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Serial Killer Robert Pickton Dies After Spear To The Head: A Timeline Of Events

Notorious Canadian Killer Linked to Dozens of Murders Passes Away

Convicted B.C. serial killer Robert Pickton has died in hospital on Friday after an assault by another inmate on May 19, 2024. Pickton and the inmate were located in Québec’s maximum security Port-Cartier Institution. Pickton died at 74 years of age.

robert pickton

In 2007, Pickton was convicted of murdering six women: Sereena Abotsway, Marnie Frey, Andrea Joesbury, Georgina Papin, Mona Wilson, and Brenda Ann Wolfe. But he had been charged with the murder of 26 women and bragged in jail about killing 49. The investigation estimated around 200,000 DNA samples were taken, costing nearly $70 million. These samples linked Pickton to the DNA of 33 missing women.

Pickton’s death has brought a sense of closure to some families. Cynthia Cardinal, the sister of Georgina Papin, expressed that Pickton’s death allows her to move on and heal. However, others call for further investigation by BC authorities to determine if more victims are yet to be identified among Pickton's known cases.

Below is summary as well as a timeline of events leading to his death.

robert pickton's victims

Some of the women who went missing from the Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Robert Pickton was convicted of killing 6 of them but claimed to undercover police he killed 48

An Overview of Robert Pickton's Crimes

Discovery at the Pig Farm

The investigation into Pickton began with a tip about illegal firearms at his pig farm in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia. However, when police raided the property, they found much more than they expected. The farm contained women’s clothing and jewelry, an asthma inhaler belonging to a missing woman, and traces of blood from another victim. This shocking discovery turned the farm into the largest crime scene in Canadian history.

Investigation and Arrest

The initial search in early 2002 led to a nearly two-year investigation involving 102 anthropologists who sifted through 370,000 cubic yards of mud and pig manure to find evidence of missing women. During this time, police found teeth, purses, identification cards, a blood-soaked mattress, and even bags of ground human remains. Skulls with hands and feet in buckets were discovered in freezers, pointing to the horrific extent of Pickton's crimes.

Pickton's Background and Crimes

For over two decades, Pickton operated a slaughterhouse on his property, hosting parties attended by many of his victims, who were predominantly sex workers. Many of these women were Indigenous, and their families criticized the police for not taking their disappearances seriously.

During his trial, according to NBC news, prosecution witness Andrew Bellwood related that Pickton claimed he strangled his victims and fed their remains to his pigs. It's said that health officials once issued a tainted meat advisory to Pickton's neighbors who might have bought pork from his farm, as they suspected the meat might have contained human remains.

Pickton was arrested on February 22, 2002, as the investigation unfolded, revealing more evidence linking him to the murders.

robert pickton's pig farm

Timeline Of Events

A timeline of events leading to Robert Pickton's conviction and death.

  • February 14, 1991: The first annual Women’s Day Memorial March is held to demand police action on the disappearances of women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

  • 1995: A notable increase in the number of missing women is observed.

  • 1998: Another surge in disappearances prompts Vancouver police to review missing women cases dating back to 1971. They state there is no evidence of a serial killer.

  • April 1999: The Vancouver Police Board offers a $100,000 reward for information about the missing women.

  • 2000: Vancouver police reduce the scale of their investigation into the disappearances.

  • 2001: Another spike in the number of missing women occurs.

  • February 5, 2002: The RCMP searches Robert Pickton's property in Port Coquitlam for firearms, finding personal items linked to some of the missing women.

  • February 6, 2002: A joint task force of Vancouver police and the RCMP seals off the property and begins a thorough search for evidence.

  • February 7, 2002: Robert (Willy) Pickton is charged with a weapons offense.

  • February 22, 2002: Pickton is charged with two counts of first-degree murder. Over the following years, additional charges are filed.

  • June 6, 2002: Police employ heavy equipment and archaeologists to assist in excavating Pickton’s properties.

  • January 13, 2003: A preliminary hearing begins to assess if there is sufficient evidence to proceed to trial.

  • July 23, 2003: The preliminary hearing concludes, and the case is sent to trial.

  • November 2003: The extensive 21-month excavation of Pickton’s farm concludes.

  • March 10, 2004: B.C.’s health officer announces the possibility that human remains were mixed with hamburger meat processed at Pickton's farm.

  • October 6, 2004: A revised list of missing women from the Downtown Eastside now includes 69 names.

  • May 25, 2005: Additional charges are brought against Pickton, now totaling the first-degree murder of 27 women.

  • January 30, 2006: Pickton’s trial is set to begin in New Westminster. A women’s memorial march is planned outside the courthouse.

  • January 22, 2007: Pickton’s trial begins, involving 129 witnesses and generating 1.3 million pages of documents.

  • December 9, 2007: The jury finds Pickton guilty of six counts of second-degree murder.

  • December 11, 2007: Pickton is sentenced to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole for 25 years. He appeals the conviction.

  • June 25, 2009: The B.C. Court of Appeal rejects Pickton’s appeal.

  • July 30, 2010: The Supreme Court of Canada upholds Pickton’s conviction.

  • August 4, 2010: The B.C. Supreme Court stays the remaining 20 first-degree murder charges against Pickton, with Crown prosecutor Melissa Gillepsie stating additional convictions would not increase his maximum sentence.

  • 2010 to 2018: Pickton is held in the maximum-security Kent Institution, 120 kms east of Vancouver.

  • December 17, 2012: A public inquiry into Pickton’s case finds that "blatant" police failures, driven by systemic bias against the poor and vulnerable women of the Downtown Eastside, allowed Pickton to avoid arrest for years.

  • March 17, 2014: The children of Pickton’s victims settle a lawsuit with three levels of government and the RCMP over the flawed investigation into their mothers’ murders.

  • February 2016: A book written by Pickton while in prison is pulled from production following public outcry.

  • June 2018: Pickton is transferred to a maximum-security prison in Quebec.

  • May 21, 2024: Pickton is attacked by another inmate in prison.

  • May 31, 2024: Robert Pickton succumbs to his injuries and dies.

Related reading:

Premier’s & Minister’s Statements on the Death of Robert Pickton

Premier David Eby has issued the following statement on the death of Robert Pickton:

“My first thought goes to the families of the victims. For some, the death of this notorious serial killer may bring closure and for others it will reopen old wounds. It is a difficult day for anyone who lost someone they loved because of his cruelty and heinous crimes.

“Robert Pickton preyed on the most vulnerable people in our society. These women were cast aside as less than equal, and less than worthy because of who they were. We are committed to recognizing the dignity of every person to avoid something like this happening ever again.

“Good riddance.”

Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, and MLA for Port Coquitlam, said:

“While we have seen the end of a heinous life, we know that for the families of Pickton’s victims, this news has reopened old wounds and brought back painful feelings and memories.

“That pain is still being felt today for the families of the victims, and our entire community. I want to assure those affected by his horrific crimes that we are here to offer support. We understand that, for some, this news may bring a sense of closure, but also uncertainty about what happens next.

“We will continue to do everything we can to support the families of the victims in finding answers and justice for those they have lost.”

Final Thoughts: Serial Killer Robert Pickton Dies

Correctional Service Canada acknowledged the devastating impact of Pickton’s crimes on communities across British Columbia and Canada, including Indigenous peoples and the victims' families. Despite his death, the legacy of his crimes continues to haunt those affected.

Robert Pickton had been eligible to apply for partial parole this year, after serving his life sentence since 2007. His passing marks the end of a dark chapter in Canadian criminal history.


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