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'Forget about Willie': Victim's father reacts to death of B.C. serial killer Robert Pickton

Robert Pickton died in hospital Friday after he was assaulted in prison on May 19.

Rick Frey remembers waiting for his daughter Marnie Frey’s body to be found.

Marnie, who vanished in 1997, was one of B.C. serial killer Robert Pickton’s victims. 

Around the time of her disappearance, Rick was commercial fishing. He recalls being alone on his boat seeing news flashes that bodies were being found and he wondered if it was his daughter.

“Do you know how hard that is when you’re by yourself? Is that my daughter?” says Rick, who was reached by Glacier Media at his Campbell River home Friday. “Tears run down my face when I think about it.”

Pickton, 74, died in hospital May 31 after he was attacked on May 19 by another inmate at Port-Cartier Institution in Quebec. The death was announced by Correctional Service Canada (CSC).

“He died, but he has been dead a long time,” says Rick. “Nobody wants to keep hearing about Pickton. Everyone is sick of it.”

Every day, Rick thinks about his daughter and still, all these years later, is left with questions.

“I still haven’t got answers… why did he do this to my daughter’s body?”

What’s important now for him, he says, is that other families get answers and that evidence is preserved.

“Let’s forget about him, but let’s not forget about the other families that need some answers."

Rick says he’s happy to not have to mention Pickton's name ever again.

“He’s gone. Rest in peace. I don’t care if he suffered or didn’t suffer. I am not one to say that I wish he suffered more … Let's forget about Willie." 

Pickton had been serving a life sentence. At the time of his sentencing in December 2007, B.C. Supreme Court Justice James Williams said it was a “rare case that properly warrants the maximum (25-year) period of parole ineligibility available to the court.”

Pickton was found guilty of killing Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson, Andrea Joesbury, Brenda Ann Wolfe, Georgina Papin and Marnie Frey. But the remains or DNA of 33 women were found on Pickton’s pig farm in Port Coquitlam.

In a jail cell conversation, he told an undercover police officer that he had killed 49 people. He was planning to kill one more and then take a break before continuing. Pickton said he got caught because he got sloppy by the time he was arrested, for the last time, in February 2002.

Papin's sister, Cynthia Cardinal, said Pickton's death means she can finally move on from her sister's murder.

“This is gonna bring healing for, I won't say all families, I'll just say most of the families," she said.

"Because they didn't get their day in court, (that's) what I'm really sad about. But I'm also feeling really happy right now,” said Cardinal.

“I’m like — wow, finally. I can actually move on and heal and I can put this behind me."

Investigation into assault underway

Police began searching the Pickton farm more than 22 years ago in what would be a years-long investigation.

Vancouver police were criticized for not taking the case seriously because many of the missing were sex workers or drug users.

Pickton became eligible for day parole in February, which sparked outrage from advocates, politicians and victims' relatives, who criticized Canada's justice system, saying he should never be released.

In a statement Friday, Correctional Service Canada said Pickton’s next of kin have been notified.

“We have also contacted registered victims, in accordance with their specified notification preferences,” said the statement.

“We are mindful that this offender’s case has had a devastating impact on communities in British Columbia and across the country, including Indigenous peoples, victims and their families,” the statement continued. “Our thoughts are with them.”

An investigation has been launched to determine the circumstances surrounding the assault. CSC says the investigation will also identify any recommendations or corrective measures.

Correctional Service Canada says the 51-year-old assault suspect is in custody.

B.C.'s Minister of Public Safety commented Friday on Pickton being dead. 

"We have seen the end of a heinous life," says Mike Farnworth. "I’m thinking today of the families of Pickton’s victims and our entire community. This news has reopened old wounds and brought back painful feelings and memories."

You can read more on the Pickton case in this long-form story.

With files from Canadian Press