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Awaiting verdict takes toll on families

From Thursday's Globe and Mail

NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. — Rick Frey has thought and said a lot over the years about the loss of his daughter Marnie, who disappeared from the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver in 1997 and turned up dead on Robert Pickton's pig farm.

The Vancouver Island commercial fisherman has one of the highest public profiles among family members related to the six missing women Mr. Pickton is accused of killing and butchering.

But when he stands up to give a victim impact statement to the court, should Mr. Pickton be convicted on the multiple murder charges, Mr. Frey feels his voice will be muted.

"It won't be me," he said yesterday, as the jury deciding Mr. Pickton's fate went into a fifth full day of deliberations. "It will be a tame version of how I really feel."

Mr. Frey is frustrated that he has been told not to include in his statement some matters he feels strongly about.

He would particularly like to weigh in on the length of time that went by before a proper police investigation began into the dozens of prostitutes based in the Downtown Eastside who went missing during the 1990s.

"We reported Marnie missing, but it just wasn't treated seriously," Mr. Frey said.

He is also unhappy about the treatment family members have received from the province's victim services unit.

"I've been told not to criticize the system. But is all this just about Willie Pickton? It's about a lot more than that."

However muted his court statement may be, Mr. Frey said he still intends to make it. "I've got one ready all right. I tell you."

Prosecutor Mike Petrie has told family members that, if Mr. Pickton is found guilty, he will ask the court to permit them to make victim impact statements immediately after the verdict.

Meanwhile, the strain of waiting for the verdict is starting to take a toll on some family members.

In the courthouse lobby yesterday afternoon, the sisters of Georgina Papin, one of the six women Mr. Pickton is charged with murdering, had an emotional confrontation with a victim services worker at the courthouse security gate.

"If you really want to help, you can leave right now. We don't want you here," Cynthia Cardinal told the worker, fighting back tears.

Three sheriffs quickly moved in to separate her from the government employee.

In an interview before going outside to calm down, Ms. Cardinal said the three sisters feel they have been mistreated. Words were exchanged earlier in the day with a victim services worker and they expected an apology.

Ms. Cardinal soon returned to the courthouse lobby, her composure intact. The waiting continued.

With a report from Robert Matas

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