NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. Three key Crown witnesses in the Pickton trial are not Rhodes scholars. They are drug-addicts, criminals, unsavoury individuals and they lie, prosecutor Mike Petrie acknowledged Friday.
But that doesn't mean their incriminating evidence against Robert Pickton should not be believed, Mr. Petrie told jurors who soon will decide Mr. Pickton's guilt or innocence on six charges of first-degree murder.
Their shady past and dubious character is “the nature of the beast,” he said. “They are the sort of people who were hanging out there [Mr. Pickton's pig farm].”
Referring for a second time in his closing argument to the ease of sorting out Oreo cookie pieces from the ice cream in a Dairy Queen Blizzard, Mr. Petrie said jury members can similarly separate truth from lies in testimony.
“Simply because their lifestyle is not our lifestyle, their drug addictions are not our drug addictions, or their attitude to authority is not our attitude, doesn't mean you reject them out of hand. You analyze [what they say] and you look for corroborating evidence.”
The prosecutor said significant evidence backs the stories of Scott Chubb, Andrew Bellwood, and Lynn Ellingsen, all of whom connected Mr. Pickton to the murder of sex-trade workers from the Downtown Eastside.
Ms. Ellingsen, an admitted crack addict, gave the most graphic testimony, telling the court that she saw a woman hanging from a hook in Mr. Pickton's pig slaughterhouse, with the accused standing covered in blood.
Mr. Petrie said Ms. Ellingsen stuck to her story during six days of “aggressive cross-examination” by Mr. Pickton's legal team.
“They focused on her drug addiction, her lifestyle, her lying and cheating. She was an easy target,” the prosecutor said. “She's got a lot to be ashamed of in her history. They tried to destroy her credibility so that you don't believe anything she says.”
But, Mr. Petrie pointed out, Ms. Ellingsen first told her story to police on Feb. 24, 2002, just two days after Mr. Pickton was arrested on the first two murder charges.
Butchered remains of the slain women were not found by investigators on Mr. Pickton's property until two months later, he said.
“How did Ms. Ellingsen know [about the butchering]? Was she just a lucky guesser? She knew because she saw. That's why.”
As for Mr. Bellwood, labelled “a quintessential Teflon con” by defence lawyer Adrian Brooks, he informed police and testified that Mr. Pickton told him he handcuffed prostitutes from behind, strangled them, dismembered them, and disposed of their remains at a rendering plant.
“He introduced the element of restraints,” Mr. Petrie said. “How would he know restraints would be found on the property? Is that a lucky guess?
“We know there were butchered remains on the property, but he wouldn't. Was that just a lucky guess?”
Mr. Chubb's main evidence was that Mr. Pickton talked about injections of windshield wiper fluid as a good way to do away with junkies.
Mr. Petrie agreed that by the end of Mr. Chubb's cross-examination, his credibility was a shambles, but police found a syringe containing windshield wiper fluid in Mr. Pickton's office.
Thus, what might have seemed an “almost unimaginable story” was shown to have some truth, he said. “There is no evidence he [Mr. Chubb] had [prior] knowledge of the syringe [police found]. Was that just a lucky guess?”
Mr. Petrie said the defence wants jurors to believe the witnesses when they make damaging statements about themselves, but not when they say “something negative about this man right there.”
The prosecutor gestured dramatically in the direction of Mr. Pickton, slouching with seeming unconcern in the prisoner's box.
Mr. Petrie spent the afternoon replaying video excerpts from Mr. Pickton's 11-hour police interrogation. The prosecutor was seeking to rebut defence claims that the farmer's “limited intelligence” led to him being overwhelmed and tricked into incriminating statements.
“This is not a kid. This is a grown man who knows what is going on,” Mr. Petrie said.
According to the prosecutor, Mr. Pickton begins by asserting he is “just a pig man” who knows nothing of the homicides. Later, he expresses remorse for the disappearance of as many as 50 women from the Downtown Eastside.
“I'll take my life for any one of their lives, just to have them alive. I'm so sorry,” he tells a police officer.
By the end, however, his demeanour has changed, Mr. Petrie said. “He is very stone-faced.”
Mr. Pickton begins to make admissions. “I had one more [killing] planned, but I got sloppy,” he says.
Asked if he felt for the victims' families, Mr. Pickton replies: “That's not my problem. Shit happens.”
What if it had been his niece or nephew who lost their life, he is asked.
“I would say they were there at the wrong place at the right time,” Mr. Pickton replies. “What else can I say?”
Finally, when an officer presses him on how many women he killed, Mr. Pickton answers: “You're making me out to be more of a mass murderer than I am.”
And he utters a loud, lengthy laugh.
Mr. Petrie said he hopes to conclude his submission to the jury on Monday.