'The Butcher': Canada's Most Prolific Serial Killer

Robert Pickton with bloody hands next to meat
youtube | Serial Killers Documentaries

News & Politics
Tara Sigler

"I'm a working guy, that's all I am." - Robert William "Willy" Pickton

Now known as Canada’s most prolific serial killer, Willy Pickton was once a lonely, unwashed child sent to school reeking of manure. From a childhood of abuse and torment, Pickton took over the family farm after the death of his parents. He seemed a quiet man, just an average pig farmer - but he would go on to murder as many as 49 women before his slaughter came to an end.

A Horrifying Childhood

The farm
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The twisted individual who would one-day feed pieces of his victims to his pigs began life as the son of cruel parents who forced their children into labor on the farm. While it's not unusual for the children of farmers to help out, things were dire on the Pickton farm.

Willy's mother, Louise Pickton, did not even take care of her own personal hygiene, let alone that of her children. She had almost no hair or teeth; she was always filthy, and she talked in a loud screech. The father, Leonard, had little interaction with the children aside from being violently abusive, especially toward Willy.

Willy had a brother, David, and a sister, Linda. Linda left at a young age to live with relatives and grew up to have a normal life. Willy and David were left to work the farm. They went to school covered with the stench of pig manure and were hated and bullied by students and teachers alike.

The one thing Willy loved was a calf that he purchased with his own money at age 12. But his parents had it butchered, which was traumatic for the boy. He sought solace by crawling into the carcass of a slaughtered pig.

A History With Death

Port Coquitlam where the murders took palce
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As a teenager, Willy was pushed to work even harder on the pig farm, until it became his entire life. He dropped out of school at 14. Like his parents, he rarely bathed or changed his clothing. The pig farm was all he knew.

His younger brother Dave was also a dangerous individual. When Willy was a teenager, Dave was driving down the road near the farm, and saw a child walking alongside the road. David intentionally hit the child, causing injury, then sped off. Louise returned to the scene of the crime; but instead of helping the child, she rolled them into a ditch full of water, where the child drowned. Dave was only charged with leaving the scene of a crime and received probation. Louise was not charged.

Willy The Butcher

Robert Pickton close up
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Leonard Pickton died in 1978, and Louise died the next year. The farm was left to Willy and Dave. Dave, though younger, was more socially acceptable, and he had stayed in school; so he was essentially the face of the farm, conducting business, while Willy took care of the hard labor. Willy was a butcher; he was unbothered by blood and death. He even beheaded his own pet horse and took it to the taxidermist.

In his slaughterhouse and butcher shop, Willy would slaughter animals by slitting their throats or killing them with a nail gun. He'd then hang the body to drain the blood. He'd later use this method on his female victims.

The Piggy Palace: Wild Raves And Sex Workers

The piggy palace
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Willy and Dave opened an after-hours nightclub called the Piggy Palace Good Times Society. It was registered as a nonprofit; supposedly, the society's goal was 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".

Although Willy was described as a quiet person, he was known to host raves and wild parties at the Piggy Palace. He brought in sex workers from Vancouver to mingle with guests at his converted slaughterhouse in Port Coquitlam. Sometimes thousands would attend, as it was known to be a favorite haunt of the Hells Angels.

In 1997, Willy was charged with the attempted murder of Wendy Lynn Eistetter but it was dismissed. In 1999 the Piggy Palace was disbanded after losing its nonprofit status due to the Pickford brothers violating zoning ordinances.

But women were already disappearing from the Pickton farm. A worker at the farm reported missing women, and in 2002, police visited the farm with a warrant to search for illegal firearms. They found multiple items belonging to women who'd been reported missing. The brothers were arrested and released, but Willy was kept under surveillance.

It's believed that Willy would engage in sex acts with the various prostitutes who visited the farm and murder them during intimate moments by handcuffing them and stabbing them.

The Bloody Truth Comes Out

The victims
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In February of 2002, Willy Pickford was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree murder - but that number soon grew to 27. It took investigators three years to excavate all the human remains at the Pickford farm, eventually finding the remains of 33 women.

Supposedly Willy admitted to 49 murders and was going for 50: "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.”

Pickford was convicted of 6 murders although it's still believed that the body count was much higher. He is in prison with no possibility of parole. He is now 73 years old.

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