Wednesday, February 28, 2007
It seems a little incongruous to be writing about exotic places and romance in the midst of my postings about the pig farm murders. But a little respite is necessary to provide a break from the darkness, like a ray of sunlight shining through storm clouds.
Lately I've been daydreaming about my trip to Venice. We're leaving mid-May to spend several days in that fascinating old city before heading by ferry to my second home, Greece. It's been fun watching videos and browsing through books about Venice, and planning what I want to see there. You can read some of my travel plans on my travel blog at
Recalling other lovely vacations I've had, I had been looking at some photos that were from my trips last summer. Some included my good friend Rosie when I visited her at Vernon, by the lake. Looking at the pictures prompted more happy daydreams of summertime and sunshine. And reminded me of how much I miss my friend.
That night I slept well and in my dreams I was visited by one of my lost loves, Hakki. It's been nearly 30 years since I last saw him. He was my Turkish lover who I spent a magical time with in Istanbul. I had met him here in Vancouver where he was in port on a ship he worked on as first engineer. We spent time together here and when he flew home to Turkey he'd invited me to visit him there. It was a beautiful romance. He was one of the most excellent men I've ever met in my life, and I will never forget him.
In the dream Hakki and I had a reunion in a large empty hall that sort of resembled the Sunday School hall of my dad's old church. In the dream he looked a bit different - his hair was longer and fairer. (He was a dark-haired man, olive complexion). It was a passionate reunion and even in my sleep I could feel the closeness of him, the great desire I always had for him. But just as we were about to be overcome by this erotic passion, a man (who seemed to be the pastor) came out of a room (like an office) and disrupted us. Later in the dream we were with other people who included my friend Rosie. We were watching a game of some kind (maybe soccer?) and he wanted to change places with the man next to him so he could see better, so he moved away from me. I remember feeling hurt, but realized he wasn't 'rejecting' me but just trying to enjoy the game. In the last part of the dream he was in bed asleep and I was sitting beside him gazing at him (he was such a lovely man!). I whispered something to him. He opened his eyes sleepily and smiled at me. End of dream. I woke feeling as if we had really spent time together and that warm, happy feeling stayed with me all day.
Later that evening, when I got home from my classes, there was a phone message from Rosie. I haven't seen her for several months and when I had been looking at the photos I realized how much I miss her. She said she was coming to town and asked if we could get together.
I have always been interested in the analysis of dreams. I thought about my dream of Hakki and the message from Rosie and remembered that she had been with me the night I met him. I had been depressed at that time after a breakup with my partner of five years, and she had convinced me to go dancing with her. At the disco a handsome dark-haired man asked me to dance. The moment we met I felt something for him and even before he told me his name, I knew it (although I thought "Akim" -- which later he told me was a name his grandmother called him.)
That night, meeting Hakki, changed my life.
So the connection, buried in my subconcious, had come back to me when I was thinking about Rosie.
Saturday, February 24, 2007
Now that area is so run-down and dangerous it is heartbreaking to see what is going on there. Buildings have been allowed to become run down to the point where they are uninhabitable, the homeless crowd the streets: cast aways, drug addicts, street people of all kinds. It's a blight on the city.
But what is being done to solve the problem? The BC Government just proposed $365 million for emergency shelters, rent supports and housing up to the year 2010 when the Olympics is going to be held here. They've also increased the income assistance by $50 a month.
Sounds good on paper, but the facts are "shelters" are just that. They are not 'homes'. And the extra $50 awarded to welfare recipients to cover expenses hardly covers what rentals are these days. This totals their monthly income to $375 a month plus support increases of $235. Total $610. for an employable person. Rents are at least $420 a month (and that's for a roach and bed-bug ridden room in a downtown east side hotel). That doesn't account for food, bus fares and daily living costs. And now the downtown low-cost hotels are evicting tenants so they can 'renovate' and raise the rents higher in order to cash in on the influx of people expected during the Olympics. This leaves an even more serious lack of affordable housing for the DTES residents creating more homelessness, more despair, more women like those who went missing, cast out onto the streets vulnerable to those who prey on them.
BACK ON THE PIG FARM:
The trial of the pig farmer continued this week with more disturbing evidence. The jury was warned about the troubling evidence and so in writing it, I will try to report it with as much tact as possible, without the graphic details.
The police officer who cried on the stand last week had good reason to shed some tears, as we all should over this hideous crime. When she investigated two garbage pails tucked away behind a wall and the pigpen, they were found to contain two halves of a human skull plus a hand and foot identified as belonging to victim Mona Wilson. There were also buckets containing animal remains. Pickton had bragged to an undercover cop that he disposed of bodies the same way as he did the pig remains ...by sending them to the rendering plant. (**alarms went out when, early in the investigation, police visited the rendering plant the Picktons did business with.) There were also freezers in the slaughterhouse containing butchered pigs.
The following day's testimony included reports of the police finding more inhalers and other papers belonging to Sereena Abotsway, a variety of saws, blades, knives, a nail gun and cartridges. There was also evidence (personal belongings ) found at the "Piggy Palace" nightclub the brothers operated on the property, and in parked cars, and near the house occupied by Mr Pig Man's brother as well as on some other property belonging to the brothers. They also found sex toys hidden under a mattress and in the closet of the brother’s bedroom.
More gruesome evidence was found in freezers.
Can it get much worse?
A CSI expert who was working at the scene made some very disturbing discoveries in two buckets in a freezer which contained the remains of Andrea Joesbury and Seerena Abotsway. The hand bone of Georgina Papin was found under the ground in the pigpen and Brenda Wolfe’s jawbone was found in a trough outside the slaughterhouse.
These remains all belonged to six of the twenty six women Pickton is charged with murdering. Because the electricity had failed on the farm, the detective had looked into the freezers where they found the thawed remains in a state of decomposition.
The detective related his findings to an unsolved case in Mission several years before where a half a skull had been found, sawed vertically just the same as those found in the freezer and pails on Pickton’s farm. The skull’s DNA matched that of a heel and rib bone found on the farm. So far this woman is unidentified.
The findings (there were many more) were so overwhelming the CSI expert ordered a massive search of the farm, hiring a small army of archaeology and anthropology students who manned conveyor belts looking for unusual items in the sifted soil.
The farm was divided into 216 grids, each measuring 20 sq. miles which were excavated to retrieve 383,000 cubic meters of soil during the search, which continued for more than 20 months. It became the largest crime scene investigation in Canadian history.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
"He was playing games with me -- taunting me," said one of the RCMP officers, chief invesitagtor. He said Pickton suggested there were others involved but didn't provide details although he adamantly denies his brother or the Hells Angels were involved. He even offered to cut a deal with the police if they'd take down their fences and get off his property.
The question is: How 'dumb' do you have to be to know right from wrong? The guy is definitely not an imbecile. It will be interesting if and when they present a psychiatric assessment. My guess is he's a wily yokel. And I still don't believe he acted alone.
TUESDAY, Feb 20
Is the Pig Farmer smart enough to have carried out all the crimes he is accused of? Or is he a wily killer who acted alone? His defence team argues that he is mentally too slow and unsophisticated to baffle police for all those years.
"I'm just a pig farmer," Pickton told police. "I ain't a college graduate. I'm just a plain little farm boy."
His sister has told police he is not 'slow' and is good mechanically. He didn't do well academically and quit school at 16 to work on the farm. His brother handles the business end of things on the farm.
He has been described as a lot like "Gabby", the hick sidekick in the old Hopalong Cassidy/Roy Rogers westerns. The defence hast tried to portray him as a yokel who just happens to be a millionaire. (Across from his property are rows of modern townhouses, so the farm property is valuable).
He certainly didn't live a life of luxury. In fact, he lived in filth and squalor. He was dirty and unkempt when arrested and refused to take a shower.
Yesterday a police officer who herself raises pigs, cried when describing the condition of the animals she found inside a stock trailer on the farm. One pig had aborted a litter and couldn't stand, another had a rotted foot. Other pigs inside the trailer were in distress with no food or water.
When the slaughterhouse was searched several bones were dug up and identified as human bones. More guns were also found in a secreted loft in the workshop along with jewellery, a wallet, leg restraints and handcuffs. Some of the DNA found matched that of victim Brenda Wolfe. Some of the personal women's items found may have belong to either of two women who had lived at the farm with Pickton before his arrest. There were also a couple of notes left to him by these women. One note said: "Willy, have a bath please. It's been six days. P.U.!"
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Here it is, Chinese New Years (Gung Hay Fat Choy!) and I totally forgot, so I didn't go downtown to watch the parade in Chinatown. Instead, I went for a two hour neighbourhood stroll.
I have a long connection with certain parts of this neighbourhood, from my youth, through the '70's and the late '80's. So each time I go out walking, usually exploring different routes each time, I find things that remind me of the past. Today was one of those days, for sure!
This time I walked north a few blocks to where the street curves around along high above the harbour front. At the end of Nanaimo where the street turns, there's a little park with two benches where you can sit and contemplate the view of the docks, inlet and mountains. There's a stairway leading down to the waterfront road. I have a memory of coming up that stairway in the middle of the night back in the late '70's. My friends and I had gone partying to the Waterfront Corrall, a night spot owned by some Greek people who later became my benefactors in the village in Greece. As was the usual habit in those wild, crazy days, I'd accepted an invitation by a sailor to go party on his ship. But when I got there it wasn't a ship, it was Polish (or maybe Russian) fishing vessle. When I came to my senses I realized this was all a very risky, stupid idea so I beat a hasty retreats. Fortunately the boat was docked right in front of where this stairway went up so I climbed up, not knowning where in the world I was exactly. Fortunately it was near the main street where I could easily get a bus home. I lived away out in the suburbs at the time so it took me awhile, but I got home safe. I never did anything quite that dumb again.
Today when I ran across the stairway, and looked down to see where the fishing boats were docked, the whole scenario came back to me. I have to laugh about it now, but at the time it wasn't so funny or so smart. (Not that any harm befell me. Usually those sailors were not as dangerous as you'd think.)
Anyway, I continued walking all down the road until I finally came to the lovely seaside park at New Brighton. I used to ride my bike down there along the waterfront, but you're not allowed on that road now because of the harbour security. So I was pleased to find the Port Side bike route which is easy to reach from my house. Once the weather is a bit warmer and I get my bike on the road I will plan a little outing to the park.
I enjoyed looking at all the lovely heritage and modern houses in the area. There are some real gems on the back streets. I've been taking different routes around the neighbourhood and finding a lot of hidden parks and interesting things to see. There is one little park up on a knoll overlooking the inlet and a beautiful building that apprantly used to be an orphanage, then the juvenile detention centre and is now restored and serves as a hospice.
I ended up walking back too far but it took me past the old apartment where my friend George used to live in the '70's. My girlfriend and I spent a lot of time there listening to Motown music, dancing, toking and having fun with George and his friend Danny. Then, come home I passed the street where I used to live for awhile after I returned from living in Greece in 1987. I had moved in with a friend but it didn't work out. I was in a pretty low frame of mind when I first returned from Greece, homesick for my life there, grieving about the breakup of my relationship with a Greek man, having such a hard time relating to life here (a major case of cutlture shock) and readjusting. Eventually I moved out of her place and got a beautiful suite with a harbour view in the same building where I lived for a year until I decided to return to Greece.
So it turned into quite an adventurous afternoon. Sorry I missed the festivities in Chinatown, but I'll watch some of it on TV tonight. The neighbourhood walk was well worth the effort!
Saturday, February 17, 2007
The question was raised as to what will be done with the acreage on which the pig farm was located. Over the two year investigation the entire property has been ploughed up and sifted in the search for remains and DNA, and all the buildings are now destroyed for the same reason. Surrounding this choice piece of property (some 30 acres or so) are housing developments. Will the property be sold to a new developer? Who would want to live in a house built on that land? The Pig Farm was a killing ground, a place of evil, and is no doubt now haunted by the souls of those women who tragically died there.
I got thinking about this question today, and my solution would be to turn the property into a memorial park. Plant a flowering tree for each of the 60 missing or dead women. Make it into a place of beautiful new growth and rebirth, a place where family and friends could come and pay their respects to their unfortunate loved ones. Why should the Picktons be allowed to profit from this place? It will be interesting, in the future, to see exactly what becomes of it.
WHY WAS WILLIE KEEPING WOMEN'S CLOTHING AND COSMETICS IN HIS CLOSET?
SATURDAY, FEB 17
Apparently when the police searched the Pig Farmer's trailer, they found many items belonging to women scattered inside -- including personal possessions that may have belonged to some of the six women he is accused of killing.
A jacket was found with papers in the pocket and on one was written the address of the hotel where Andrea Joesbury lived. They also found a strand of her hair on a pillow case.
There was a silver sports bag which contained an asthma inhaler made out to Sereena Abotsway and shoes, 3 books and a Bible. Another brown leather jacket contained the DNA of Brenda Wolfe, another victim. And the DNA of three of the other women were found on various items. There were cosmetics, pieces of clothing, a notebook, jewellery and other items.
Willie claims he didn't do it. Then how did all these incriminating pieces of evidence get in his trailer?
Thursday, February 15, 2007
On Valentine's Day, marches were held across Canada in remembrance of the women (mostly aboriginal) who have gone missing or died on the streets. These marches have been held for the last 16 years. This year, in Vancouver, it was especially poignant as the families and friends of the missing women, (some who the Pig Farmer is charged with murdering) rallied and marched to every place on the streets of the Downtown Est Side where these women were last seen, or some places where other women had died. They placed a rose in each spot, sang healing chants, burned smudge and said words of remembrance.
The president of the United Native Nations pointed out the lack of support for the people living in the streets. "The city raised $8 million to restore the trees lost in the winter storms, but do nothing to raise the level of poverty that people in the DTES are facing." True. And as for the missing women, in spite of the many tips the police had received over the years, because these women were mostly aboriginal and street women, nothing was done.
There is currently another disturbing pattern of disappearances along Highway 16 in the north, now known as the "Highway of Tears", where many women, mostly aboriginal in origina and aged 15 to early twenties, have vanished after being seen hitchhiking along the highway. So far, the RCMP have come up with nothing.
Meanwhile, what went on in the Pig Sty?
Well, it seems Willie really WAS living in a pig sty, at least according to the police reports and photos released to the media. In addition to massive amounts of blood found there ("a blood-letting" as described by one of the experts investigating), the mobile trailer home where he lived was littered with boxes, pop bottles, food containers and lots of other visible junk, and incriminating items found by police which included loaded guns, gun casings, s#x toys and articles belonging to missing women. He even had the stuffed head of his beloved horse Goldie mounted on a wall.
In the slaughterhouse next to the trailer more horrendous findings. Evidence will be presented that the partial remains of one woman was found in the building. The Crown has a witness who will testify she saw Pickton butchering a woman there. Pretty gruesome stuff!
Police have done an astounding amount of DNA testing. More than 200,000 samples from the case have been sent to forensic labs across Canada. There are still more exhibits to be tested. (The search of the farm began in Feb. 2002 and finished Nov. 2003) The extra workload created by this case required additional staff to be hired at RCMP labs across Canada.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
and my nets of music are wide as the sky.
My soul is born on the shore of your eyes of mourning,
In your eyes of mourning the land of dreams began."
Pablo Neruda "In My Sky at Twilight."
THESE POEMS ARE FOR YOU, MY LOVE...
A quick-silver spark
like a diamond’s prism
Aphrodite’s silver arrow
turns this cafe bar
into the galaxy.
Reality escapes me.
it hits its mark,
the dark night
of my heart.
Written one night in the Latin Quarter
a poem for Anibal
I sat , a disciple at the feet of the Master
I listened to your stories
of shanty towns, poverty
President Allende dying in his bombed-out palace
Victor Jara, the musician/poet,
his hands crushed,
beaten to death in the Stadium
because he sang for the people.
I learned about social injustice
You taught me well.
Urged by your political passion
I joined marches,
raised my voice with the populace:
Peace, not War!
You captivated me,
I was your willing audience.
Your smile lit up my world
like a blaze of Chilean sun.
I absorbed every story you told.
Hundreds of Chileans died you said,
some dropped from helicopters into the sea.
You were imprisoned,
Ran for your life across the mountains
disguised as a priest.
Over glasses of Chilean wine
red as blood
you told how you had to flee again,
this time on a plane bound for Canada.
I shared your anguish
though I could never truly experience your pain.
Exiled, torn from your roots
like a tree blown down in a fierce gale
this stormy life of yours
I was swept into the vortex of your melancholy,
submerged under the waves of your nostalgia,
drowned in the sea of your despair.
Written one night in the Latin Quarter.
In the arbour
under a tangle of vines
the artist wields his brush.
Strokes the canvas lightly
spreading colours: pink and lavender and yellow.
Flower petals take shape.
A garden is revealed.
I remember the touch of your fingers on my arm,
soft as a brush stroke
awakening a garden in my heart.
Written August 2005 in Van Duesen Gardens.
Anibal died October 28, 2005
"We will be friends until the end of time," he said. Yes, we will, my friend, and when I hear the bolero play, I'll dance with you and remember...
"Now cracks a noble heart. Good night, sweet prince,
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."
William Shakespeare "Hamlet"
Friday, February 09, 2007
More on the Pig Farm trial.
The School Board has offered advice - a set of guidlines fo schools should "difficult conversations" arise regarding the Pickton trial. Apparantly the school board has received reports that there are concerns that the media coverage of the case may cause anxiety in children.
The key message is for parents and teachers to limit exposure for all ages of students. Media outlets have been sent letters by at least one school requesting the journalists act "responsibly and ethically" when reporting the trial.
So far, from what I've seen in papers and on radio/TV, the press is not going over-board in their coverage. In fact, on some stations now you don't really hear a thing about it and on both TV and in the papers there are warnings posted in case of graphic details. Frankly I can't see how any young students would bother reading the papers and if the parent's don't want them hearing the news there's an 'off' switch. I think it's good to 'protect' kids, but they are being exposed daily to all kinds of violence, not just what's in the news during this trial.
Even I don't watch TV that much because I get tired of all the shooting and violent scenes. And what is being shown at the movies these days is downright gross. But I guess because this is 'real life', I suppose some people think it's going to damage their kids to hear about it.
Be a rat and get rich.
A tip from a friend of Pickton started what has become the largest criminal investigation in Canadian history. A rookie constable had befriended an former employee of the farm in hopes of getting info on drug trade. Instead, the informant tipped off the cops about illegal firearms on the farm. However, when the police went to the farm armed with a search warrant, they found much more than they had expected. Besides finding a gym bag containing a respirator belonging to one of the missing women, in an attic or loft room on the farm, the police found a collection of sex toys, a loaded gun (with one spent bullet) with a dildo attached, that had the DNA of another missing woman as well as Pickton's, and a notebook belonging to another missing woman.
The gun search was called off and thus began the biggest investigation in Canadian crime history.
The informant was paid more than $1400 for his tips but also asked for money for a weekend vacation, rent, as well as $100,000 in reward money offered for clues into the missing women's case.
In more Canadian crime news...I read that Karla Homolka, famous for being part of another horrifying multiple murder case, who plea bargained and ratted on her partner in order to get a reduced sentence, is now living in Montreal and has just given birth to a baby. Considering she was a main player in the rape, torture and killings of 3 young girls including her own sister, it boggles the mind to imagine her as a mother. God bless the child!
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
THIRD WEEK OF THE TRIAL
There was testimony from the undercover cop who shared a cell with the Pig Man when he first got arrested. Pig Man chatted, relaxed and seemed to like the idea of being 'famous'. He called himself a 'legend'. The UC said he was filthy, stinky and unshaven and talked a lot, reminiscing about life on the farm etc. He was quite astounded that they were laying 50 charges against him.
And he made jokes about it.
"You've heard of Port Coquitlam? Now they call it Pork Coquitlam. Heard of mad cow disease? Now we have pigs eating people."
"I'M A LEGEND!"
The last two days of evidence presented at the Pig Farmer's trial have been a video-taped conversation he had in the cell with an undercover cop posing as someone who was up on an attempted murder charge. Interesting the way the orchestrate those things. Mr. Pig Man appears filthy, unshaven and apparently stinky (he'd been picked up on the job) and chats with the UA as he relaxes on his bunk. Some of the conversation was about his life from childhood to present, how he's a hardworking pig farmer. "I've worked hard all my life," he says."An here I'm in jail for murder, murder one."
He seemed to like the idea of being 'famous'. Says people know him all the way to Hong Kong. He's as famous as Sadaam. He calls himself 'a legend'.
He told the UCA that back in '97 he got charged with attempted murder after a prostitute slashed him trying to steal his money. He says his testimony was true but hers wasn't so no charges ever went to court. "Now I got a murder charge," he says. "Two murder charges."
The UCA tells him he should have got a plane ticket and flown away. "I don't know what to do," says Pickton. He goes on to say his brother warned him he had to 'cover his own ass'.
"I'm stupid," he says. "I'm not up with the times."
Later, in another conversation with the UCA, he holds up his hand to indicate a 5 and 0. "50". He says he wanted to get to "The Big 50". And later says, "I was going to let it die down, then do another 25 to make it 75."
When the UCA suggested that the best way to get rid of a body is to dump it in the river, Pickton replied: “I did better than that. ..A rendering plant.”
He admitted to ‘getting sloppy’ though, and not cleaning up properly. He called himself “Mr Sloppy.”
Sunday, February 04, 2007
Meanwhile, although the case has slipped to the back pages of the press these days and isn't even reported on TV, the rumours still abound. People are shocked by it all, but still you hear those persistant stories about the supposed snuff films being made out there. It's going to be interesting to see who is brought forward to testify. I have no doubts that the police have a lot of surprises up their sleeves. At this point, t hough, it will take a lot to really 'surprise' as it seems certain in everyone's mind that this is what was going on out there and the likely Willie is being made a scape goat by the others who were involved. It is very doubtful that this was the work of one evil man.
Apparently a week before Pickton was arrested and charged with two counts of first degree murder (Feb 2002) officers had already arrested two women in connection with the sex-trade workers disappearances and murders. A third person, male friend of Pickton, was arrested a year later during Pickton's preliminary hearings. The three were investigated but no charges laid. The two women were mentioned during the interrogation. The interrogator lied to Pickton and told him one of the women was trying to blackmail him. It will be interesting to see what happens. Will they be called in as material witnesses? Has there been some sort of plea bargaining? Were they let go for spilling the beans or what?
Most of the media circus has left town now and fewer people have been attending the trial. The focus is mainly on the court proceedings. Meanwhile, women from the Downtown East Side Women's Centre and the aboriginal community gather on the on square outside the court house to sing songs of remembrance and healing prayers.
The Pig Farmer seems to have been sent to the back pages these days. There has been little media hype or even news the last few days. Just the cross-examining of the interrogator. I think, too, that people had enough of the horror that was reported during that first week, so the media has toned things down for now. I have no doubt, though, that there will be more shocking revelations very soon.
Thursday, February 01, 2007
WEDNESDAY, Jan 31
OK, it's pretty clear that Mr Pig Man isn't necessarily operating with all the lights on. But, it seems he tried to outsmart the interrogators and according to them, he did a pretty good job of it. Although his defence lawyer brought up the question of his intelligence, the cops say he has a 'phenomenal' memory and a selective memory as well. There was more talk about other people being involved. The name Hells Angels even came up, though they evidently couldn't make a real connection. And lots of questioning about the role his brother had, who lived on the same farm. Pickton claims his brother was trying to protect him. Doesn't that implicate the brother? The two brothers and a sister inherited the farm and according the paper, Pig Man is a millionaire. But is he really that smart that he can 'outsmart' the police?