NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. As Christmas nears and the seemingly interminable waiting for a verdict in the grim Robert Pickton trial goes on, hearts are being touched.
Friday morning, a mystery Christmas tree appeared on the plaza outside the courthouse where Pickton jurors have been deliberating for more than a week.
The lighted tree had 26 white angels hanging on its small green branches, one for each of the missing women from the hard-scrabble Downtown Eastside of Vancouver whom Mr. Pickton is accused, in two separate indictments, of murdering.
The anonymous gesture buoyed the spirits of the dwindling number of friends and family of the missing women still camped out in the cheerless courthouse corridors, tensely awaiting the jury's decision.
“It's very spiritual, very uplifting for all of us,” said Lilliane Beaudoin, sister of victim Dianne Rock. “The waiting is starting to get to us. Our emotions are really going up and down, so this tree is really wonderful.
“Someone thought enough of us to do this. It's like an angel was looking out for us.”
Meanwhile, not far away, family members were presented with bouquets of purple tulips by staff at the Heritage Grill as they finished their lunch at the downtown restaurant.
Asked why they gave the women flowers, grill owner Paul Minhas replied: “Give me one good reason why not?”
He said the women have been coming there all week. “We've heard their stories and what they're going through. I don't think any of us can really understand what it's like for them.”
The day before, the women had given the restaurant a special angel to adorn its Christmas tree.
“They've been wonderful, very caring to us,” said Judy Trimble, clutching her tulips. “So we gave them a little trinket of our own. It's an angel, because our girls are up there. And they're angels.”
Ms. Trimble is the mother of victim Cara Ellis.
Dianne Rock and Cara Ellis are among the 20 victims scheduled to be the focus of a second murder trial for Mr. Pickton, a 58-year-old suburban pig farmer.
In the current proceedings, he is facing six counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of six other missing women.
The 26 victims were all sex-trade workers with serious drug problems.
As for the courthouse Christmas tree, quickly labelled “a Charlie Brown tree” by one of the family members, no one knew how or when it arrived.
Marilyn Kraft, mother of Cynthia Feliks, another of the women named on the 20-count indictment, said that whoever delivered the tree was an angel. “It's really lifted our spirits.”
She told reporters that she chose one of the 26 angels on the lighted tree as her daughter. “I picked one out, and she said: ‘This one's me, mom.'”