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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 December 2007, 14:58 GMT
Emotions high at Pickton sentencing
By Ian Gunn
BBC News, Vancouver

Relatives of victims of Robert Pickton
Statements from 18 relatives were read out before sentencing
The family members of six women killed by a Canadian pig farmer cheered in court as the judge delivered the maximum sentence allowed under Canadian law.

Robert Pickton, 58, will spend a minimum of 25 years in prison after being found guilty of second-degree murder.

Body parts of the victims were found on Pickton's farm outside Vancouver when police raided it in 2002.

Murder verdicts carry an automatic life prison sentence in Canada, but a person convicted of second-degree murder can be eligible for parole after serving 10 years of the sentence.

Pickton was convicted of the lesser charge after the jury could not decide if the killings were pre-meditated, but unusually the judge upheld the prosecutors' request for him to serve the full 25 years.

There is nothing I can say to express the revulsion the community feels
Judge James Williams

Mr Justice James Williams clearly felt that this case required an exceptional sentence.

"There is nothing I can say to express the revulsion the community feels at these killings," Mr Williams told Pickton as he delivered the sentence.

The number and brutality of the murders put this case into a category of its own, he said.

Intense emotion

Family and friends of the victims were overjoyed with the sentence, cheering in court as it was announced. Outside the courtroom, they hugged prosecution lawyers and each other.

It came in stark contrast to the intense grief and sorrow that filled the court earlier in the day as it heard impact statements from the families of the victims.

Lead prosecutor Mike Petrie read many of the statements, at times struggling to control his emotions.

File image of a courtroom drawing of Robert Pickton
Pickton did not visibly react when addressed by the families

"I'll never know what she endured in dying. Nobody should meet death the way she did," Mr Petrie read from a statement written by Jay Draayers.

The head, feet and hands of Mr Draayers' foster sister, Sereena Abotsway, were found in a freezer on Pickton's farm.

Some victims' family members read their own statements, frequently dissolving into tears.

"I feel angry most when I hear these women were just drug users and prostitutes," Bonnie Fowler, younger sister of victim Georgina Papin, told the court.

"I didn't know Georgina that way and refuse to think of her that way. My heart goes out to all the families of these mothers, daughters, aunts and sisters. I cannot believe this has happened for so long to so many people," she said.

Family members, lawyers and journalists in the court fought back tears as the statements were read.

Robert Pickton showed almost no reaction, even while some of the writers addressed him directly.

"Why did you hurt my mother and those other women? Why did you do that? What did they do to you?" demanded Brittney Frey, the teenage daughter of victim Marnie Frey, in a statement read in court by her foster mother.

Second trial questioned

Pickton faces another 20 counts of first-degree murder and prosecutors have said they intend to hold a second trial to hear those cases.

However, since Pickton's conviction on Sunday, senior officials, including the Attorney-General of British Columbia, Wally Oppal, have suggested that a second trial may not be worthwhile.

Police searching for bodies in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia
Pickton cut up his victims to dispose of their bodies

The chances of Pickton being granted parole after 25 years in prison are seen by most legal observers as remote.

The 58-year-old will almost certainly spend the rest of this life in prison, Mr Oppal argues, without the families, lawyers and a jury being required to tackle a second lengthy trial.

However, some of the relatives of the women whose murders fall into the 20 remaining charges say their cases should not be abandoned.

Prosecutors say they are still deciding on how to proceed.

They will also be watching Pickton's lawyers, who are thought likely to appeal against the six first convictions in the coming days.

Families pained by Canada verdict
10 Dec 07 |  Americas
Canada farmer is guilty of murder
09 Dec 07 |  Americas
Vancouver's vanished women
09 Dec 07 |  Americas
Canadian pig farmer denies murder
09 Dec 06 |  Americas
Two trials for Canada pig farmer
09 Sep 06 |  Americas

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