Canada serial murder trial hears of other suspects

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NEW WESTMINSTER, British Columbia, Nov 22 (Reuters) Prosecutors trying accused serial killer Robert ''Willie'' Pickton ignored other possible suspects for the murders, including one of his female friends, Pickton's lawyers charged.

Pickton's defense team, in the third day of a longer than expected closing argument, told the jury not to ignore forensic evidence that linked Dinah Taylor to Pickton's suburban Vancouver farm where he is accused of brutally killing 26 women.

''The focus has been on Mr Pickton and Mr. Pickton alone,'' lawyer Adrian Brooks told the jury yesterday.

The defense did not accuse Taylor of the killings, but Brooks illustrated his presentation with slides that showed both Taylor's face and evidence collected at the farm, such as clothing that had her DNA.

Pickton is the only person charged in connection with the case, but Brooks accused police of ''a rush to judgment'' and of ''demonizing'' Pickton.

Taylor was a friend of Pickton's who was arrested early in the investigation but never charged. Police said their investigation found no evidence she was criminally involved.

She was not called as a witness by either the defense or prosecution.

Pickton, 58, is charged with killing 26 of more than 60 prostitutes and drug addicts who disappeared from Vancouver's poor Downtown Eastside neighborhood from the late 1980s until shortly before his arrest in early 2002.

This trial deals with six of the murder charges.

Police say Pickton took the women to his farm in nearby Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, killed them after having sex with them, cut up the bodies in the farm's slaughterhouse, and disposed of the remains using the farm's animals and a rendering plant.

Police say they found victims' remains and DNA on the farm, some of it mixed with Pickton's DNA.

Brooks said the link between Pickton's DNA and that of the victims was weaker than the link between the women and Pat Casanova, a male friend of Pickton's who assisted him in butchering pigs at the farm.

Casanova was also arrested by police but never charged due to a lack of evidence. He testified during the trial as a prosecution witness, describing Pickton's skills as a butcher.

Brooks did not accuse Casanova of the killings.

Brooks raised similar concerns about Pickton's younger brother, Dave Pickton, who lived near the farm and ran a topsoil business at the property.

Pickton listened attentively in the prisoner's box, his gaze primarily on one of the large television screens used to show the defense's slides. He rarely looks at Brooks and never turns around to look at the courtroom audience, which includes relatives of the victims.

Prosecutors may start their closing arguments on Thursday.

Because the jury will also have to get instructions from the judge, deliberations are not expected to begin until late next week.

If convicted, Pickton could receive life in prison. Canada does not have a death penalty. A date for the trial on the remaining 20 charges has not been set, but prosecutors say it will be held no matter what happens in this case.


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