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Wednesday, 2 October, 2002, 19:23 GMT 20:23 UK
More murder charges for Canada farmer
Canada murder case
Police have been searching Pickton's ramshackle farm
A Canadian pig farmer suspected of being a serial killer has been charged with the murders of four more women, bringing the total to 15.

Since February, police probing the cases of 63 missing women have been searching a farm owned by 52-year-old Robert William Pickton, 30 kilometres east of Vancouver.

Canada murder case
Pickton is to have a preliminary hearing next month

The women have all gone missing over the past 20 years from Vancouver's depressed Downtown Eastside district. All were drug addicts or prostitutes.

A 91-strong team of police and archaeology experts have been involved in a seven-month search of the four-hectare farm and another property owned by Mr Pickton.

Since their search began, police have been gradually adding to the number of charges against Mr Pickton, as they find DNA evidence on his farm.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reports that police were also given permission to put wiretaps on five of Mr Pickton's friends as part of their investigation.

Mr Pickton co-owns the pig farm with his brother and his sister, but is the only person charged so far. However, police have said in the past that there may be other suspects.

The accused and his brother operated a drinking club known as "Piggy's Palace" near the farm, which was a haunt of bikers and prostitutes.

Denial of involvement

In a filing for a parallel civil suit brought against him by a mother of one of the dead women, Mr Pickton declared that he was innocent of all charges.

He remains in prison, and a preliminary hearing is due to be held next month to decide if a trial can go ahead.

Because of the intense interest in the case, Canadian prosecutors are concerned that US media outlets along the border will report details of evidence presented at that hearing - which in Canada is routinely covered by a publication ban.

The CBC reports that prosecutors intend to ask the judge to try to limit US coverage of the case.

If convicted of the charges facing him, Mr Pickton would surpass Canada's most notorious serial killer, Clifford Olson, who was convicted of molesting and murdering 11 children in the 1980s.

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08 Feb 02 | Americas
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