A woman who befriended accused Canadian serial killer Robert "Willie" Pickton said Tuesday that before he was arrested, Pickton told her there were bodies on his farm and that he was considering suicide.
Gina Houston cried as she told Pickton's murder trial he suggested they both kill themselves in a Feb. 20, 2002, conversation shortly after police had raided his farm but before he was charged with murder.
"Willie told me we had to to do something. We had to do it before Friday ... He told me 'There was only one way out'," Houston told the crowded court in New Westminster, British Columbia, as Pickton watched from the prisoner's box.
Pickton was charged with murder on Feb. 22, 2002. Police had raided his farm just outside Vancouver on Canada's West Coast on Feb. 5, 2002, on a weapons charge, but evidence found in his trailer quickly turned the case into a murder probe.
Houston, who had been friends with Pickton since the early 1990s, said he admitted to her in the Feb. 20 talk that there were women's bodies buried on the farm.
"He said there was one, two, three, four, five or six bodies," a frail-looking Houston, 39, testified.
Accused of 26 murders
Pickton, 57, is on trial for six of the 26 murders he has been charged with since his arrest. The court divided the case against the Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, pig farmer into two trials to make it easier for jurors to handle.
He has pleaded not guilty to the murder charges.
The women Pickton is accused of killing were among more than 60 drug-addicted prostitutes who disappeared from Vancouver's poor Downtown Eastside neighborhood from the late 1980s until late 2001.
Houston is the first major witness in the trial to describe what life was like at the ramshackle farm where police say Pickton killed his victims and then butchered their remains in much the same manner he butchered pigs.
Houston, who said she often visited the farm with her three children, testified she saw one of the women that Pickton is now charged with killing at the farm doing drugs on Pickton's bed.
Houston said her relationship with Pickton was close but not sexual, and that she visited him in jail after his arrest. "We were still close. Me and Willie talked all the time," she said, adding later that Pickton once asked her to marry him.
She testified Pickton was a "workaholic" who taught her how to butcher pigs.
Houston, who said she had open access to Pickton's property, admitted taking prostitutes to the farm, but said they were for a male friend of Pickton's who helped with pig butchering, but not for Pickton himself.
Heard sounds of a struggle
Houston told the court she had a phone conversation with Pickton in November 2001 in which she heard the sounds of a struggle with a woman. Houston said that when she asked him in the February talk to tell her what had happened, he told her "(the woman) didn't make it."
Houston said that in the Feb. 20, 2002, conversation, Pickton also blamed her for what was happening to him, but did not explain what he meant.
The jury of seven men and five women has been hearing evidence since late January, but many of the witnesses have been police officers or others involved with Pickton's arrest and the collection of evidence from the farm.
Houston is now being treated for cancer, and entered the court in a wheelchair. She said she had used cocaine and marijuana, but said she never did it on the farm because Pickton opposed drug use.