VANCOUVER—Serial killer Robert Pickton appeared in court by video Tuesday for a civil case involving the families of several of his victims.
It’s one of the first times anyone from outside the prison system has seen the notorious murderer in the years since his conviction.
Pickton—bald and wearing a white shirt as he sat in a room at Kent Institution, a maximum security southeast of Vancouver—was polite as he listened to a B.C. Supreme Court judge and the lawyer for nine families explain the proceedings.
The families want the findings of a public inquiry to be binding on the City of Vancouver and the B.C. government, which are representing the Vancouver police and the RCMP, respectively, and they also want the governments to pay their legal bills in advance of the case.
Pickton was asked whether he wanted to be involved in this stage of the hearings, since the outcome of the families’ applications wouldn’t directly affect him.
“Do you wish to attend by video conference the hearing of these applications?” asked Judge Susan Griffin.
“It doesn’t make that much difference,” Pickton replied in a raspy voice. “I’ll leave it up to you. I’ll leave it to your discretion.”
“I’m going to say that you should attend, just so you are informed of what’s going on,” replied Griffin.
Griffin adjourned the hearing until Wednesday, when Pickton will watch submissions from the families’ lawyer, the city, the province, a lawyer representing several police officers, and a lawyer representing Pickton’s brother, David.
Pickton will be permitted to address the court if he has anything to add, Griffin told him.
Pickton said little else during the brief hearing. He greeted the judge by saying “good morning” as the hearing started, and he occasionally said “thank you” as the case was explained to him.
The children of nine women filed separate lawsuits last year.
Commissioner Wally Oppal, a retired judge and one-time provincial cabinet minister, issued his final report on the public inquiry into missing women in December 2012.
The report chronicled the various police investigations connected to the Pickton case and identified years of critical mistakes, poor police leadership and “systemic bias” that allowed Pickton to remain at large.
The governments have opposed the families’ application to bring in Oppal’s report, arguing a public inquiry is not the same thing as a criminal or civil trial, and therefore the inquiry’s conclusions can’t be used in court.
The government’s also oppose the families’ application to have their legal bills paid for in advance.
The families’ statements of claim, which contain unproven allegations, target Pickton for the women’s death, and seven of the lawsuits also name Pickton’s brother, David, who the families allege helped Pickton cover up an attack on a sex worker in 1997.
The lawsuits allege the Vancouver police, the RCMP and several individual officers botched their investigations into missing women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and into Pickton as a possible suspect in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
They also allege the B.C. Criminal Justice Branch was negligent when prosecutors declined to put Pickton on trial for attempting to kill a sex worker in 1997.
All of the defendants, including Robert Pickton, have filed statements of defence denying the allegations against them.
The remains or DNA of 33 women were found on Pickton’s property in Port Coquitlam.
He was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder and is serving a life sentence, with no parole for at least 25 years.