the Pickton trial and on it are the faces of a number of murdered and missing women whose names and pictures were compiled as part of the Missing Women Joint Task Force.

The witness, who seemed emotional at times, especially when she looked at the poster board of the missing women, struck a sad note for some of the spectators when she was asked by defence lawyer Joe Saulnier if she was aware that Ms. Wolfe was "`paid to beat up other women."

Ms. Wasacase said she was not aware of that.

"When I knew her she supplemented her welfare by working on the street for her babies," said Ms. Wasacase.

She said she knew Ms. Wolfe and Ms. Wilson to be sex-trade workers because she used to see them standing on the corner of Powell and Cordova when Ms. Wasacase went by using public transit.

The corner was a favourite for sex-trade workers in the area, she said.

Meanwhile, later in the 15th week of the trial, one of the witnesses contradicted statements she gave police five years earlier.

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."

One of the women that Mr. Pickton allegedly murdered, Andrea Joesbury, disappeared shortly after her friend who lived at the hotel was released from jail and returned home.

In response to questioning by one of Mr. Pickton's lawyers, Ms. Major, a spunky elderly woman with straggly dyed hair gathered together in a long ponytail, said she did not see Ms. Joesbury after Ms. Joesbury's friend came back from jail.

"The girls disappear one by one down there," she said. "First you see them and then you don't and you wonder ... they could not all go back home."

Ms. Major also told the court that she never saw Ms. Joesbury with Mr. Pickton and Mr. Pickton never came to the hotel to ask for her.

Court also heard from a superintendent at a rendering plant who said lax security prior to 2002 enabled many people to dump their loads of animal remains with little or no checking of the contents.

Merle Morris, who has been the superintendent at West Coast Reduction for about 10 years, said it was possible for some people who brought animal entrails to the plant for disposal to essentially drive in and dump their loads.

Another employee of the plant, James Cress, told the jury that he knew ``Bob" Pickton and used to pick up barrels of pig remains at the Pickton property.

Mr. Cress recalled that the accused would sometimes help him dump the barrels into Cress's truck.

``Did you ever look in the barrels," asked Crown prosecutor Jennifer Lopes.

Mr. Cress said there were sometimes ``big chunks of pork" and that some were burned black.

Ms. Lopes asked if it was usual to find chunks of pork and Mr. Cress replied ``yes and no," adding that it was usual to use every piece of meat possible.

Mr. Morris told the jury that security at the rendering plant became much tougher in 2002 because of the terrorist attacks in the United States in 2001, increasing numbers of mad cow reports and worries about animal activists disrupting operations.

Mr. Morris said the plant hired security guards, added fences and began to pay closer attention to the materials that were brought in starting in 2002.

Mr. Pickton was arrested in February 2002.

A rendering plant, Mr. Morris explained, takes entrails from many different animals, including pigs, cows and sheep, and converts them to meal or tallow for soap and cosmetics after a grinding and cooking process. The material comes to the plant from large operators who gather it at abattoirs, stores and butcher shops, but small operators also use the plant.

The jury at Mr. Pickton's trial heard in the Crown's opening statement in January that it would hear evidence that mr. Pickton regularly used a rendering plant in Vancouver to dispose of pig remains.

The opening statement and a video viewed later by the jury showed Mr. Pickton and an undercover cell plant having a conversation.

In the video, the jury heard the undercover officer tell Mr. Pickton that the best way to dispose of a body is to use the ocean.

Mr. Pickton responds that he did better than that and used a rendering plant.

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