Skip to main content

Convicted serial killer Robert Pickton is shown in this still image taken from a police video.The Canadian Press

A book written by B.C. serial killer Robert Pickton has been pulled from production after a public outcry from victims' families and an apology from the publisher, which says it was tricked into publishing the book.

But the book's brief shelf life may have ripple effects, as Premier Christy Clark responded to the controversy by promising a new law to prevent criminals from attempting to follow in Mr. Pickton's footsteps.

"We are actively looking at legislative options that would stop anybody like Robert Pickton from profiting from their crimes," Ms. Clark said on Monday, adding that B.C. may be able to kick-start the process by building on work done in other provinces.

"We're looking at their legislation to see how much of it we can just copy and apply," said Ms. Clark, who spoke to reporters in Vancouver after an unrelated announcement.

Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Nova Scotia have laws designed to prevent, for example, a criminal writing a book and receiving money from the book's sales. The recounting of a crime remains legal, but profiting from that recounting is supposed to be off-limits.

There have been waves of public revulsion before over books by criminals. Last year, online retailer Amazon briefly featured a self-published fictional book by Ontario killer Paul Bernardo. Mr. Bernardo is serving a life sentence for the murders of two teenage girls in the early 1990s. That book was pulled last November after angry public reaction.

Mr. Pickton may have been trying to head off legal issues by working with an outsider: Michael Chilldres, whose name appears on the cover of the book, a 142-page paperback titled Pickton: In His Own Words.

"We have a long-standing policy of not working with, or publishing work by, incarcerated individuals," Outskirts Press president Brent Sampson said Monday in an e-mail.

"Mr. Pickton was apparently aware of our no-tolerance policy when he devised a plan to publish through an unaffiliated third party, Mr. Chilldres, who claimed to Outskirts Press that he was the sole owner and author of said material."

Outskirts said it had ceased publication of the book and asked Amazon to remove it from its website. By Monday afternoon, it was no longer available on the site, although the book was still listed for sale through Barnes & Noble.

Outskirts – which is based in Colorado and says on its website that it has nearly 14,000 published titles – also apologized to families of the victims "for any additional heartache this may have caused."

An Outskirts spokeswoman declined to answer any other questions, including how the company vets its authors.

Amazon did not respond to requests for comment.

Efforts to reach Mr. Chilldres were not immediately successful. A CTV News story described Mr. Chilldres as a retired construction worker from California and quoted him as saying that any money from the book would go to a former cellmate of Mr. Pickton's. The cellmate had been convicted of sexually assaulting a teen but maintains his innocence, Mr. Chilldres told CTV.

In Ottawa, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the impact of the book was "painfully traumatic" and that Correctional Service Canada (CSC) would investigate the source of the manuscript.

"We will be examining all those who have assisted in any way in this odious enterprise," Mr. Goodale said during Question Period.

A spokeswoman for Correctional Service Canada said the agency was investigating.

"CSC is looking into this matter and will take any corrective action that is required," she wrote in an e-mail.

Lorelei Williams, whose aunt Tanya Holek was among Mr. Pickton's victims, said she would support any laws designed to prevent or discourage such books from reaching the public.

"It almost felt like a death all over again," Ms. Williams said.

"No serial killer should be able to publish books like that – or anybody," Ms. Williams said. "Anybody who's involved with this is just as guilty as Pickton."

Correctional Service Canada said offenders do not have access to the Internet or e-mail, and the agency has the authority to intercept inmate communications on public-safety grounds.

"It's obviously a terrible tragedy for families and anything that exacerbates that is clearly distasteful and to be avoided," said Rick Brooks, a Vancouver lawyer who was a member of Mr. Pickton's defence team.

"On the other hand, he has a right to free speech – and I'm not sure how you balance the two."

Mr. Pickton is serving a life sentence for the second-degree murders of six women and is being held at the Kent maximum-security prison near Agassiz, B.C., about 120 kilometres east of Vancouver. The remains or DNA of 33 women were found on his farm in Port Coquitlam, east of Vancouver, and he told an undercover police officer he killed a total of 49.

With reports from Ian Bailey in Vancouver and Robert Fife in Ottawa.

Report an error

Editorial code of conduct