True Crime Chronicles: The pig farmer

Pooja Singamsetty, Staff Reporter

WARNING: This story contains graphic details depicting the crimes of Robert William Pickton. 

*TW: Mention of murder, rape, misogyny*

Robert William Pickton, born on October 24, 1949, is a notorious Canadian serial killer known for his gruesome string of killings that occurred from 1978 to 2001; in this time at least 65 women in Vancouver went missing in  downtown eastside Vancouver. Pickton was a high school dropout who left his apprenticeship at a butcher shop to take over his family’s pig farm. The farm, which was previously used to throw relentless parties, turned into something much more sinister when authorities discovered bones, body parts, and the DNA of at least 33 women in the pigsties and troughs. 

Robert Pickton’s modus operandi (MO) included abducting sex workers, handcuffing and having sex with them, and then strangling them with a belt or piano wire. He would then take the corpse to the slaughterhouse where he hung the bodies and bled and gutted them like animals. Whatever was left of his victims would be fed to the pigs. 

The case had been hard to crack for the cops as the list of missing sex workers was extensive and many of them had either ran away or overdosed without identification. In other words, not all the missing sex workers were Pickton’s victims. That was until 37-year-old Bill Hiscox offered valuable leads to the police department. He was Robert’s girlfriend’s foster brother, who worked at a salvage company owned by Robert Pickton. Bill remarked that he felt uncomfortable being on Robert’s farm whenever he had to go pick up his paycheck. Bill also told authorities that he had seen multiple purses and IDs on the farm and that Robert scouts the Downtown area for prostitutes to make into his victims. He implored the authorities to do a background check on Robert and his brother as he was concerned that they were up to no good. 

Robert’s brother, David, was convicted of sexual assault in 1992, when he attacked a woman on the pig farm. Luckily, she was able to escape. Robert was convicted of the attempted murder of sex worker Wendy Lynn in 1997. He had stabbed her multiple times when she was at the pig farm, but she was able to take the knife and stab him. She ran off and was found on the side of the highway, she was picked up by a passer-by who took her to the hospital. Robert’s stab wound confirmed the attack, but the charges against him were dropped. 

With the new information provided by Bill Hiscox, the police department searched the pig farm, which confirmed their suspicions. At the time of the search, Pickton was in prison on account of gun charges, but his bail was paid and he was released. However, shortly after he was arrested again on February 22 with two counts of first degree murder. As the search progressed, the charges against Robert Pickton continued to stack up as more evidence was being uncovered. 

Pickton’s 19- year killing spree was able to continue for so long due to negligence on behalf of the Vancouver police department. The authorities’ aversion to sex workers led them to ignore the growing number of missing prostitutes. The police began receiving criticism for their disregard, and the government forced the department to open an investigation. After about 61 women went missing, the police finally began investigating their disappearances after 15+ years. In 2002 the authorities raided Pickton’s farm where they discovered human remains, dismembered body parts, and the DNA evidence of many of the women who went missing. 

Eventually he was charged with the murders of 26 women and convicted on six charges that sentenced him to life in prison. During his time in prison he confided in his cellmate, admitting to him that he killed 49 women. He also expressed his resentment with the fact that he was not able to kill 50 women before getting caught. However, unbeknownst to him, his cellmate was actually an undercover police officer who had gotten his confession on tape. 

He was sentenced to life in prison in a state penitentiary without the option of parole for 25 years. 

Since the killing spree took place in Canada, it had gained Robert Pickton notoriety as Canada’s most horrifying serial killer. This case is an important part of history because it demonstrated a fatal flaw in the corruption within police departments. If it weren’t for the negligence of the biased cops, many of those 49 women would still be alive, like Pickton, who is still alive today. The bias against sex workers in the police department during this case is not the only example of this prejudice. Sex workers all over the world are being neglected by the legal system as they are equated with little to no worth in society. 

This is a social flaw that needs to be attended to as there is still a systemic bias against sex workers despite them still being human beings that require protection too. It’s important to bring attention to this aspect of Robert Pickton’s crimes because he would not have been able to get away with it for so long had it not been for the systemic injustice that disregards prostitutes. 

“True Crime Chronicles” is a recurring weekly crime column, in which the crimes of famous serial killers are retold, for avid true-crime enthusiasts by an avid true-crime enthusiast.