- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 26, 2002

PORT COQUITLAM, British Columbia A man charged with murdering two of 50 women who have disappeared from the Vancouver area over the past two decades was shocked by the accusation, his attorney said yesterday.

Robert William Pickton, 52, was not asked to enter a plea during the two-minute hearing yesterday, in which he was formally charged with murdering Sereena Abotsway and Mona Wilson.

Peter Ritchie, Mr. Pickton's attorney, said he expected his client to seek bail "in due course." The next court appearance was set for April 2.

"When a person gets arrested for something like this, they're completely shocked by it. That's a fair description" of Mr. Pickton's reaction, Mr. Ritchie said. The lawyer said he didn't know if authorities were preparing other charges, and asked reporters to leave the Pickton family alone.

Mr. Pickton was arrested Friday on first-degree murder charges, the first involving any of the women who began disappearing from the Vancouver area in 1983. Most of the women were drug addicts and prostitutes.

Police raided his farm 20 miles east of Vancouver on Feb. 5, but until Friday had refused to describe Mr. Pickton as a suspect, despite conducting an around-the-clock search of the property since the raid. [According to other reports, police said the evidence linking Robert Pickton to the two women included personal effects, identity papers and DNA.]

Mr. Pickton, a pig farmer who with a brother operated a nearby drinking club frequented by bikers and prostitutes, was charged with murdering Miss Abotsway between July and early February and Mrs. Wilson between December and early February.

After the hearing, Steve Ricks, who said he was Mona Wilson's common-law husband, told reporters he last saw her get into a car with two men on Nov. 23. Mr. Ricks said Mrs. Wilson was intoxicated.

"She didn't deserve this," he said, adding that he wanted to talk to Mr. Pickton. "I know they won't let me near him."

"Now I feel better, knowing she's at peace, hopefully," Mr. Ricks said of Mrs. Wilson. "She told me many times she'd like to die. She was sick of this hell all the hooking and drugs."

Mr. Ricks said the two slaying victims identified yesterday were acquainted.

Called "Willy" by many, Robert William Pickton and his younger brother, David, ran "Piggy's Palace" a place to party for those familiar with Vancouver's mean streets in an old building they owned near the pig farm.

Dave Pickton, through an attorney, has denied involvement in the disappearances. He told a Vancouver newspaper his brother often befriended prostitutes out of kindness.

Robert Pickton was charged in 1997 with attempted murder for purportedly stabbing a drug-addicted prostitute in his home, but the charges were dropped.

Rebecca Guno was the first of the 50 women to disappear in June 1983. The disappearances increased in frequency in 1997 and 1998, with nine women vanishing in each of those years.

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