The Pig Farmer Killer — He Killed 49 Women and Fed Them to Pigs
Robert William Pickton, aka “Willy” was a quiet Canadian man who grew up in a family of pig farmers. His family had been in the business of pig farming for three generations but by the time Pickton and his siblings inherited the pig farm, they’d only raise a few pigs on the farm and sell them to friends and neighbors.
They, in fact, sold parts of the inherited land for large sums of money, not having much intention of continuing the family business.
However, it wasn’t pig farming that made Willy rather infamous in Canada and the rest of the world. He is known to have murdered as many as 49 women, having been arrested due to his admitted “sloppiness” in trying to make his tally an “even 50” or the “big five-O.”
A Contradicting Tale of Quiet Nature and Rave Parties
Willy was described by most of his friends as a pretty “quiet and simple guy” who didn’t really have any visible devious habits that would draw much attention. He wasn’t known to be much of a drinker, or didn’t really do any substance abuse, nor was he ever known to be too violent.
After neglecting the original pig farming business inherited from their parents, Willy and his siblings registered a non-profit charity by the name of “The Piggy Palace Good Times Society” with the Canadian government in 1996. They claimed to “organize, co-ordinate, manage and operate special events, functions, dances, shows, and exhibitions on behalf of service organizations, sports organizations, and other worthy groups”. What these not-for-profit events eventually ended up being were a series of rave parties where members of music bands and other partygoers would come and engage in substance abuse and also engage with many sex workers. The events were quite large and attracted as many as 2,000 people.
After some complaints about the nature of activities held under the name of the charity, and some ruckus created at a New Year’s Eve party in 1998, police intervened and banned any future parties at the pig farm, and also stripped the non-profit status of the society in the following year for lack of sufficient financial statements.
The Murders & The Discovery
In March 1997, Willy was first charged for the attempted murder of a sex worker called Wendy, who had been stabbed several times following an argument at the farm.
Wendy had managed to grab the weapon off Willy, stabbed him back, and escaped despite being handcuffed by him. Pickton received treatment at a nearby hotel and was also later released on bail. The charges were dismissed in January of 1998.
It was later that year that the injunction was brought to the farm and the charity to host any events and parties.
One of the workers at the farm, Bill Hiscox, noted that many of the women that visited the farm eventually went missing and reported his suspicions to the local police.
In February of 2002, when the police visited the farm with a search warrant, they found multiple items belonging to the missing women. Willy and his brother David Pickton were arrested on charges of owning illegal weapons. While they were later released, police maintained surveillance on the brothers.
On further investigation, police suspected Willy of a series of murders of the various missing women, and over the course of the year, Willy was charged for a total of fifteen first-degree murders.
Over the next three years, by October of 2005, the tally of the first-degree murder charges had gone up to a staggering twenty-seven.
Excavations at the farm continued for over a whole year, and cost about $70mn — making it one of the most expensive investigations in Canada’s history.
The excavations revealed cut skulls, broken jaws, and other bodily remains of multiple women including the DNA of as many as 33 different women.
The Modus Operandi
While not a lot is known on the exact details of each murder, it is believed that Willy would engage the sex workers in sexual activities, and in the middle of the act, get upset at them by blaming them for petty thefts or other wrongdoings. He would then escalate the altercation and handcuff them, before stabbing them to death.
He would put the bodies through a wood chipper and feed them to his pigs. Some of the resulting bits of flesh were also mixed with pork mince and sold to friends and family as pork mince.
The Investigation and the Conviction
After his arrest in February 2002, and the thorough investigation that followed, the result was twenty-seven charges of murder.
However, Willy is believed to have admitted to an undercover officer during the investigation, that he had killed as many as 49 women, and that his arrest was a result of him being “sloppy” when going for his big 50th kill.
This confession was actually captured on tape by the undercover officer who posed as his cellmate.
He’s believed to have said,
“I was gonna do one more, make it an even 50. That’s why I was sloppy, I wanted one more. Make… make the big five-O.”
In the trial that began in January 2006, Willy pleaded “not guilty” of all twenty-seven charges but was eventually found guilty for six counts of murder and in December 2007, was sentenced to life with no chance of parole for at least twenty-five years.
This was the maximum punishment for second-degree murder — and equal to the sentence which would have been imposed for a first-degree murder conviction.
The Ensuing Appeals and Published Claims of Innocence
Willy and his lawyers made multiple appeals right up to the Supreme Court of Canada but the convictions and sentence were upheld and his appeals were dismissed by the Supreme Court as well.
Willy drew further disgust and public uproar when he started to publicize a book titled Pickton: In His Own Words up for sale on Amazon.com.
The families of the other 43 victims who had already been upset with authorities for not being able to charge him for these remaining murders, felt further aggrieved when possibly the “worst serial killer in history” had the audacity to claim innocence for crimes that he had already admitted to committing.
In the book, Willy comes out to claim that he was merely a victim of a “bungled investigation” and had actually not committed those crimes.
2016 Film, Biography, and Other Media Coverage
In 2016, A film was released on the life of Willy, in the name of Unclaimed or On the Farm, in different markets. Work had begun on the movie in the year 2015 based on his biography by Stevie Cameron’s On the Farm.
It was also in the year 2016, that the autobiography titled Pickton: In His Own Words was released much to the anguish and disgust of the general public, due to the claims of innocence in the book.
In terms of his last known whereabouts, Pickton was transferred to a Quebec prison in 2018. He is alive today aged 71, having claimed close to 50 innocent lives.
He probably remains one of the most infamous and ruthless of a long list of serial killers, up there with the likes of Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy.