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Week 20: Tenant praises Pickton as landlord and friend

Globe and Mail Update

NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. — Gerald McLaughlin had nothing but praise for Robert Pickton.

In 1998 he was only 19 years old and living in a motor home on the Pickton farm. Mr. McLaughlin said the Pickton family took good care of him. Robert Pickton would give him money for groceries, would encourage him to curtail his drinking and on occasion take him to the grocery store.

Mr. McLaughlin told court during the 20th week of Mr. Pickton's first-degree murder trial that when he needed money, Mr. Pickton's brother Dave Pickton offered him work in a family demolition business. Mr. McLaughlin also did maintenance and security work on the farm. Occasionally money for rent would be deducted from his pay and he was not asked to pay rent regularly.

Court heard Mr. McLaughlin was shown photos by police of Vancouver's missing women shortly after Mr. Pickton's arrest in 2002. He told the court he had not seen any of them on the farm with Mr. Pickton, nor had he seen anything unusual on the farm during the time he lived there.

Mr. Pickton is accused of murdering two women who disappeared during the period of time that Mr. McLaughlin was living on the farm. The court has heard that Brenda Wolfe was last seen in February, 1999 and Georgina Papin was last seen in March, 1999.

The jury has previously heard that the motor home where Mr. McLaughlin lived, parked less than 100 metres away from the trailer in which Mr. Pickton lived, was likely the scene of a murder.

In 2002, police who were searching the farm for signs of Vancouver's missing women found blood splattered everywhere in the motor home - on the walls, the floor, the cabinets, even on a bathroom doorknob. One of the mattresses had deep red stains.

A DNA profile of Mona Wilson, one of the women that Mr. Pickton is accused of murdering, was found on one of the mattresses at the back of the motor home and more than 20 other places. Her partial remains were found in a bucket adjacent to the slaughterhouse.

Mr. McLaughlin testified that he stayed in the motor home for less than two years, moving out before New Year's of 2000. Ms. Wilson was last seen in December, 2001.

Mr. McLaughlin told the jury that he replaced two mattresses while he lived in the motor home. The mattresses had no red stains when he moved out, he said.

Mr. McLaughlin testified there were many times he was in the trailer in which Robert Pickton lived. The trailer was used as an office as well as Mr. Pickton's home. “I do not think it [the trailer] was ever locked,” Mr. McLaughlin told court.

Mr. McLaughlin said he did renovations in the trailer for Mr. Pickton and occasionally would use the shower, the phone or the washroom. He could walk in whenever he wanted, he said, adding that Mr. Pickton was “always social and enjoyed the company.”

Mr. McLaughlin also told the jury that he would show up unannounced at the slaughterhouse to socialize with Mr. Pickton and help out during the pig slaughtering.

Mr. Pickton worked hard and for long hours, he said. “He was a start-at-nine [in the morning] and finish-at-11 [in the evening] kind of guy,” Mr. McLaughlin said. Mr. Pickton would work in the family's demolition or soil business during the day and then do pig butchering in the evening.

Court also heard during the trial's 20th week, from a hotel clerk who spoke to Andrea Joesbury, a woman whom Mr. Pickton is accused of murdering. Speaking in broken English, Chi Singh Leung said Ms. Joesbury told him she was going to Coquitlam. He asked why she was going to the Vancouver suburb.

“No money, I have to go,” he recalled her saying.

Mr. Leung told the court he did not see Ms. Joesbury after their conversation.

Mr. Leung was the front-desk clerk at the Roosevelt Hotel, and Ms. Joesbury was living at the hotel at the time of the conversation. All his testimony, except for the account of the conversation with Ms. Joesbury, was in Fujian, a Mandarin dialect. A translator told the court in English what Mr. Leung had said.

Mr. Leung did not remember when the conversation took place. The season was winter, he said, but he could not identify the year. Later, he said Ms. Joesbury stayed in Room 201 in June, 2001, but added that in July someone else stayed there. The jury has previously heard that Ms. Joesbury was last seen in the Downtown Eastside in early June, 2001. Some of her remains were found on the Pickton farm.

The judge at the first-degree murder trial also had imposed a publication ban on any information that would identify a woman who told the court that week about her encounter with Mr. Pickton.

She identified herself in court before the jury and before those in the public gallery. Also, her name was included in the official notification of the ban posted outside the courtroom.

However, Mr. Justice James Williams of the B.C. Supreme Court prohibited the media from describing her or identifying her by name. The jury was not told why the publication ban was imposed.

It was the second time since the trial began on Jan. 22, 2007, that the court has agreed to impose a publication ban on the identity of a witness. The woman was the 93rd witness in the trial.

The jury heard that the woman went out to the Pickton property in Port Coquitlam, about 30 kilometres east of Vancouver, some time between August, 2001, and the end of the year. Mr. Pickton was arrested in February, 2002.

She told the court she engaged in sex for money to support her drug habit. Mr. Pickton brought her to his property from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Before they left downtown, Mr. Pickton gave her money that she used to buy heroin, she said.

She recalled she was taken into a trailer on the property where she saw bras, panties “and lots of stuff all over.” Mr. Pickton directed her to the bedroom at the back of the trailer. She recalled seeing many items that would typically belong to women , such as hairspray, makeup and clothes.

Before she went into the bedroom, Mr. Pickton told her that she did not have to do anything. He came into the bedroom, took off his clothes and crawled into the bed, she said. Her clothes were still on.

Mr. Pickton asked for a massage. She gave him one, dressed in her underwear. Nothing else happened, the woman told the court. “We did not do anything. I just gave him a massage.”

She recalled rolling over after massaging him and eventually falling asleep. Mr. Pickton took her back to the Downtown Eastside the following day, she said. He gave her $30 or $40, she recalled. She did not see him again.

She was taken aback when she saw news reports about Mr. Pickton's arrest a few months later.

“That's when I realized ... I was at that farm, at that place,” she said. She told police about her encounter.

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