British Columbia

Pickton gets maximum sentence for murders

Cheers and cries erupted in the courtroom when a B.C. Supreme Court judge sentenced Robert William Pickton to life in prison with no eligibility for parole for the maximum 25 years after his conviction on six second-degree murder charges.

Cheers and cries erupted in the courtroom when a B.C. Supreme Court judge sentenced Robert William Pickton to life in prison with no eligibility for parole for the maximum 25 years after his conviction on six second-degree murder charges.

Robert William Pickton, seen here in a court sketch made during his trial, heard on Tuesday how much time he must serve in prison before he can apply for parole. ((CBC))

Justice James Williams made the sentencing decision in a New Westminster court late Tuesday after hearing 18 victim impact statements, followed by arguments from the Crown and the defence on parole eligibility.

"Mr. Pickton's conduct was murderous and repeatedly so. I cannot know the details but I know this: What happened to them was senseless and despicable," said Williams, who read out the names of the six victims.

"Mr. Pickton, there is really nothing I can say to express the revulsion the community feels about these killings."

A person convicted of second-degree murder gets an automatic life sentence, but the judge sets the date of parole eligibility within the range of 10 to 25 years. A first-degree murder conviction gets an automatic life sentence with no parole for 25 years.

The judge said parole eligibility for most second-degree murder cases does not exceed 20 years, but this case is unique and warranted the maximum.

"The women who were murdered, each of them, were members of our community. They were women who had troubled lives. Each of them found themselves in positions of extreme vulnerability. They were persons who were in the ugly grasp of substance abuse and addictions, persons who were selling their bodies to strangers in order to survive," Williams said.

Pickton, 58, was found guilty on Sunday of killing Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson, Andrea Joesbury, Marnie Frey, Georgina Papin and Brenda Wolfe.

Pickton, a pig farmer from Port Coquitlam, B.C., will serve the six life sentences concurrently.

The Crown had asked for the maximum 25 years before Pickton would be eligible for parole, while the defence requested 15 to 20 years.

B.C.'s Attorney General Wally Oppal told CBC News on Sunday that regardless of the judge's decision, it is very unlikely that Pickton will ever convince a parole board to release him.

"It will be difficult to ever conclude that Mr. Pickton will ever see the light of day again," Oppal said.

Calls made for inquiry into police investigation

Rick Frey, whose daughter Marnie is one of the six women Pickton murdered, says it's a good day for his family now that Pickton must serve 25 years in jail. ((CBC))

Rick Frey's daughter Marnie is one of the six women Pickton was convicted of murdering.

He said he's glad that Pickton decided against making a statement to the court, taking the advice of his lawyers to keep quiet, because he didn't want to listen to anything the convicted killer had to say.

"When it was second-degree, you know, you kinda go down a bit," he said Tuesday. "Now that Justice Williams has imposed the maximum 25 years, ya know, it's good. It's a good day for us."

Some family members and social workers are calling for a public inquiry into the way police handled the missing women investigation.

They say too many reports of women going missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside were not investigated by police for too many years.

Stories of women disappearing from the area started emerging in the 1980s, and by the 1990s sex-trade workers insisted a serial killer was at work.

Police insisted the missing women were just missing, and there was no evidence of foul play, say family members.