true crime

'I went on a date with a pig farmer. I found out later he was feeding them people.'

This post contains graphic depictions.

Lorraine Murphy was an aspiring freelance journalist when she wandered into a Vancouver cafe on its closing night. 

The legendary jazz bar, The Classical Joint, was something of an institution within the community - untouched from when it was first established in the late '60s - and Lorraine knew its closure was a big story. 

"I was an aspiring freelance journalist, there for the first time, hoping that a story about the place might inspire an editor to buy my first article," she shared in a piece she wrote for The Guardian many years later. 

Making her way through the crowd, the young journo saw a scruffy man with ginger hair wandering around taking photos of patrons, using what looked to be an expensive camera and tripod. She saw her opportunity: his pictures could just be what her story needed to get it over the line with editors and see her piece published.

She did note, though, that the man wasn't being received all that warmly by the people whose images he was snapping.

Watch the tapes of Willy Pickton being interviewed years before he was arrested. Post continues below.

Video via CBS International.

"As he was taking all these pictures, people turned away from him when he came up to them," Lorraine recalled on the podcast What It Was Like with Julian Morgans. "[People] literally turned away when he came up to them. [But] I thought, 'What the heck, I want these pictures.' So I waved him over.'"


The man was flattered that a journalist was interested in publishing his photographs, and insisted Lorraine join him back at his place in the country to take a look at the rest of his work. He was a pig farmer, he said, and suggested he could whip up a barbeque. But even in her twenties, Lorraine knew better than to wander off to a strange man's home, especially one receiving such a frosty reception from others at the cafe event. 

They agreed to meet a few days later, Lorraine asking for his number to avoid giving him hers.

In a little notebook, she jotted down his digits along with his name: Willy.

Willy wandered away, apparently to smoke marijuana, Lorraine told Morgans on the podcast. Barely a minute had gone by before two men came over to Lorraine's table.

"[These] two men that I had never seen before in my life sat down at my table without an invitation or anything and one of them... he said, 'Willy's not taking you home is he?'" she said.

"I said, 'No. Why?' He goes, 'Because not everyone's nice.' And then he just got up and walked away. I've never seen him since either."

The other man, a "young hippie" with curly, bushy hair stayed behind to offer up a little more information beyond his cryptic friend's words.


"He looked like he was a roadie... but he was probably an undercover cop in retrospect and he gave me specifics. Like the fact that Willy's passenger door in his car didn't have a handle on the inside," Lorraine recalled.

His name was Robert 'Willy' Pickton, she learned - but to Lorraine, he was a guy with an expensive camera and she wanted his photos to bring her story to life. 

The pair met at a cafe a few days later, and while Lorraine considered it nothing more than a business exchange, Willy showed up dressed in "beautiful clothing", she recalled.

"It surprised me," she said. "But then I thought, 'Oh. He thinks it's a date. And he thinks I like preppy.'"

There was one thing Willy's fashion choices couldn't cover up: his odour. To Lorraine, it wasn't what a person was supposed to smell like.

"It's a smell I have never smelled since," she explained. "It [was] as if metal could rot... I know what pigs smell like. This wasn't that. It was something that instinctively made you recoil - a soul-deep recoil... It wasn't a human smell at all."

He showed her his photographs in the meantime - about 20 in all - and Lorraine noted that every single one was focused on women.

"I just thought he was a creep," she explained, 20 years after meeting him. "And somebody I was going to avoid."

She chose two of the images to accompany her story, and was ready to call it a day, but Willy was persistent. He wanted Lorraine to visit him at his home in the country, where he said they could look through his collection together.


Willy Pickton. Image: Global News/Wikipedia.

But Lorraine, knowing she didn't want to spend too long with this man, had organised for a friend to meet her at 4pm. The friend arrived, immediately ushered Lorraine out of the cafe and together, they went down the street to a burger joint. 


"She and I went to a diner, where we talked about the overkeen, creepy farmer," Lorraine wrote in The Guardian. "We thought it was funny. Then she said, 'Don't look up, but Willy's circling the building'."

The pair paid the bill, waited until they saw him turn a corner, then ran for the bus, jumping on the first one that came along - even though it was going in the wrong direction. 

The women changed routes twice more to ensure they'd lost him.

"We thought, 'Oh. What a grand adventure. How jolly. We're so clever,'" she shared on What Was It Like.

And that was that.

She pitched her story around, and nobody picked it up. Lorraine didn't think much of their interaction for a long time. Until about 14 years later, when a news segment playing on the TV stopped her in her tracks. 

"This guy comes on the news. I said, 'I know that man.' The announcer has said he's been arrested on suspicion of murder,'" she recalled in her article for The Guardian.

It was Willy. 

He was barely recognisable in the grainy photo on the screen, but Lorraine realised it was him, after the details of his horrific crimes along with his photograph had been playing on news channels across the country for weeks. 


At her father's insistence, Lorraine spoke to police. She accurately picked his face out of multiple line-ups, and passed along the notebook with his name and number she'd written down all those years ago. She even had the two photographs Willy had given her.

"Later, I learned that Willy had had many women out to his "place in the country" for a barbecue, where he murdered them, ground up their body parts and served them to unsuspecting friends," Lorraine wrote.

He would also feed the corpses of the women he killed to the pigs he kept on his farm to hide the evidence, according to the Washington Post.

His victims were vulnerable young women - sex workers in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. He lured them with the offer of money and drugs if they went with him to a cluttered farm in suburban Port Coquitlam in Canada - the property he shared with his brother Dave.

Willy was almost caught in 1997 on an attempted murder charge, which he managed to evade. It freed him to murder at least 21 more women, according to Macleans.

It wasn't until 2002 that he was caught and charged with the murders of multiple women.

He is serving 25 years on six counts of second-degree murder, but in the years since his incarceration, Willy has admitted to killing as many as 49 women.

Among those 49, investigators were able to charge him for the murders of Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson, Jacqueline McDonell, Dianne Rock, Heather Bottomley, Andrea Joesbury, Brenda Wolfe, Georgina Papin, Patricia Johnson, Helen Hallmark, Jennifer Furminger, Heather Chinnock, Tanya Holyk, Sherry Irving and Inga Hall. 


In 2005, he was charged with the murder of 12 more women: Cara Ellis, Andrea Borhaven, Debra Lynne Jones, Marnie Frey, Tiffany Drew, Kerry Koski, Sarah de Vries, Cynthia Feliks, Angela Jardine, Wendy Crawford, Diana Melnick and a Jane Doe.

Marnie Frey was one of the woman murdered by Willy Pickton. Image: CBC.


In the What It Was Like podcast, Lorraine touched on the cruel intelligence of Willy, who tried to pin the blame on his brother.

"Willy's defence was that he was just a puppet in the hands of his much smarter brother, David," she explained. "The fact that I heard from their literal neighbours was that David was an idiot who would do anything Willy told him.

"Willy was the strong-minded one. Willy was the forceful one. And I've met Willy. I have an IQ of 136, but I don't hesitate to say that Willy Pickton is more intelligent than me."

It's a devastating story, where women's lives could have been spared if police had looked into missing sex worker cases sooner. 

"He was left to roam for 12 years," Lorraine said. 

"The police knew about him all the time but as long as he was 'just' killing prostitutes, they didn't care. Maybe if he killed me, they might have cared because everybody knew where I was that night. I told everybody I was working on the story. And people saw me with him.

"Maybe if he'd killed me, something would have happened sooner. But you know what? I'm really sorry for the people who died in between, but I'm not willing to go back in time and live that reality."

Feature image: Global BCTV/Wikipedia.