NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. When Robert Pickton talked to an undercover officer about killing 50 women at his suburban pig farm, he was merely parroting information provided to him by police in order to impress a cellmate, his lawyer argued yesterday.
The same was true of a number of other incriminating statements made by Mr. Pickton to the agent placed in his cell, Adrian Brooks told jurors who are soon to decide his client's fate on six counts of first degree murder.
As a result, Mr. Pickton's alleged confessions, which form a critical block of the Crown's evidence against the accused, should be disregarded, Mr. Brooks said.
"It's information that was fed continuously to [Robert] Willie Pickton by police. He doesn't give new information. ... It's not a confession at all."
To reinforce his argument, Mr. Brooks displayed a large laminated poster showcasing two columns: one listing five police statements made to Mr. Pickton, the second illustrating Mr. Pickton's subsequent use of the same information.
After a rigorous 11-hour interrogation session shortly after his arrest, Mr. Pickton had been given a cell with an RCMP officer posing as a hardened criminal.
As the two conversed, Mr. Pickton referred to slaying 50 women. He mentioned doing "the big five-oh," and once he said: "I was going to do one more and make it an even 50."
But Mr. Brooks said the precise figure of 50 was first introduced by police interrogators.
He pointed to Inspector Don Adam's assertion to Mr. Pickton that "you may be the most successful serial killer in North America. Because if you're up to 50, you are."
At the time of his arrest in 2002, as many as 50 prostitutes were known to have gone missing from Vancouver's impoverished Downtown Eastside.
Mr. Pickton is charged with murdering, then butchering, six of the missing women. He is facing a second trial on 20 additional first degree murder counts.
During his second day of closing arguments, his lawyer also hammered away at the Crown's theory that only Mr. Pickton, who butchered pigs on his farm, could have dismembered the murder victims.
Police found heads, hands and feet of some of the slain women in buckets on Mr. Pickton's property.
But Mr. Brooks said the hands and feet were cut up in an unusually delicate manner, leaving no tool marks on them, and far removed from the practices of commercial butchery used on the Port Coquitlam farm.
This flies in the face of the Crown's theory that the manner in which the women were disposed of points clearly to Mr. Pickton's guilt, he said.
"The feet were treated differently from what Willie Pickton does. That serves to exclude him, not include him," Mr. Brooks told grim-faced jurors. "It ought to tell you it's not Mr. Pickton [who butchered these women]."
Acknowledging the "graphic and difficult" nature of the forensic evidence in the case, he nonetheless urged the jury to assess it as analytically as possible.
"Because the defence position is that the forensic evidence ... taken all together ... creates the very reasonable doubt it is supposed to eliminate."
However, Mr. Brooks has spent most of his courtroom time to date playing down the significance of Mr. Pickton's damaging admissions to police.
Further to his contention that Mr. Pickton was simply repeating words first given to him by police, he mentioned his client's jail-cell observation that he had dug his own grave by being sloppy.
According to Mr. Brooks, that was just parroting an earlier police statement to his client that "he didn't do a good job of cleaning up [at his farm]."
And another admission that he was "the head honcho" in the murders was also first suggested by police interrogators, he said.
The statements were part of Mr. Pickton's attempt to fit into the prison system.
"It is a kind of boasting. ... He tries to get the respect for the new life he knows he has to live. He doesn't give new information. He gives what the police give to him," Mr. Brooks said. "It's simply a repetition, a parroting that Willie Pickton knows how to do."