NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. It is a question that has gone unanswered in the first-degree murder trial of Robert Pickton for the past three months. On what date did Lynn Ellingsen see a woman's body hanging on a meat hook in the slaughterhouse on the Pickton farm?
In some of the most horrific evidence heard during the trial, Ms. Ellingsen, a long-time drug addict, recounted details of the incident but said she could not remember the exact date.
She said the incident occurred some time in 1999. She insisted she did not have anything to do with Mr. Pickton after seeing the bloody body.
But during the trial's 28th week, defence witness Sandra Humeny identified two cheques to Ms. Ellingsen in 1999, signed by Mr. Pickton.
Ms. Humeny, a bookkeeper for a used-building-supplies business operated by the Pickton family, said a cheque of $350 from the company was dated June 7, 1999. A second cheque from the company for $150 was dated July 9, 1999.
Mr. Justice James Williams asked Ms. Humeny if she had first-hand knowledge about whether Ms. Ellingsen was employed by the company, why the cheques were issued, to whom they were given and who cashed them.
Ms. Humeny said she knew only what she was told and had no first-hand knowledge about the cheques.
Clarification of the timing could have some impact on the assessment of Ms. Ellingsen's credibility as a prosecution witness. In statements to police and at pretrial hearings, Ms. Ellingsen tied the timing of the slaughterhouse incident to a sobriety test given to Mr. Pickton on March 20, 1999.
She said police stopped their car for a sobriety test on an evening when they went downtown, picked up a prostitute and brought her back to Mr. Pickton's farm. She subsequently identified the prostitute as Georgina Papin, one of the six women that Mr. Pickton is accused of murdering.
But at trial, Ms. Ellingsen testified she was with Mr. Pickton in his vehicle on more than one occasion and the sobriety test may not have been on the same evening they picked up a prostitute.
Her testimony came after the jury heard that Ms. Papin was seen alive on March 21, 1999, the day after the sobriety test.
Later, the jury heard from ambulance crews, called as defence witnesses, who said they came to the Pickton property to help Ms. Ellingsen on March 29, 1999, and May 30, 1999.
The cheques, if accepted as authentic, would appear to indicate Ms. Ellingsen had contact with Mr. Pickton up to early July, 1999.
Earlier in the week, the jury also heard testimony indicating that drug paraphernalia and inhalers were brought out to the Pickton property in older vehicles bought from the Vancouver Police Department.
Auctioneer William Henke, the 23rd defence witness to be called, told the court during the 28th week of the trial, he bought batches of 15 to 35 abandoned vehicles from Vancouver police for scrap or parts and resold them. Some of the vehicles had items left behind by people who had lived in the derelict cars, he said. He saw clothing and drug paraphernalia inside some vehicles, he said.
On three or four occasions in the 1990s, Mr. Henke sold batches of these vehicles to Mr. Pickton, he told the court.
Tow truck driver Mike Woodley, another defence witness, told the court he took two vehicles for Mr. Pickton from the police's storage yard. He said he saw clothing, shoes, inhalers and deodorant in the station wagon. He did not remember if he saw syringes.
Mr. Woodley could not recall the date. However, after he was shown police notes from an interview with him in 2004, he recalled he towed the station wagon and a pickup truck for Mr. Pickton in July, 2001.
In responding to questioning by prosecutor Mike Petrie, he said he did not remember what year he towed the vehicles for Mr. Pickton. Mr. Petrie pressed him on whether he remembered inhalers in the station wagon. The jury has previously heard the inhalers of one of the women Mr. Pickton is accused of murdering, Sereena Abotsway, were found in his house trailer and in a garbage can outside the trailer.
Mr. Woodley said he did not remember what he saw but he stood by what he told police in 2004. “I did not just make stuff up,” he said.