A B.C. Supreme Court jury on Sunday found Robert William Pickton guilty on six counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of women whodisappeared from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
The seven men and five women on the jury returned to the court in New Westminster with their decision after nine full days of deliberations.
Pickton showed no emotion as the verdicts were read.
The 58-year-old pig farmer from Port Coquitlam, B.C., was arrested in 2002 and had been charged with first-degree murder in the six deaths.
He still faces murder chargesin connection with the deaths of 20 other women, but no decision has been made on whether to hold a second trial, B.C. Attorney General Wally Oppal said.
"Keep in mind here that he's already going to be sentenced to six life terms," Oppal told CBC News.
A spokesman for prosecutors handling the case saidCrown and defence lawyers will meet Jan. 17 toschedule a date fora possible second trial.
Picktonhad pleaded not guilty to all 26 charges.
The punishment for second-degree murder is life in prison, which means10 to 25years beforethe prisoner is eligible to apply forparole. The jury made no recommendation on parole eligibility, leaving it to the judge to decide on a period between 10 and 25 years, after victim impact statements are read in court on Tuesday.
The jury found Pickton:
- Guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Sereena Abotsway between July 18, 2001 and Feb. 5, 2002, near Port Coquitlam.
- Guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Mona Wilson between Dec. 1, 2001 and Feb. 5, 2002, near Port Coquitlam.
- Guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Andrea Joesbury between June 5, 2001, and Feb. 5, 2002, near Port Coquitlam.
- Guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Brenda Ann Wolfe between March 5, 1999, and Feb. 5, 2002, near Port Coquitlam.
- Guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Georgina Faith Papin between March 1, 1999, and Feb. 5, 2002, near Port Coquitlam.
- Guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Marnie Frey between Aug. 30, 1997, and Feb. 5, 2002, near Port Coquitlam.
The jury convicted Pickton of second-degree murder (commonly defined as unpremeditated murder) and acquitted him of first-degree murder, which automatically means at least 25 years in prison.
Under the Criminal Code of Canada, murder is first degree when it is planned and deliberate. It is also first degree when death is caused during the commission of certain other offences, including sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping and forcible confinement.
Because jury deliberations are secret, Canadians may never know exactly how the jury came to its decision.
The CBC's Chris Brown, reporting from Vancouver, said one possible explanation for the verdicts is that jurors felt that there may have been other people involved and that someone else may have planned the killings.
"What we can learn is that since they acquitted this man of first-degree murder, they weren't satisfied that the evidence showed that he planned and deliberated these murders," defence lawyer Peter Ritchie told reporters.
It was the defence's theory that Pickton knew about the bodies on his farm butdid not kill the women and did not put them there, Brown said.
The Crown had alleged Pickton lured women from the drug-infested Downtown Eastside to his farm and murdered them, butchered their corpses and disposed of their remains.
The jury began its deliberations Nov. 30 after sitting through 10 months of testimony and arguments and hearing from 128 witnesses.
During the deliberation period, jurors stayed in a motel and were unable to talk to friends or family. They were watched constantly by sheriff's officers to ensure they weren't exposed to media reports or anything else that could have influenced their decision.
Jurors had three options as they considered each of the six charges against Pickton. They could have found Pickton guilty of first-degree murder, guilty of a lesser charge (such as second-degree murder or manslaughter), or not guilty.
'Some burst into tears, others sighed'
As jurors read out the first "not guilty" on a charge of first-degree murder, there was a gasp and a loud scream in the courtroom, presumably from tense family members.
"Some burst into tears, others sighed," said Elaine Allan, who worked at a drop-in centre in the Downtown Eastside and knew five of the six victims.
"It was devastating, utterly devastating," she said of their reaction. "It was a very, very solemn moment."
When the judge asked for a verdict for the offence of second-degree murder and the jury answered "guilty," there were muffled cheers.
Afterward, families of the victims held a ceremony outside the courthousewhere a poem was read, a song was playedand candles were lit to remember the six women and the 20 others alleged to be Pickton'svictims.
Rick Frey, Marnie Frey's father, said of the verdict: "I guess you can class it as a good day, in that this guy'll never see the light of day."
Frey said heplans to deliver a victim impact statement, which hesaid will have tones of anger, considering that "we've been at this since 1997."
"It'll be emotional," he said.