The long awaited trial of an alleged serial killer has finally started in Vancouver, Canada. As Craig McCulloch reports for VOA from Vancouver, prosecutors are outlining grisly evidence in a trial that is expected to last one year.
The case against Robert William Pickton, a 57-year-old former pig farmer, is gruesome by any definition.
Arrested almost five years ago, Pickton is currently facing the first six of 26 charges of first-degree murder. All the alleged victims were women, described as drug addicted sex-trade workers from Vancouver's impoverished downtown eastside.
In his opening statement, Prosecutor Darril Prevett told the jury the skulls of two women were found inside buckets stored in freezers, and other body parts were found elsewhere on Pickton's farm.
The skulls were cut in half vertically and were discovered with portions of the women's hands and feet. The decomposed skull of another victim was found in a garbage can, while portions of the lower jaw of yet another victim was found buried in a barn.
DNA evidence, say prosecutors, ties Pickton to the victims. Several personal items belonging to the women were also found in Pickton's bedroom, office and other buildings on the property. Prosecutors allege most of the women's of the women's remains were cut up and thrown into a rendering plant with animal carcasses from Pickton's farm. No large bones or body parts were found on the property, where investigators and scientists literally turned over every piece of dirt.
The jury will hear over 22 hours of videotape, recorded during police interrogations of Pickton while he was initially in police custody in February 2002. In that footage, Pickton says he killed 49 women in total and wanted to kill one more to make an even 50.
Defense lawyer Peter Ritchie says he will vigorously defend Pickton, who he says did not kill any of the six women. The lawyer also asked the jury not to be overwhelmed by the shocking information they hear from the prosecution and to pay attention to the intellectual competence of his client in the videotaped testimony.
Pickton pleaded not guilty to the charges several months ago during other legal proceedings.
Prosecution spokesman Stan Lowe says his team is relieved that the trial is finally starting.
"It's hard to describe the mood inside the courtroom. From my perspective, having been in court many, many times, it is much different from those," he said. "I think there was a tremendous amount of anticipation in this case. I think there is a tremendous amount of relief from the prosecution end that matters are finally getting under way. There is a nervous energy amongst the prosecution team."
The trial has already become one of the most expensive and exhaustive in Canadian history. Although Lowe would not disclose the amount, the cost is widely believed to be in excess of $100 million, and rising.
Another trial on the remaining 20 charges is expected after the current trial ends.