‘I’m just a working guy’
THE PICKTON TRIAL DAY 2: Relaxed, laughing, slumped in a chair, B.C. farmer patiently answered police interviewer’s questions
ROBERT MATAS and JANE ARMSTRONG AND PETTI FONG
NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. — Robert Pickton appeared as if he had few worries in the world as police interrogated him after his arrest in 2002 on charges of first-degree murder in the deaths of two Vancouver prostitutes.
Slumped in a chair shoved into the corner of a tiny police interview room at the RCMP police station in Surrey, Mr. Pickton responds to questions politely and with patience, speaking slowly in a soft mumble and sounding relaxed.
“I’m just a pig man; that’s all I got to say,” Mr. Pickton tells RCMP officer Bill Fordy of the Missing Women Task Force. He laughs and shakes his head as he is told that police, in addition to the murder charges against him, are also investigating the disappearance of about 50 women.
“Wow,” he says, dismissing accusations against him as “hogwash.” He cannot say much, because he doesn’t know anything. “It could be a set-up,” he suggests. “There is nothing to say. I don’t know anything.”
He says he’s just a plain working guy. “That’s all I am and now I got all those charges,” casting his eyes downward to the floor. “It’s a little far-fetched, isn’t it?”
The conversation appears in the first portion of a videotape of police interrogating Mr. Pickton after he was charged. The tape was shown yesterday, on the second day of the first-degree murder trial.
Throughout the opening hours of the interview, Mr. Pickton responds to police questions without hostility or aggression.
He appears comfortable with long silences. He shows no emotion.
During the early stages of the interview, Mr. Pickton comes across as what he says he is: a farmer with limited education. He speaks mostly in broken phrases and bad grammar. But he appears to enjoy telling the police officer stories from his life.
Mr. Pickton wears dirty-looking street clothes, slacks, a T-shirt and a hoodie sweatshirt. Two sad-looking plants are tucked next to his chair in the interview room. Staff-Sergeant Bill Fordy, who was a sergeant at that time, sits a few metres away, at the edge of a small table.
For most of the time, Mr. Pickton sits with his hands resting on his chest, his legs stretched out and crossed at the ankles. He yawns repeatedly throughout the early hours of the interview, as if he can barely stay awake.
Mr. Pickton had been charged earlier that day — Feb. 23, 2002 — with the murder of two missing prostitutes from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Police at that point had not found any human remains on Mr. Pickton’s property.
Over the next months, the police would find evidence leading to charges of murdering 26 more women. But on this Saturday morning, police know only about evidence related to the murder of two missing women, Sereena Abotsway and Mona Wilson.
Almost three hours after the interview begins, Inspector Fordy plunks a poster in front of Mr. Pickton. It shows the faces of 48 women who have vanished from Vancouver’s streets. “Have any of these women been to your place?” Inspector Fordy asks.
Mr. Pickton replies that he can’t keep track of all the women who come and go from his house. He tells his interrogator that he’s good with numbers but bad with faces.
“I do not remember faces,” he says. “Which ones am I supposed to [be] charged for, for murder, if you don’t mind me asking?” The officer says he doesn’t mind at all and points to one of the women. Mr. Pickton asks: “That one? Who the hell is she?”
He is told other witnesses say some of the women were at his place. “No way,” says Mr. Pickton. “I don’t know any of these women.”
“Have you even had sex with any of those girls?” the police officer continues. “Not that I’m aware of,” Mr. Pickton says.
The officer then points to each face on the poster, one by one, and asks Mr. Pickton if he knows any, or brought them to his house.
Mr. Pickton says “No” to each woman. From time to time, he remarks on how pretty some of them are.
Inspector Fordy turns the subject to sex with prostitutes and asks about Mr. Pickton’s first experience with “a working girl.”
Mr. Pickton says it was with a woman who stabbed him in 1997.
Earlier, the police officer describes the extensive police investigation that had been launched on the Pickton farm. Mr. Pickton asks what they are looking for. He is told they are looking for any evidence clarifying his involvement. As Inspector Fordy continues to talk about the investigation, Mr. Pickton yawns and asks, “What’s that got to do with me?”
He recounts stories about his life as if he were sitting with friends over coffee.
When asked about the worst thing that ever happened to him, he talks about a stabbing incident in 1997, even though he had just been charged with two murders. Later, he says the worst thing to happen to him was when he was mauled by two wild boars.
The following is a partial transcript from a videotaped Feb. 23, 2002, interview between RCMP Sergeant Bill Fordy and Robert William Pickton. A portion of the 11-hour tape was played to the jury in Mr. Pickton’s trial yesterday. Sgt. Fordy talks about Mr. Pickton’s arrest.
Fordy: Yeah okay. In addition to those two murders ah, Rob, the police are also investigating obviously the disappearance of, you know, approximately 50 ah, workers?
Fordy: . . . in
Pickton: Oh well.
Fordy: . . . from the Downtown Eastside. Okay now, I see you’re laughing there. Let me clarify something, okay?
Fordy: You haven’t been charged with those 50 murders.
Pickton: (Laughing) I think, I don’t think so.
Fordy: All right.
Fordy: All right and that you’re being investigated for ah, upwards of 50 other disappearances and/or murders. Right?
Pickton: Um, hum.
Fordy: Okay in your own words Rob, can you explain to me what that means to you?
Pickton: What that means, what, what it means to me?
Fordy: Hogwash. Okay. Tell me more.
Pickton: That’s all I can really say, I can’t tell you much, like I don’t know nothing about this. It could be set up.
Fordy: Okay. Let me ask you something, Rob. Why do you think I’m here to talk to you this morning?
Pickton: Well, you just said that you want to ask me a few questions. ‘Cause you want to get, you want to see but I, I don’t know what to say. I don’t . . . I’m . . . I’m mind baffling and I’m just a working guy. Just a plain working guy, that’s all I am.
Later in the transcript, regarding a stabbing:
Pickton: It’s all black and white. I’m a bad dude, it’s the name of the game I guess.
Fordy: um, hum.
Pickton: And they nail you to the cross if you can. I mean, when you pay, when you . . . push against the wall as far as you can go. Until the wall moves back, you move back with the wall.
Later in the transcript:
Pickton: Life goes around and around.
Fordy: Yeah. Now you said to me the worst thing that ever happened to you was getting stabbed.
Pickton: Yeah. That wasn’t the worse thing.
Fordy: What was the worse thing?
Pickton: Tore apart by pigs.
Fordy: Tell me about that.