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Week 18: Long-time business associate offers conflicting testimony

Jurors began to look perplexed after Pat Casanova's third day on the stand at the Pickton trial

Globe and Mail Update

NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. — Pat Casanova's raspy voice was difficult to understand at times as he testified during the 18th week of Robert Pickton's first-degree murder trial. His vocal cords were removed in 1999 in an operation to cut out cancer and he has an endotracheal throat-breathing tube in his neck that he had to cover with his thumb to speak.

Despite his difficulty speaking, Mr. Casanova, who had a business relationship with Mr. Pickton for about 20 years, offered the jury a vivid description of how Mr. Pickton slaughtered and butchered pigs. Some procedures were similar to the way that previous witnesses have said human remains appeared to be butchered.

The 67-year old father of four, who has been married for 47 years, also told the court he paid for oral sex with women he was introduced to at Mr. Pickton's farm.

However, he did not kill any women on the farm, Mr. Casanova said. The jury has heard about Mr. Casanova on several occasions during the trial. The court has been told that Mr. Casanova was arrested on Jan. 25, 2003, in relation to 15 killings but never charged. He was linked to the case by DNA evidence. At the end of a day of testimony, prosecutor Derrill Prevett asked Mr. Casanova why he thought he was arrested in the case. Mr. Casanova sat silently, offering no response.

Mr. Prevett then asked Mr. Casanova to confirm he was arrested. "Yes, I was," he said. Mr. Prevett asked how long he was in custody. "About five or six hours," Mr. Casanova replied. Earlier, Mr. Casanova had been hesitant to respond when he was first asked about whether prostitutes were brought to the farm for him. "Well, maybe so," he said, "because it could be nice once in a while to be with them."

He said he received "sexual favours" on three occasions in 2000, or possibly 2001, in Mr. Pickton's bedroom. The women were paid $30 to $40 for oral sex. He identified the women as Roxanne, a heavy white girl who limped, and Angel, a tiny white girl with blonde hair. He also said he had sex with two other women, Lynn Ellingsen and a woman called Jacqueline.

Mr. Casanova said he had a business relationship with Mr. Pickton that stretched back 18 or 20 years. He bought pigs that Mr. Pickton butchered for family and friends. From the early 1990s, he was on the farm every weekend, right up to when Mr. Pickton was arrested, except for a two-year period from 1997 to 1999.

Mr. Casanova told the jury the pigs were shot in the head with a nail gun and cut in half down the spine. The jury has been told three women were shot in the head and a bullet from a .22 revolver was found with some remains. Also, the skulls of three women were cut in half.

Mr. Casanova said a hand saw was used in the earlier years. Mr. Pickton began to use a reciprocating saw shortly before he was arrested in February, 2002, he said. The jury has previously heard that the skulls of three women found on the farm appeared to have been cut by a reciprocating saw. Mr. Casanova also testified that on one occasion, Mr. Pickton showed him a .22 silver revolver.

Mr. Pickton is on trial for murder in the deaths of six women who were dependent on drugs and worked as street prostitutes. He is charged with the murder of 20 more women.

Mr. Casanova also told court he had sex for money with a woman that Mr. Pickton is accused of murdering, in the year that she went missing.

He also told court that he - not Mr. Pickton - would butcher big pigs by cutting them in half down the spine with a reciprocating saw. Previously, he told court that Mr. Pickton cut pigs in half in a fashion similar to some human remains found on the farm.

Mr. Casanova came to the Pickton farm almost every day of the week to have pigs slaughtered and prepared for sale in a business he operated. He was arrested in January, 2003, in connection with numerous murders, including five women that Mr. Pickton is accused of killing. He was released hours later without being charged.

During his second day in the witness box, Mr. Casanova was shown a poster board of 48 women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside who have gone missing.

In response to questioning by defence lawyer Adrian Brooks, Mr. Casanova confirmed that he had sex with No. 3 on the board, the woman he called Angel. The jury has previously been told that she was Andrea Joesbury, who was reported missing on June 8, 2001.

Mr. Casanova told the court he was introduced to Angel by a woman called Dinah Taylor, who had brought her to the farm for him in 2001. He paid Ms. Taylor for Angel's services, he said.

Mr. Brooks suggested Mr. Casanova paid $50, but the witness said he thought it was $30. He agreed with Mr. Brooks that Ms. Taylor was "pimping" for Angel.

He had oral sex with Angel on Mr. Pickton's bed, he said. He did not see anything unusual about Mr. Pickton's bedroom. He did not remember a condom being used.

He also told the court he overheard "a little argument" over how the money was to be divided between Angel and Ms. Taylor.

During cross-examination, the jury also learned more about the butchering of Mr. Casanova's pigs at the farm.

Mr. Casanova confirmed that he told police after he was arrested in 2003 that he butchered pigs with a hand saw until Mr. Pickton got a reciprocating saw. After learning how to use the reciprocating saw, he cut up the pigs, he said.

"You cut them into pieces, not Willie," Mr. Brooks said, referring to Mr. Pickton by the name used by Mr. Casanova. "I cut my own pigs," Mr. Casanova said.

By his third day on the stand Mr. Casanova's conflicting testimony seemed to be troubling the jury. Some peered at him with wrinkled brows. Others sat back and stared at the ceiling looking perplexed.

Mr. Casanova repeatedly contradicted statements he had made previously. Before completing his cross-examination, Mr. Brooks asked Mr. Casanova whether he lies.

Mr. Casanova said he may have neglected to say some things or forgot to mention them.

"You do lie, don't you?" Mr. Brooks asked.

"If that is what you call it, okay," Mr. Casanova said.

Responding to questions from Mr. Brooks, Mr. Casanova kept changing his answers. He told the court that he had put some of the meat in one of two freezers in a workshop not far from the slaughterhouse on the farm. Police discovered the partial remains of two women in buckets in the second freezer.

Mr. Casanova repeatedly said he had never put anything into the second freezer. Mr. Pickton used the second freezer to store his meat, Mr. Casanova said.

However, it was not unusual for Mr. Casanova to use either freezer, the jury later heard. Mr. Casanova testified at the preliminary hearing for Mr. Pickton's trial in 2003 that he had used both freezers. The last time he used the second freezer was "maybe one month" before Mr. Pickton was arrested, Mr. Casanova said in 2003.

Asked about the apparent contradiction, Mr. Casanova told the court yesterday he was telling the truth in 2003. In response to further questioning, he changed his testimony and said he had never used the second freezer.

"I cannot remember using it," he said, adding that "maybe" he made a mistake in 2003 or was confused. "I never used that freezer, sir," Mr. Casanova said.

Mr. Brooks suggested Mr. Casanova was trying to distance himself from the freezer with human remains. He also asked whether Mr. Casanova felt extremely fortunate when police let him go after arresting him for 15 murders in 2003.

"I had nothing to do with the missing women," Mr. Casanova said, referring to the investigation into the disappearance of drug-addicted prostitutes from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

"I think that is why they released me."

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