Defense rests in Canada serial killings case

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NEW WESTMINSTER, British Columbia, Oct 17 (Reuters) Defense attorneys for Robert ''Willie'' Pickton rested their case, without the man accused of killing 26 Vancouver sex trade workers taking the witness stand.

''That, in fact, is a fairly significant milestone for this case,'' Judge James Williams told the jury after the defense said it would call no more witnesses. The prosecution rested its case in August.

Williams said told the jury closing arguments will not begin until November 13. And, with what are expected to be rather lengthy instructions from him, jury deliberations are not expected to begin until after November 20.

Williams reminded the jurors to keep ''their minds open'' until hearing those arguments and his review of evidence from the nearly 130 witnesses called in the trial, which deals with the first six of the 26 murder charges against Pickton.

Even with that delay, the case will likely end much sooner than expected. There were predictions when it began in late January it would last more than a year. A date for the trial on the remaining 20 charges has not been set.

Pickton has rarely shown any emotion in the trial, and did not break from the pattern when the defense rested. He takes the occasion note in the prisoner's box and keeps his back to the audience.

''I think that everybody involved in this case would like to see the end of the case... It's been a long nine months for everyone involved,'' lead defense attorney Peter Ritchie told reporters outside court.

Pickton has pleaded not guilty, but he has acknowledged the remains of six women -- including three skulls -- were found on his ramshackle farm in the Vancouver suburb of Port Coquitlam, British Columbia.

The women Pickton is accused of killing were among more than 60 drug addicts and prostitutes who disappeared from Vancouver's poor Downtown Eastside neighborhood from the the late 1980s until late 2001, shortly before his arrest.

Police say he lured the women to his property, killed them and chopped up the bodies in the farm's slaughterhouse. He is alleged to have used his pigs and an animal rendering plant to help dispose of the remains.

The defense case included expert witnesses who talked about Pickton's limited intelligence and questioned blood evidence collected by police. But prosecutors appeared effective in pointing out weaknesses in the defense's testing of evidence.

The prosecution's case included a woman who testified she saw Pickton cutting up a body and a man who said Pickton described how he killed the women. The jury also saw video tapes in which police say Pickton talked of killing nearly 50 women.

The defense attacked the reliability of the civilian witnesses and drug addicts over bad memories and reasons to lie about Pickton.

The courtroom was rarely full during the witness stage of the trial. Relatives and friends of the dead women occasionally attended, but none of Pickton's family is known to have come to court.


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