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Accused 'wants to put one over on you'

Evidence against suburban pig farmer ties together perfectly, prosecution says in wrapping up case

From Tuesday's Globe and Mail

NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. — Robert Pickton put one over on police for years, killing repeatedly and invisibly without detection. But eventually he got sloppy, he got caught "and now he wants to put one over on you," prosecutor Mike Petrie told jurors about to decide the fate of Mr. Pickton on half a dozen counts of first-degree murder.

"You should not let him," Mr. Petrie declared, as he brought legal argument to a dramatic close yesterday in the marathon, often disturbing 10-month trial of the suburban pig farmer accused of being Canada's most prolific serial killer.

"In my submission, he is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt on every one of these six counts, and that's the verdict you should return."

Mr. Pickton is charged with killing Mona Wilson, Sereena Abotsway, Marnie Frey, Brenda Wolfe, Andrea Joesbury and Georgina Papin.

In addition to the current charges, Mr. Pickton is also awaiting a second trial on 20 more homicides. All victims are among scores of drug-addicted prostitutes who went missing over the years from the rough Downtown Eastside of Vancouver.

According to the Crown, Mr. Pickton lured the women to his Port Coquitlam farm with offers of drugs, killed them, butchered them, and disposed of their remains, often by sending some of them off in large bins of offal to a rendering plant.

But Mr. Pickton's top-flight legal team has pointed to several other possible suspects to support the accused's not-guilty plea, while arguing that his damaging admissions to police should be discounted because of his low intelligence.

If Mr. Pickton is not guilty, however, Mr. Petrie said he must be "the unluckiest man alive, because he has the remains of not just one, not two, but six women on his property within metres of his home."

The prosecutor continued: "He's a butcher. That's an unfortunate coincidence if he's just an unlucky man. ... The personal effects of these women just happen to be in his house. Again, if he's an unlucky man, that's a very unfortunate coincidence."

And finally, Mr. Pickton spoke to the police and said he killed 49 women, Mr. Petrie said. "That's probably as unlucky a coincidence as you could possibly have."

The evidence against Mr. Pickton ties together perfectly, the prosecutor said.

He was familiar with the Downtown Eastside, he was known to associate with sex-trade workers and he had the drugs or money for drugs to draw these women "out into incautious circumstances, like the candy from the man in the truck."

The prosecutor's concluding remarks followed the playing of a series of excerpts from videotaped conversations between Mr. Pickton and an undercover police officer he believed was a hardened criminal.

They took place Feb. 23, 2002, a day after he was arrested on charges of murdering women at his pig farm.

Mr. Petrie said the most compelling took place late at night, as Mr. Pickton turned in for the night on his jail cell cot, huddling beneath a thin blanket.

On the video, he gives a number of audible sighs. Then he utters his last words of the day. "So close," he says.

Mr. Petrie painted a picture for the jury. "The conversation is over ... There are those long pauses, the last, one minute and 39 seconds ... and then he ends by saying 'So close,' " he said.

"It is welling in [Mr. Pickton's] mind that he almost did it. He almost pulled it off."

Although the most dramatic, according to Mr. Petrie, it was only one of many incriminating moments during the cell talks.

Another time, Mr. Pickton is heard saying he needed "one more" to make it 50 [murders]. After that, he was going to lie low "and then do another 25," but he got sloppy, he says.

Mr. Petrie rejected defence assertions that Mr. Pickton is a dim-witted individual who was overwhelmed by sly police interrogation techniques.

He urged the jury to look at the 11 hours of formal police interrogation and the jail conversations from the perspective of Mr. Pickton. "Think of him as a man who had repeatedly and successfully killed people ... and got caught."

He was a "cagey negotiator," the prosecutor said, who went from outright denial to a plea for sympathy to trying to make a deal while admitting "little things."

"He is not a naive person who has been duped ... [An interrogation officer] described him as 'cagey as a fox,' and that's exactly what he was.'"

There remains only the charge of Judge James Williams to the jury, before the seven men and five women will retire to consider their verdict.

Judge Williams told them he expects to take three full days to go over the mass of evidence for them and to explain points of law.

He advised them to postpone any weekend dinner plans they may have had. "Once you are sequestered, you get seven-day weeks without interruption. ... You will be guests of the system."

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