Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Robert Pickton: The Vancouver Missing Women

The Victims

by Katherine Ramsland, Ph.D.

On May 10, after 78 witnesses had taken the stand, the jury learned how Brenda Wolfe, the mother of two, had asked for government assistance for food because she'd spent what little money she had to make a good Christmas for her kids. Reporter Greg Joyce described the 24-page booklet composed for the court about the victims and said that Pickton seemed to read this record along with the Crown's attorney, John Ahern. Known movements of each victim were mapped through pharmacy and medical records, police contacts and welfare requests. But it was dry data compared with what was to come.

Andrea Joesbury
Andrea Joesbury

Elaine Allen, employed at Women's Information Safe House (WISH) drop-in center, had known five of the six victims and told the jury what she knew about them: how Andrea spoke softly and Georgina Papin was charming and outspoken; how the opinionated Sereena was often beat up and showed numerous tracks from drug use, while Mona had a demanding boyfriend who sent her out to make money. Andrea, she said, had been the best behaved client she'd ever had, being both polite and aware of the needs of others. They often spoke quietly about her difficult life.

Georgina Pepin & Brenda Wolf
Georgina Pepin & Brenda Wolf

Others who had known these women before they disappeared also testified. One had run a focus group attended by women from the streets, and the jury learned that in some cases, the women worked as prostitutes to feed their children, because welfare payments were insufficient. Another witness was a friend of Georgina Papin, and she described how they had spent time baking and playing cards together, but then Georgina fell back into drug use and was soon gone. Then a former prostitute and drug dealer told about her friend, Brenda Wolfe, who vanished in the spring of 2000. Brenda had deteriorated to the point of not bathing or washing her clothes. Before she disappeared, she was a mess, having lost about 50 pounds.

But testimony about the victims was notably spare. Thus far, their family members have not been called. The next stage involved what Pickton might have done with the women after they died.

Jim Cress, a driver for a Vancouver rendering company, described how he had picked up two-to-five 45 gallon barrels of pork offal and burnt meat chunks from the Pickton farm, to take to West Coast Reduction. Before 2002, customers could dump stuff at the plant themselves, unsupervised, and Cress had seen Pickton there once. While this testimony is suggestive, given the statement Pickton made about victim disposal, it's not proof of anything sinister.

The trial continues.


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