Robert William Pickton was born October 24, 1949 in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada. He grew up on a family operated pig farm, which gave him the advantage of being one of the most notorious serial killers in Canadian history. He admitted to killing 49 women in the span of approximately 19 years. Although he confessed, he was only convicted of murdering six women because of lack of evidence. Pickton was a man with several family influenced issues that drove him to commit the crimes he did.
Therefore, this paper will use the Social Learning Theory to depict how Robert Pickton became the heinous killer he is known as today. From the early 70’s to the early 2000’s women had been disappearing from the Eastside of downtown Vancouver, British Columbia. The Eastside was known as a heavy crime rated area with street gangs, biker gangs, drug dens, and pimps and prostitutes. As the rate of missing women escalated, rumours started to circulate; a serial killer had risen. A large percentage of the women that had gone missing had addiction problems or were mentally ill.
Majority were Indigenous women, which raised attention towards missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. The RCMP never took the disappearances seriously as they often went unnoticed because of the lifestyle that they lived. Pickton is a convicted murder, confessed rapist and supposed cannibal. He would lure the sex trade workers back to his pig farm to rape and kill the women by strangulation with a piano wire or belt. Pickton’s former friend Andrew Bellwood testified in gruesome detail the horrifying things Pickton said he would do to a prostitute. He would handcuff them, put the women on the bed face down, rape them, stroke the women’s hair, then pull out the wire or belt underneath the mattress and strangle the women to death . Bellwood told the courtroom that Pickton would whisper to the prostitutes “It was going to be ok, that everything was all over now” (CBC News, 2018).
When the victim was deceased, he would then take them to the slaughterhouse and “bleed them and gut them”(CBC News, 2018). Pickton supposedly said to Bellwood. He then testified Pickton’s comment “Oh you know how much they bleed, you wouldn’t believe how much blood comes out of a person”(CBC News, 2018). Bellwood explained how Pickton told him that he would feed the bodies to his pigs and whatever wasn’t eaten would be placed in large barrels destined for a Vancouver rendering plant. In February of 2002, a former employee of the pig farm informed the RCMP that Pickton was in possession of illegal weapons. Meeting the official requirements, a search warrant was issued. On the 5th the police raided Pickton’s property, finding several illegal weapons and unregistered guns, as well as items connecting Pickton to the missing women. Among the evidence they had found in the first search, when a second warrant was issued it led them to discover handcuffs, women’s clothing and shoes, jewelry and an asthma inhaler prescribed to Sereena Abotsway, one of the missing women.
In a motorhome on the Pickton property was a trace of blood, that being Mona Wilson’s, another victim. Pickton was then re-arrested and charged with two counts of murder and a total of 26 murder charges were eventually laid against him. While incarcerated Pickton explained to this cellmate how he was unsatisfied with his number of killings, he said “I made my own grave by being sloppy. Doesn’t that just kick you in the ass now.
I was just gonna do one more, make it even”(Miller and Miller, 2018). Little did Pickton know, his cellmate was in fact an undercover RCMP officer and his confession had been recorded. The captured video was then played and used to convict Pickton for the murder of six women, for which he was then sentenced to life in prison.
Social Learning Theory is classified as the learning to enrage in crime, most likely through association with others and often being exposed to criminal figures, leading them to view crime as something desirable and acceptable. Pickton’s life was said to be “brutal and difficult”, his father had very little involvement, and when he was, he was reportedly abusive towards Robert. Pressure was put on Louise Pickton, mother of three, to raise the children to the best ability that she could, making her a strict mother and a workaholic to provide for the family. The Pickton children were expected to work long hours slopping pigs everyday. During his childhood it was said, when Pickton would want to hide from someone, he would crawl into large gutted hog carcasses. He was known as an outcast at school.
His personal hygiene was bad, he smelt like dead animals, dirt, manure and he never wore clean clothes. Not to mention, he had a fear of showers. Pickton was slow in high school he was put into special education classes. He then quit half way through. The first time Pickton was exposed to crime was at the age of 17. It was one evening when Robert’s younger brother Dave, had taken the car out for a drive. No one can testify as to how exactly this incident occurred but Dave slammed right into a 14 year old neighbourhood boy, Tim Barrett. Barret laid on the ground crumpled, badly hurt.
Dave left the young boy there and rushed home to get his mother. They came back minutes later to the crime scene. Louise looked at the body, rolled him over and shoved him into the deep slough that ran along side the road. The next morning Tim’s body was found by a neighbour walking by. The police had arrived right away to pull the body out of the water. An autopsy was performed and showed the cause of death was drowning, not the injuries that were inflicted by the car accident.
When the case went to trial it was ruled as an accidental death. Although, Dave was sent to juvenile court, more information is not provided due to him being a minor. Louise was never charged for the crime that she committed. The Social Learning Theory has three mechanisms through which individuals learn to enrage in crime from others, differential reinforcement, beliefs and modelling. Differential reinforcement is when a crime is committed but not penalized, similar to the Barret case, Louise had no punishment for the crime she had committed.
A belief is the acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists. For example, at a young age, children are told crime is bad and wrong and it is usually accepted and internalized. Robert Pickton was never told crime was good and acceptable, but the possibility of having his mother kill Tim Barret could have made him believe any crime is reasonable if committed. The imitation of criminal models is acting as those you are surrounded by. When Robert’s father, Leonard Pickton was present he was supposedly abusive, which could have given him the conclusion that partaking in the act of physical or sexual abuse was tolerable, which drove him to commit the murders and rapes of 49 women. The Pickton children did not have a role model to look up to, other than there mother, Even though Tim Barret’s death did not directly have to do with him, seeing the only permanent adult figure he knew, execute what she had done, showed Robert crime is reasonable act to commit. In conclusion, Robert William Pickton’s childhood drove him to become the man he is today. He had many family issues and never grew up like a normal kid, he was made fun of, did not have friends and never felt loved by anyone.
Being around criminals such as his mother and father had great influence on him. The Social Learning Theory fits exactly as to why Robert Pickton became the way he is. If Leonard Pickton was a non abusive, present father and if Louise and Dave called the police the night of the accident 49 women could still be alive today.