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Last Updated: Saturday, 9 December 2006, 23:16 GMT
Canadian pig farmer denies murder
Artists sketch showing Robert Pickton (far right) in court
Judges banned pre-trial reports of evidence against Pickton (far right)
A pig farmer accused of being Canada's worst serial killer has pleaded not guilty to six charges of murder.

Robert Pickton, 56, is suspected of killing at least 26 Vancouver sex trade workers over a period of three decades from the late 1980s.

The court in New Westminster was also due to begin screening some 600 potential jurors on Saturday for the first of two multiple murder trials.

Mr Pickton, who was arrested in 2002, denies the charges.

He answered: "Not guilty, your honour," to each count of murder.

In a letter from prison published in a Vancouver newspaper in September he claimed he was a "fall guy" for the police's failure to capture the real killer.

Farm razed

The court has imposed a ban on the publication of details of the killings in advance of the trial, which begins with opening statements on 8 January.

Police searching for bodies in Mission, British Columbia
Investigators spent months combing the Vancouver farm
The decision to split the case against Mr Pickton was taken because a judge felt a single hearing involving all 26 murder charges would take too long.

Mr Pickton was arrested in 2002 when dozens of police swept onto his farm in the suburbs of Vancouver.

Police say his victims were female drug addicts and prostitutes who began disappearing from a poor Vancouver neighbourhood in the late 1980s.

He was initially charged with 27 killings but one was dropped by the court when the remains could not be identified.

The investigation proceeded at a very slow pace, but culminated with police razing Mr Pickton's farm at a cost of millions of dollars to sift through acres of soil after his arrest.

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