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An artist's drawing of serial killer Robert Pickton listening to the guilty verdict handed to him in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster, B.C., on Dec. 9, 2007.FELICITY DON

Robert Pickton once had dreams of life beyond his filthy trailer on a junk-strewn property pockmarked with abandoned vehicles, piles of dirt and the remains of 26 human beings.

The self-described "little old pig farmer" planned to build a house with six rooms and a spiral staircase, with three-metre ceilings all around.

The dream turned to nightmare for his victims and their families, culminating yesterday when the 58-year-old pig farmer was found guilty on six counts of second-degree murder.

The long trial helped the public and the friends and relatives of his victims strip away a shroud of mystery that had fascinated and repulsed.

For years, as Mr. Pickton awaited trial for the murders of Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson, Andrea Joesbury, Brenda Wolfe, Georgina Papin and Marnie Frey, the world knew him only as that pig farmer on whose farm all the women's remains were found.

Bits and pieces about his life surfaced through friends and the media; a former neighbour once described him a "good natured little bastard."

Photographs of him aren't flattering - angular facial features framed by stringy, greasy hair and a mysterious aura magnified by an almost complete absence of public comment or speech.

From anecdotes he told police, to the testimony of others about him, the life of Robert Pickton emerged as a Kafkaesque house of curiosities.

His own twisted words and slow, twangy voice provide the script for some of his years - stories about a favourite calf butchered when he was a child, a beloved horse named Goldie that died and was mounted in his trailer.

While witnesses at his trial - including police, neighbours and a slew of drug addicts - described his domain as a filthy property of junk and vehicle wrecks, they also provided a contrasting portrait of Mr. Pickton as a man who didn't use drugs, was a teetotaller and workaholic.

Mr. Pickton dropped out of school in either 1963 or 1964, jurors heard, and had been in special education programs before that. When he stopped school, he started work as a meat cutter and did that for almost seven years before quitting to go back to the farm. He started working with pigs, building up his barns and driving a truck for B.C. Hydro until his piggery, as he called it, burned down in 1978.

No one will mistake Mr. Pickton for a Rhodes Scholar, but testimony at the trial provided a far more in-depth look at the man's intelligence.

A defence witness, an expert on testing for intelligence quotient, scored Mr. Pickton's full general IQ score at 86, putting him well above the level of mental retardation, which is below 70. But the trial also revealed a startling contrast to his inadequate education, and that was a desire to keep learning. While he was held in custody at the North Fraser Pretrial Centre in Port Coquitlam, Mr. Pickton signed up for correspondence courses in agriculture.

The Crown at trial tried to convince the jury that Mr. Pickton was not nearly as unsophisticated as the defence suggested. Jurors were urged to pay close attention to his statements and mannerisms while he was in a cell with an undercover police officer after his arrest in February, 2002. Among them: a maniacal laugh that raises hairs on the back of the neck. He also takes on the persona of a hardened criminal, seeming to brag that he's known all over the world.

But Mr. Pickton has none of the panache that has made celebrities out of other serial predators, his victims none of the sweet innocence of other helpless prey. All of them lived in the beleaguered neighbourhood of the Downtown Eastside, selling sex to feed their drug addiction to drugs.