NEW WESTMINSTER, British Columbia - A jury yesterday convicted a middle-age pig farmer of murdering six women, handing him an automatic life sentence but finding that the killings had not been planned.
Robert Pickton, 58, still faces 20 more murder charges for the deaths of women, most of them prostitutes and drug addicts from a seedy Vancouver neighborhood. If convicted on all those charges, he would become Canada's most prolific serial killer.
Police are still investigating the cases of almost 40 other missing women.
The remains of the six women he was convicted of killing were found on Pickton's farm, but he denied he was responsible for their deaths.
Pickton listened to the verdict with his head bowed and later smirked at one point. He had been charged with first-degree murder in the six killings, but the jury convicted him on a lesser charge of second-degree murder which means they did not believe the killings were planned.
Two sisters of victim Georgina Papin screamed "No!" when the jury foreman first got up and said "not guilty" on first-degree murder. But they later said they were pleased he was convicted on the second-degree charge.
Two jurors, both women, wiped tears from their eyes while the verdicts were read. The jury foreman glared at Pickton as the verdicts were read back by a court official.
Two jurors, both women, wiped tears from their eyes while the verdict was read.
A conviction for any murder in Canada carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison, and he will be sentenced on Tuesday when the judge will decide when Pickton might be eligible for parole.
During his trial, a prosecution witness Andrew Bellwood said Pickton had told him how he had strangled his alleged victims and had fed their remains to his pigs. Health officials once issued a tainted-meat advisory to neighbors who might have bought pork from Pickton's farm, concerned the meat might have contained human remains.
Before the jury started their deliberations on Nov. 30, Judge James Williams reviewed the transcript of a videotape with them in which Pickton is heard telling an undercover police officer that he had planned to kill 50 women, take a break, then kill 25 more. *