Robert Pickton shook, shuddered and said he was traumatized while describing his claim that a prostitute pulled a knife on him five years before he was arrested for the serial killing of dozens of sex trade workers.
Video of a January 2000 police interview with the Port Coquitlam, B.C., pig farmer was shown Tuesday at the public inquiry looking into the police investigation of Mr. Pickton involving the missing women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
In the footage, RCMP Constables Ruth Yurkiw and John Carter question Mr. Pickton about what happened during the attack on the night of March 23, 1997, when both he and the woman were sent to hospital.
“She attacked me,” says a baseball cap-clad Mr. Pickton, suggesting she was after $3,500 he was carrying. “She should have been charged.”
Mr. Pickton relays his version of the events, saying he picked the woman up in his truck after she stumbled and fell into the road.
He brings her back to his home, where he says she injected drugs in the bathroom at least twice.
Then she goes into his kitchen, finds a six-inch knife on the table and pulls it on him, he claimed.
He runs his fingers across his neck and chest to demonstrate where he was slashed.
“I never want to think of that day again,” he says, shaking his head and rocking in his chair.
Constable Carter prompts him for more details.
“We're asking because clearly it was a traumatic event for you, and usually those things tend to stick out in your mind,” he says.
“It was a terrifying event for me. I was down for almost two months in hospital,” Mr. Pickton responds, exhaling deeply. “I couldn't work, I couldn't do anything. My back still bothers me.”
He goes on to say he went to the police station to report the incident first. He insists he never brought another prostitute into his trailer again.
Thirteen women disappeared between the time those charges were dropped against Mr. Pickton and when the DNA of 11 of them was uncovered on his farm.
During Mr. Pickton's trial, the jury never viewed the interview footage. They also did not hear anything about the previous attempted murder and unlawful confinement charges laid against Mr. Pickton in relation to that night's attack. They were never told those charges were eventually dropped.
The woman's side of the story, which police believed, was not revealed until after Mr. Pickton's trial, as it was under a court-ordered ban.
The inquiry has heard she was handcuffed on one hand and fought off Mr. Pickton, running naked to the road and flagging down a car. She died while under care but was revived.
The nearly 12-minute excerpt was shown to retired RCMP officer Mike Connor while he was under cross-examination by the lawyer representing the families of Mr. Pickton's victims.
Mr. Connor was the RCMP's lead investigator into Mr. Pickton in the late 1990s, when an informant had provided second-hand information that a woman had been butchered in the man's barn.
He also took the reins with his partner the night the call came in about the nearly-fatal attack on the prostitute, who has been only known as Witness 97 or Anderson, which is not her real name.
Mr. Connor had previously testified he was told by the Crown the case wouldn't go ahead because the victim was a severe heroin addict, and without her testimony the likelihood of conviction wasn't there.
Considering all Mr. Connor knew about Mr. Pickton, including various eerie details laid out by sources in his investigations “and the obvious lies coming out of Willie Pickton himself, why didn't you and the RCMP deal with this man and stop him?” lawyer Cameron Ward asked.
Mr. Connor noted it was no longer his file after he was promoted in August 1999.
“There were assigned investigators and there were supervisors in place,” he said. “I can't speak to their decisions as to why or why not they did or didn't do something. I wasn't there.”
In earlier testimony, Mr. Connor told the inquiry he had fingered Mr. Pickton as “the bad guy” for several years prior to the man's February 2002 arrest and even made his own copies of the investigation file which he stored in a safe.
He took the precautions over concerns the file might go missing when he handed it over to the joint RCMP-Vancouver Police investigation into the missing women.
Mr. Connor is now retired but continues to do some contract work for the RCMP.
The inquiry has previously heard that files kept by Lori Shenher, the Vancouver Police Department's lead investigator into the missing women's case, were not returned to her in their entirety.
Mr. Ward told the inquiry he has learned that the Crown has not retained the file on the charges relating to the sex trade worker who survived an attack at the Pickton farm, despite a file-retention policy of 75 years for all criminal files involving serious personal injury.
Nearly five years after the 1997 attack, officers searched Mr Pickton’s farm acting on a search warrant looking for illegal firearms.
The warrant led to one of the biggest police investigations in Canadian history and uncovered the remains or DNA of 33 women. Mr. Pickton was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder.