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Charles Taylor Prize

Exclusive excerpt: The arrest of Willie Pickton Add to ...

This is the fourth of a series of excerpts from the five books nominated for the 2011 Charles Taylor Prize. We are presenting one every day this week. The prize will be awarded next Monday (Feb. 14) in Toronto.

They were ready. The group moved out of the Coquitlam headquarters in marked police cars, driving east with the headlights on but without sirens. Morwood-Clark drove a Chevrolet Savana van. They stopped in the parking lot at Blakeburn Elementary School, the designated staging area. Once everyone had gathered there, Morwood-Clark led the searchers to the lane at the back - the north end - of the Pickton property; a berm of earth between the trailer and the road would prevent anyone from seeing them coming in. Two other officers hovered close to the front entrance at the south, as inconspicuously as possible, waiting to secure the entrance if necessary. Little and Cater drove around the area in a wide perimeter but close enough to get into the property in a hurry.

It was now just after eight-thirty and they had less than half an hour to serve their search warrant. They had no idea if Pickton was at home. The entry team to the north stopped their cars and got out. Silently they crept forward and then froze - they could see truck lights down the old laneway, near the front gates. They crouched down and no one said a word. A muddy pickup truck bounced forward and stopped in front of the trailer. Willie stepped out, shut the door and walked up the front steps to the trailer's porch. He opened the main door and went in, closing it behind him. Lights went on inside. The men quickly moved forward again. Mulcahy stayed at the rear corner of the trailer, facing the lane.

Five officers - Wells, Wong, Lew, Petrovich and Kim - climbed onto the porch and huddled by the door they'd seen Willie open; they didn't yet realize there was a second door several feet to their right. At a nod, Petrovich stood aside as Kim stepped forward and slammed the door open with the ram, yelling "Police! Police! Police! Search warrant!"

Suddenly the second door opened onto the porch and Pickton's head popped out. "Hey!" he protested. "What's happening?"

"Police!" someone yelled.

Willie slammed the door shut.

With guns drawn, the officers, led by Howard Lew, swarmed in through the rammed doorway and met Willie in the middle of the trailer. They threw him to the floor so that he was lying face down, then pulled his arms behind his back and snapped cuffs on him.

"I am arresting you for possession of prohibited and restricted firearms," Wells said to him. "Do you understand?"

"Okay."

"It is my duty," Wells continued, "to inform you that you have the right to retain and instruct counsel in private without delay. You may call any lawyer you want. There is a twenty-four-hour telephone service available which provides a Legal Aid duty lawyer who can give you legal advice in private. This advice is given without charge and the lawyer can explain the Legal Aid plan to you. If you wish to contact a Legal Aid duty lawyer, I can provide you with a telephone number. Do you understand?"

"Yup," said Willie. "Okay."

"Do you want to call a lawyer?"

"Not right now."

"You are not obliged to say anything, but anything you do say may be given in evidence. Do you understand?

"Yes. Yeah, okay."

It was now thirty-six minutes after eight o'clock. Wells pulled Willie to his feet, led him outside to one of the cars and pushed him into the back seat. As Wells got into the car, he had a final question.

"Is there anything we should know about in your house?" He explained that officers were searching the premises and he didn't want them to be hurt in the process. Were there any booby traps? Anything there that could harm an officer?

"I have a .22 in the barn," replied Willie.

Satisfied, Wells started the car and drove down the muddy lane to Dominion Avenue, heading back to the RCMP headquarters in Coquitlam with his prisoner in the back seat.

Excerpted from On the Farm: Robert William Pickton and the Tragic Story of Vancouver's Missing Women, by Stevie Cameron. Reprinted with permission of the publisher.

Monday: Defiant Spirits: The Modernist Revolution of the Group of Seven, by Ross King Tuesday: The Geography of Arrival: A Memoir, by George Sipos Yesterday: The Love Queen of Malabar: Memoir of a Friendship with Kamala Das, by Merrily Weisbord Friday: Mordecai: The Life & Times, by Charles Foran

 

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