PORT COQUITLAM, BRITISH COLUMBIA — Robert “Willie” Pickton was born on October 24, 1949. Not much is known of his early life. But when his mother died in 1979, he and his brother, David, inherited the family pig farm in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, outside of Vancouver, and he became a multimillionaire. He ran an unlicensed slaughterhouse on the property.
Neighbors described Pickton as quiet and a bit odd. The farm got to be run down, and eventually became a place where drug addicts would stay for extended periods of time.
In the 1990s, Pickton and his brother were known to throw wild parties on the farm. These affairs would feature prostitutes from Vancouver’s seedy Downtown Eastside neighborhood, plenty of drugs, and used to attract as many as 2,000 people. Little did the revelers know that they were partying their nights away on the killing grounds of the worst serial killer in Canadian history.
It is believed that Robert Pickton began his murder spree in 1983. The pig farmer would venture nearly 20 miles from his farm into Vancouver to prey on drug addicts and prostitutes. Pickton would pick up the unsuspecting victims, luring them with offers of drugs, and drive them back to his farm, where they would meet their demise on his isolated property. For years, the quiet Canadian pig farmer committed acts of horrendous violence and flew completely under the radar of police.
Pickton finally had a close call with police in 1997, when he stabbed a woman on his farm. He was charged with attempted murder, but the charges were later dropped when the woman was deemed unreliable because of her tumultuous past and addiction to drugs. Robert Pickton was now free to kill for another five years. It is not known how many women he killed during that span, but Pickton stuck to the M.O. that he had used for years — picking up desperate women from Vancouver’s red-light district and bringing them back to his rural slaughterhouse.
Pickton’s world began to crumble in February 2002. That month, an extensive search of the farm property began, which yielded enough evidence for authorities to finally arrest Robert Pickton. He was originally charged with only two murders, but by the time police were done with their investigation, Pickton was charged with 27 murders.
DNA matching over two dozen missing women was found on the Pickton farm, including body parts in freezers, DNA in ground-up meat, and various bones and teeth buried throughout the property. In order to find all that DNA forensic experts, including 102 anthropologists, spent two years sifting through mud and pig manure. There is strong evidence that meat that Pickton gave away and served at his parties was pig meat mixed with the human meat of his victims.
The major blow in the case against Pickton was his own fault. Shortly after his arrest, Pickton confessed in detail about his murder spree to an undercover officer posing as his cellmate while he was awaiting trial. Pickton told the man that he had killed 49 women, and he was disappointed in himself for his failure to reach 50 murders. Pickton’s undercover cellmate recorded the conversations on video.
Pickton told the man, “I made my own grave by being sloppy. Doesn’t that just kick you in the ass now?” Some of Pickton’s friends added fuel to the fire, and told police that he bragged about killing numerous women and feeding their bodies to the pigs on his farm to get rid of the evidence.
Many locals were outraged that it took police so many years to arrest Pickton, even though the cops had been receiving tips about him since 1971. They blamed the police for indifference about the victims, because they were known prostitutes and drug users — women whose lives had been taken over by the streets and the underbelly of city life.
Pickton was convicted of six murders and sentenced to life in prison in December 2007, even though authorities know the body count is much, much higher. In 2010, the 20 remaining murder charges against Pickton were officially stayed, meaning there would be no more trials.
Robert Pickton reappeared in the public spotlight again in 2016 when his autobiography, Pickton: In His Own Words was published. In the book, Pickton now maintains he is innocent of the string of murders, and says he was chosen as a convenient scapegoat by police. Pickton argued: “The [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] were desperately failing to do their job properly, while looking for someone to take the fall, which is truly evil.”
Today, 67-year-old Robert Pickton sits behind bars in a Canadian prison, and will surely never taste freedom again.
To learn more about this case, watch the “Chop Shop” episode of Investigation Discovery’s Evil, I on ID GO now!
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Main photo: Robert Pickton in still from confession video [screenshot]