Portrayed in court as both simple pig farmer and cunning killer
Robert Pickton has beautiful handwriting.
Many faults have been attributed to the farmer — poor hygiene, terrible taste in friends, a willingness to give drugs to addicts. But none have faulted his impeccable penmanship.
"He’s got beautiful handwriting," a neighbour once commented. "I remember thinking that when I saw him sign a cheque."
As Pickton sat in the prisoner’s box day after day, listening to his foes and friends testify about him, he occasionally made notes on a pad of paper.
He formed curves and elegant flourishes across the blank space, never stopping to ponder mid-sentence. The pen clicked once as he started and decisively clicked off when he was done.
After a sentence or two, he would fold the paper neatly in half and run a thumb along the edge. What he has written, and where the carefully crafted notes have gone, was one of the smaller mysteries in this courtroom.
It’s also a very minor detail of a man who became the major figure in the largest crime scene investigation in Canadian history and one of B.C.’s biggest criminal trials.
But there are few clues to the character of the man who was convicted yesterday on six counts of second-degree murder. Even when he spoke about himself, it was in anecdotes.
Throughout the 10-month trial, Pickton was rarely seen talking to his lawyers. They painted him as a parroting dolt who failed Grade 2 and worried his mother so much her will stated he wouldn’t get his portion of her estate until age 40.
He was held back early, in different ways by different strings. As a child his younger brother Dave told him when to go to sleep; as an adult friends reminded him to bathe. His family held back joke punchlines because he never seemed to get them.
The Crown argued he’s more intelligent than he lets on, a calculating killer who was able to cover his tracks in gruesome ways.
Pickton once spoke about going to Europe but, whatever his IQ, his world was pretty small even before he was arrested in 2002 and, afterwards, it shrank to the size of a cell, a narrow corridor and the courtroom.
To police interrogators, he often called himself a simple pig farmer; but at one point he claimed to be an even bigger villain than alleged. He was sloppy, he said, and a failure who did not meet his target of "the big five-oh" — 50 dead women, in the Crown’s interpretation.
To so many people, however, Robert Pickton remains a shadowy figure, hard to pick out in a crowd.