Robert Pickton's Farm of Horror
For those who knew him, Robert William Pickton was considered just a simple pig farmer in Vancouver, B.C. However, he was to become the subject of Canada's largest crime scene investigation in history. Pickton's grisly tale began in the late 1970s and ended with a list of about 66 names of missing women…Pickton was responsible for at least 49.
Pickton generally went by the nickname of “Willie.” He was born in October of 1949 on a small farm near New Westminster, British Columbia. Their farm was located close to the grounds of an institution for the criminally insane where he and his two siblings frequently went to play. Whether that coincidence had anything to do with Willie’s later deranged state has never been determined. His father raised hogs for a living and Willie grew up to do the same. The family eventually moved their farming operation close to Vancouver.
Researchers delving into Pickton’s early life found he was basically lazy and had extremely poor hygiene habits. Most people avoided him as he always smelled of pig manure. He wasn’t known as a particularly bright student and frequently skipped school to work on the farm.
After his parents passed away in the late 70s, the Pickton kids sold parts of their property to land developers who built condominiums and strip malls. They made a tidy profit. With their new found wealth Willie, along with his sister and brother, turned a plant nursery into what they called the "Piggy's Palace Goodtime Society."
They cloaked their enterprise as a nonprofit organization raising funds for needy causes, but in reality it was nothing more than a den of inequity where wild parties, orgies and drug use proliferated. Attendance was said to number over 1500 guests at times. But, eventually the government got wind of what was going on and their nonprofit status was pulled. The Piggy Palace was shut down and Willie’s siblings went their own way.
Willie began hanging around Vancouver’s seedier downtown Eastside picking up prostitutes and taking them to his farm. Oddly enough women began disappearing in the area about the same time. Between January and December 1997, at least 14 women were reported missing. But police paid little notice as those missing were mostly known prostitutes who frequently changed locations. Besides, no dead bodies were showing up.
No one suspected what was really going on. Pickton had been taking women to his pig farm where he unmercifully tortured them. When he tired of the sport they were strung up, butchered and then fed to his hogs. Little did consumers who bought pork products from him realize what they were buying.
Not only did he sell pork, but also made money off the offal, (hog carcasses, entrails and other left over wastes) by selling them to a rendering plant nearby to where many prostitutes conducted their business. These eventually ended up in such things as perfume, shampoo, cosmetics and household items.
During his frequent trips to the rendering plant many of the working girls became familiar with Willie. He became known on the street as a “bad date.” A “bad date” was a John known to have become violent at times. However, the drug addicted girls would willfully get into his truck regardless of his foul smell and reputation, because they knew he would give them money and drugs. Surprisingly, it took a long time for the girl’s contemporaries to realize many never returned after going off with Pickton.
In March 1999, one of Pickton's few friends, 29 year old Lynn Ellingsen, was staying at the farm while recuperating from an abusive relationship. In later testimony she was to tell a horrifying account. Ellingsen said one night Pickton picked up Georgina Papin, a prostitute, on their way home. When they got to the farm Pickton and Papin went to one room, and she to another. Ellingsen eventually fell asleep.
Later, Ellingsen was awakened by a loud noise. She got up, went to look out the window and saw a light on in the building where Pickton slaughtered his pigs. Curious as to why Willie would be working at such a late hour she went to investigate. When she opened the barn door a crack to peek in Pickton suddenly yanked her inside. He was covered head to toe in blood and Georgina was hanging from a meat hook. Her body had been skinned and her hair was on a table.
Pickton threatened to do the same to her if she told anyone about what she had seen. Scared out of her wits she solemnly promised never to tell. Pickton then sent her on an errand to buy more drugs. After what she had just seen Ellingsen gratefully took the opportunity to leave. Instead of returning to the farm she moved in with another friend. Terrified of what might happen if she told what she knew she kept her silence for nearly three years.
Meanwhile, Police had been growing suspicious of Pickton's activities and he was arrested on an unrelated illegal weapons charge in February 2002. After making bail he returned to the farm, where officers were waiting to present him with a search warrant. During the initial search police found prescription inhalers bearing the name of a woman who had been missing for quite some time. During the following 20 months investigators would become numb from the sheer number of atrocities they found to have been committed on the farm. In addition to numerous items of women's clothing and accessories, human blood, skulls, jawbones, teeth and human heads sawn in half were also found.
In December 2007, after a trial lasting nearly a year, Robert Pickton was sentenced to six concurrent life sentences with no possibility of parole for 25 years.
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