True Crime Byline: Robert Pickton letters offered glimpse into thoughts of an accused serial killer

The podcast True Crime Byline looks back at The Vancouver Sun investigation into Vancouver’s missing women, a case that eventually led to the arrest and conviction of Robert Pickton. This story, about letters Pickton sent to a California pen pal, was published Sept. 2, 2006.

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The Vancouver Sun’s coverage of women who disappeared from the Downtown Eastside between 1978 and 2001 is featured in a new podcast, True Crime Byline. So, we are republishing some of the original stories that are mentioned in the episode. In 2006, a California man contacted us to say he had bee pen pals with Robert (Willie) Pickton while he sat in jail awaiting his trial. The man shared those letters with us, which provided the public with their first insight into the accused killer, who had never spoken publicly since his arrest in 2002.

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This story was originally published Sept. 2, 2006:

FREMONT, Calif. — A series of letters purportedly penned by Robert (Willie) Pickton, who is accused of killing 26 missing women, maintain his innocence and claim he is just the “fall guy” arrested in the multi-million investigation.

Pickton has given no media interviews since his 2002 arrest, and his court proceedings have been muzzled by a publication ban, so any letters written by him would provide the first public glimpse into the thoughts of the man accused of being Canada’s worst serial killer.

“I my-self is not from this world, but I am born into this world through my earthly mother and if I had to change any-thing I would not, for I have done no wrong,” says a letter dated Feb. 26, 2006, signed “Willie.”

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The four-page note, hand-printed in capital letters, is one of three that California resident Thomas Loudamy says were mailed to him by Pickton, who is being held in the North Fraser Pretrial Centre in Port Coquitlam awaiting his January 2007 trial.

The letters show the author believes he will be exonerated and is highly critical of police; is following the legal proceedings closely and plans to write a book; and has religious leanings, quoting two Bible passages in one letter.

One Bible passage included in the most recent letter, dated Aug. 22, 2006, is identified as being from the New Testament, Acts 14:22: “In each city they helped Christians to be strong and true to the faith. They told them that we must suffer many hard things to get into — the holy nation of God.”

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The Sun has taken several steps to try to confirm that the letters and envelopes, which have Robert William Pickton’s name in the return address, were in fact written by the accused killer. (The newspaper couldn’t ask him directly because his lawyer has previously denied all requests for media interviews.)

The envelopes are stamped with the name and address of the North Fraser Pretrial Centre; all provincial correctional facilities use such stamps on outgoing mail for public safety, so that recipients know they are receiving correspondence from an inmate, said B.C. Corrections spokesperson Bruce Bannerman.

The Sun sent a copy of the envelope from the Feb. 26 letter to Canada Post, confirming the postage stamp — which came from a stamping machine, as opposed to the type that is licked  and the other Canada Post codings put on the envelope are not forgeries.

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In addition, the meter number on the stamping machine belongs to an agency that does mailings for the B.C. government, said Canada Post spokeswoman Teresa Williams. (The pretrial centre is run by the province.)

“Canada Post reviewed the envelope and all appearances are that it is legitimately sent from who it says it was sent from [the pretrial centre],” Williams said.

The Canada Post markings on the envelope also confirm it was stamped on March 1, 2006 and put in the mail on March 2.

Ardith Watson, the warden of the pretrial centre, confirmed mail written by prisoners is sent to a mail centre, where it is stamped and sent along to Canada Post for delivery.

Loudamy, a 27-year-old warehouse worker from Fremont, Calif., has a unique hobby of writing to American and Canadian inmates who are convicted of crimes or are awaiting trial.

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He showed The Sun hundreds of envelopes with return addresses representing a who’s-who gallery of infamous killers, locked behind bars across North America.

Loudamy, an aspiring journalist, researches the background of the inmates to determine what type of person they would most likely write to; he uses his own name for some inmates, such as Clifford Olson, but for others he adopts a new persona.

Loudamy wrote three times to Pickton as Mya Barnett, a woman down on her luck but determined to survive.

He says he has received three replies from Pickton, in late 2005, in March 2006 and on Aug. 29 — just four days ago. He provided The Sun with the originals of the last two letters; he was not able to locate the first note he says he received from Pickton.

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The letters contain many grammatical and spelling errors. Many portions of them are also underlined for effect, and some words are repeatedly traced over.

The letters are laced with biblical overtones, and to date it has never been clear to the public that Pickton could be religious. The phrase “my father” in the letters appears to refer to God, as opposed to a biological dad.

(Pickton’s dad died when Pickton was a young man.)

“I like what the judge has said in coart (sic),” he said, “that I want to give this con-demn-man a half decent-trial and I smiled and said to myself my father also was a condemned man of no wrongdoing, and for that I am very proud to be in this situation for they are the biggest fools that ever walked the earth, but I am not worried for every thing on earth will be judged including Angles,” the Feb. 26 letter says.

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The letters indicate the writer is keenly aware of the unprecedented cost and administrative challenges of the court proceedings.

The August letter praises Pickton’s trial judge, Justice James Williams, for choosing the “short road” by severing 20 of the counts against Pickton, meaning he will likely be tried on only six murder charges at his first trial. The author notes that, to pursue all 26 counts in one trial would have meant “waisted” court time, difficulty in keeping a jury together, and the potential for a mistrial.

All three letters provide a tally of the number of days Pickton has been behind bars since his arrest on Feb. 22, 2002.

“By the time date of Augest 29th 2006 I will have been in hear at N.F.P.T.C. for a total of — 1, 650 days to date, of which is just over 4 1/2 years in a-waiting for trial,” the letter says.

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The author details how multiple court sheriffs provide an elaborate escort each day from the pretrial centre in Port Coquitlam to New Westminster Supreme Court, where Pickton’s pre-trial hearings have been underway since January.

The second and third letters speak about the cost of the massive investigation, and accuse the police of having a weak case and of arresting the wrong man.

“I have heard my case is over $100,000,000.00 one hundred million dollar case and for the police are no ferther a-head now than when they had first started way back in February of 2002,” the Aug. 22 letter says.

“The short way is to put surveillance-cameras and to see who is doing all this. For then they well know the truth and to have the right people behind bars . . . they would save many other lives while the criminals that are in-volved still at large but no-body-cares for they got me as a fall-guy-any-ways.”

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(The provincial government estimated the cost of the missing women investigation to be $70 million by the end of 2003, and set aside an additional $46 million to fund the case between 2004 and 2007.)

The letters claim to know the number of lawyers and other people who will be involved in the trial — “Over 20,000 people and 130 police officers all in total” — but allege that much of the testimony will be fabricated.

Pickton letters
Pickton letters

“The police got so much money invested — in this case, there will be many, many lies through-out as many things all come to surface. The police have paid many for them what to say when they are on the stand,” the Feb. 26 letter says.

The author of the February letter indicates he has been pen pals with a “girl” for some time and, although he says he’s worried she is not being honest, he wants to give her a chance to explain. “I do not like liers or cheaters, for I am honest and my word is true, for that I will never fall back on my word.”

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In an overly cautious and exceedingly polite manner, the writer of the letters asks Mya Barnett to send him a picture but discourages her from visiting the pre-trial centre out of concern for her safety.

Friends have said Pickton didn’t smoke or drink, and the letter asks Mya if she does either.

The letters are written as if the author is an old friend of Mya’s, and tenderly wishes her well. For example, the first page of the February letter goes into great detail about hoping she has a speedy recovery from a recent car accident, and encourages her to keep her new job at a travel agency.

“I am really very proud of you for that,” the letter says.

The letter includes a religious poem which the author claims to have written with “my father,” and also encourages Mya in glowing terms to remain strong despite the challenges in her life.

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“Who ever you will end up with they will be a ver very — lucky person to have you. Do not degrade you-self by any means for you de-serve the best, as the best is yet to come which you must wait.”

Loudamy could not provide The Sun with the first letter he said he received from Pickton, because he left it in storage in Texas before moving to California in late 2005.

However, he recalled the first letter being similar to the last two in that it was printed in capital letters, it appeared to be religious, and the author made references to the legal proceedings against Pickton.

One difference Loudamy remembered is that the first letter indicated the author had been reading quite a bit.

Loudamy sends handwritten letters to inmates and does not keep copies. However, he recalled the initial letter he sent to Pickton was one page long and said Mya could use someone to speak with, that she was often between jobs, and would welcome any comments from Pickton.

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Loudamy, who maintains he has no sympathy for Pickton, hopes that by releasing these letters publicly for the first time, they will provide a window for the public to learn more about the accused serial killer.

True Crime Byline: Here’s more about Episode 1, This Isn’t a Story About Robert Pickton:

Subscribe to True Crime Podcast on your favourite podcast app:

True Crime Byline is a new podcast by Postmedia News and Antica Productions. In each episode, host Kathleen Goldhar talks to journalists about the cases that made their careers, changed the way they see the world and continue to haunt them.

Download Episode 1, This Isn’t a Story About Robert Pickton, today on your favourite podcast app.

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