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Week 24: Pickton demonstrated how he strangled prostitutes, witness says

Globe and Mail Update

NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. — Robert Pickton re-enacted how he strangled prostitutes after having sexual intercourse with them and recounted how he fed parts of their bodies to pigs on his farm during a conversation in 1999, a witness testified during the 24th week of the first-degree murder trial.

Andrew Bellwood, in some of the most graphic evidence since the trial started six months earlier, told the court he thought Mr. Pickton was acting as though he was in a play when he demonstrated how he murdered women that he had picked up from East Hastings Street in Vancouver.

Mr. Pickton kneeled on his bed, “proceeding to stroke hair of a woman on a head that wasn't there, reaching ahead and pretending to pull a hand behind someone's back,” Mr. Bellwood told court.

As Mr. Bellwood spoke, Mr. Pickton bent over a notepad on his lap, appearing to be listening but without looking at anyone. Jury members, some looking mesmerized by the account, closely scrutinized the face of the witness.

Mr. Bellwood, 37, told the court he was “a binge addict” in 1999 who could go for months without using drugs, but then would spend up to $5,000 on a three- or four-day crack cocaine binge.

However, in marked contrast to other drug addicts who have testified during the trial, Mr. Bellwood looked healthy, tanned and fit. He sat in the witness box with his head held high and his shoulders back, talking in a relaxed manner about his drug habit, his work and his six weeks on the Pickton farm, from early February of 1999 to March 14 of 1999.

He responded directly – without hesitation or equivocation – to questions from prosecutor Geoff Baragar. Mr. Bellwood told the court he had not taken any drugs on the day in March of 1999 when Mr. Pickton told him about killing women.

“Mr. Pickton kept saying, let's go get a prostitute, I'll give you a couple hundred bucks.” Mr. Bellwood told court he refused and it was then Mr. Pickton described what he did with the prostitutes.

Court heard Mr. Pickton reached underneath his mattress and pulled out a leather belt, a set of chrome handcuffs, which Mr. Bellwood thought looked like police handcuffs, and a piece of wire that looked to Mr. Bellwood like piano wire.

Mr. Pickton indicated with motions that he would have sexual intercourse with the prostitutes “doggy style,” Mr. Bellwood said. Later, Mr. Bellwood explained to the jury Mr. Pickton meant he would place the women on their stomachs and have intercourse from behind, with the woman facing the bed.

“It was pretty much, kind of like a play. Telling me he reaches for their hand, slides it behind their back and slowly puts on the handcuffs, stroking their hair, telling them everything is going to be okay, everything is all over now,” Mr. Bellwood said.

“From there, he got handcuffs on them. He would strangle them, either with the belt or the piece of wire.”

Mr. Bellwood recalled that Mr. Pickton said he would take the women to the barn, bleed them, gut them and hang them in the slaughterhouse. “He commented on how much they would bleed,” Mr. Bellwood said.

Mr. Pickton also remarked on how much of the carcass a pig will eat, Mr. Bellwood said. Whatever the pigs did not eat would end up in 45-gallon drums with waste from his pig-slaughtering business, he said. Mr. Bellwood recalled that Mr. Pickton said luring women to his farm would sometimes be a tough thing to do. “He would have to offer them some heroin or some cocaine, and kind of lure them in with their drug of choice. From there, normally [he would] have to offer a little bit more money,” he said. A bit of conning was required to try persuading the woman to come back, he said.

But during Mr. Bellwood's second day on the stand defence lawyer Adrian Brooks began to chip away at his credibility.

Mr. Brooks began the cross-examination with questions about Mr. Bellwood's long-time drug addiction, his criminal record and numerous incidents in which Mr. Brooks suggested Mr. Bellwood had lied.

Mr. Bellwood confirmed that he was on crack-cocaine binges while he stayed on the Pickton farm for six weeks, from early February until March 14, 1999. He told the court he was on a binge every week, each one lasting three or four days.

During his third day on the stand Mr. Bellwood told court he ate pork chops on the farm not long after Mr. Pickton said he killed prostitutes and fed their remains to his pigs.

Mr. Bellwood said he had meals a couple of times with Mr. Pickton. Once it was pork chops; another time it was bacon.

Sounding incredulous, Mr. Brooks, pressed Mr. Bellwood to explain how he could stomach the meat if he had heard Mr. Pickton's tale of butchery and murder.

“If he [Mr. Pickton] had this conversation with you, how on earth would you ever bring it to yourself to pick up a knife and fork, and look at a pork chop he put in front of you, sir?” Mr. Brooks asked.

“Mr. Pickton was a very nice fellow to me,” Mr. Bellwood replied, just as forcibly as Mr. Brooks had spoken. “Mr. Pickton lent me money, he knew I was going through troubled times.

“When Mr. Pickton described the story to me, I did not want to believe Mr. Pickton,” Mr. Bellwood added.

Mr. Brooks suggested he would never have gone near a pork chop on the Pickton farm if he had “even the slightest inkling of this conversation [about feeding remains to the pigs].”

“I disagree,” Mr. Bellwood replied.

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