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B.C. serial killer Robert Pickton savagely attacked in prison, clinging to life

On life support after being attacked by another prisoner in Quebec’s maximum security Port-Cartier Institution
An artist’s sketch shows accused serial killer Robert Pickton taking notes during the second day of his trial in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster on Jan. 31, 2006. Jane Wolsack for The Canadian Press

B.C. serial killer Robert (Willie) Pickton was on life support Monday after a brutal attack by another prisoner in Quebec’s maximum security Port-Cartier Institution.

Pickton was airlifted to hospital after the assault, which sources say took place just before 2 p.m. local time on Sunday, May 19.

One source said the attacker had earlier assaulted other inmates at the prison before being moved to segregation. The attack on Pickton allegedly happened after the prisoner was then released back onto the same unit as the serial killer, Postmedia has learned.

Pickton was speared in the head with a broken broom-like handle, another source said.

The Correctional Service Canada confirmed to Postmedia late Monday that Pickton was the victim of a “major assault.” But the service wouldn’t comment on his medical condition. In an earlier news release, the CSC said “the Sûreté du Québec is presently investigating the incident. The assailant has been identified and the appropriate actions have been taken.”

No one at the Port-Cartier Institution would comment Monday.

“We don’t have somebody who can speak with you,” the person answering the phone at the high-security prison said. “Call tomorrow and somebody will speak with you.”

When contacted by phone and asked whether his client had been attacked in prison and was now in hospital with a serious brain injury, Pickton’s lawyer Ian Runkle said Monday: “I don’t have anything I can say at this point. That may change, but nothing I can pass along at this point.”

Sources said Pickton had been taken to Hospital of the Child Jesus in Quebec City. Postmedia called the hospital and asked specifically about Pickton’s condition.

An official in admissions said the hospital had “nothing to share at this time due to confidentiality.”

Pickton told other inmates that he was writing a book blaming the murders of women, for which he was convicted, on someone else.

Port-Cartier Institution holds 237 men and is just north of the St. Lawrence River and about 600 kilometres from Québec City.

Pickton, now 74, was convicted by a jury of murdering six women — Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson, Andrea Joesbury, Brenda Ann Wolfe, Georgina Papin and Marnie Frey — at his 2007 B.C. Supreme Court trial.

But he was also charged with killing 21 more women. Those counts were eventually stayed and never heard at trial.

On top of those cases, the DNA of another six women was found on Pickton’s Port Coquitlam farm, but no additional charges were ever laid.

The former pig farmer once bragged to an undercover officer in his jail cell that he killed 49 women. More than 60 women had vanished from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside before Pickton’s arrest in February 2002.

Lorimer Shenher, a writer and former lead Vancouver police detective on the missing women investigation, said Monday that he had got word of the weekend attack on Pickton.

“Obviously, Mr. Pickton has caused a lot of pain for many people. Unfortunately, all an attack like this serves to do is further thwart the truth of this case from being told so that all the remaining perpetrators could be brought to justice,” Shenher said. “It’s been an open secret for more than 20 years that these murders were not committed solely by the hands of Robert Pickton.”

In recent months, families of his victims and advocates for other missing women have spoken out against a B.C. Supreme Court application made by the RCMP to destroy more than 14,000 exhibits seized from Pickton’s property during the lengthy investigation.

The critics said that destroying the exhibits might impact future investigations, especially if there continue to be advances in forensic technology that have already led to resolutions in decades-old cold cases.

The RCMP insists the evidence no longer has any investigative value. The force said a small number of the 14,000 items, which range from clothing to furniture, belonged to missing women, and will be returned to their families. The application is set to be heard next month.

Pickton was eligible for day parole in February, prompting outrage from victims’ relatives and several politicians who said he should never be released.