British Columbia

Robert Pickton denies killing women in civil suit defence

Serial killer Robert "Willie" Pickton continues to deny responsibility for the years he spent hunting sex workers in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, filing statements of defence in a series of lawsuits against him.

Serial killer convicted in 2007 of 6 counts of second-degree murder is serving a life sentence

Serial killer Robert Pickton was convicted on six counts of second-degree murder, but is suspected of killing dozens of women who went missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. (Vancouver Police Dept)

Serial killer Robert Pickton continues to deny responsibility for the years he spent hunting sex workers in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, filing statements of defence in a series of lawsuits against him.

The families of several women whose DNA or remains were found on Pickton's farm launched lawsuits earlier this year targeting Pickton, his brother David, and various levels of government.

Pickton, who was convicted in 2007 of six counts of second-degree murder and is believed to be responsible for deaths of dozens more, filed statements of defence from Kent Institution, the maximum-security prison near Agassiz, B.C., where he is serving a life sentence.

The documents don't offer any details, but instead use a standard court template to deny liability.

"None of the facts in Part 1 of the notice of civil claim are admitted," says one of the statements of defence, dated Nov. 29 and officially filed with the court this week.

"The defendant opposes the granting of the relief sought in all paragraphs of Part 2 of the notice of civil claim."

Each statement of defence is punctuated by Pickton's signature, with "Robert — William — Pickton" written in cursive and separated with hyphens.

The lawsuits were filed by the children of nine women whose remains or DNA were found on Pickton's property after the serial killer's arrest in February 2002.

Claimed others were responsible

Since his conviction, Pickton has repeatedly denied responsibility for killing Downtown Eastside sex workers, offering vague, rambling denials and suggesting someone else was to blame.

After Robert Pickton was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison, he made statements to various media outlets claiming that others committed the crimes. (Canadian Press)

In August 2010, shortly after the Supreme Court of Canada denied the final appeal of his murder convictions, Pickton spoke to a CTV reporter from jail and claimed others were responsible.

He made similar claims in a series of letters to The Canadian Press in 2012.

In each instance, Pickton includes cryptic claims that there is more to the story, but he never takes the opportunity to fill in the blanks.

Likewise, he did not use his statement of defence to offer any explanation beyond yet another denial.

A senior officer from Ontario's Peel Regional Police visited Pickton at Kent in 2011 as she prepared a report for a public inquiry into the case. Deputy Chief Jennifer Evans told the inquiry that Pickton maintained his innocence, but she didn't reveal anything else about their conversation.

A lawyer for the inquiry said he was considering calling Pickton as a witness, but concluded the killer's denials would add nothing to the hearings.

Families seeking damages

Jason Gratl, the lawyer representing the families, said he wants the court to force Pickton to turn over his assets — namely, property he still owns — to the victims' families.

Gratl said he's prepared to call Pickton as a witness if the case proceeds to trial. Currently, Pickton is not represented by a lawyer.

"If the government settles, we'll carry on against Pickton," said Gratl.

"We'll get damages from him. We're trying to transfer all of his assets our clients."

Gratl has argued the lawsuits wouldn't have been necessary if the governments responsible for the police forces were prepared to seriously talk about financial settlements. The City of Vancouver is acting on behalf of Vancouver police, while the B.C. government and the federal government are acting on behalf of RCMP.

The lawsuits allege police failed Downtown Eastside sex workers and contributed to the women's deaths by botching the investigations into Pickton.

The Vancouver police and the RCMP, which have each offered public apologies for failing to catch Pickton, filed statements of defence in October, arguing the forces acted reasonably when they received reports of missing sex workers.

While Pickton was convicted of killing six women, the remains or DNA of 33 women were found on his property in Port Coquitlam, east of Vancouver.

He once boasted to an undercover police officer that he killed 49 women.