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Pork farm products contained human remains

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Meat from Canada Farm May Have Had Human Remains
By Allan Dowd

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Pork products processed and distributed from the farm of accused Canadian serial killer Robert Pickton may have contained human remains, police and health officials said on Wednesday.

Pickton raised and slaughtered pigs at the Port Coquitlam farm as a part-time occupation until his arrest at the property in February 2002, and police believe he gave or sold processed meat products to friends and acquaintances.

Pickton, 53, is awaiting trial in the killings of at least 22 of more than 60 missing Vancouver prostitutes who disappeared over the past decade and are feared to have been murdered at the dilapidated farm 20 miles east of Vancouver.

"Given the state of the farm, and what we know about the investigation, we cannot rule out the possibility that cross-contamination may have occurred," B.C. provincial Health Officer Perry Kendall told reporters in Victoria.

"Cross-contamination could mean that human remains did get into or contaminate some of the pork meat," Kendall said.

Officials stressed that the farm's pig slaughtering operation was not officially licensed and he did not sell processed meat to retail outlets.

"There is no evidence we are dealing with anything other than a very specific localized issue, with a specific number of local people," said Cpl. Catherine Galliford of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Kendall said he was not contacted by the police until last month when they asked a "hypothetical question' about the potential health risk. He issued the alert when they later said it probably happened.

Details of evidence from the farm were presented in court last year at Pickton's preliminary hearing, but a court order prohibits reporters who covered the hearing from publishing details of what they heard until it is used in his trial, which will likely not start until next year.

Police defended the timing of their contacting health officials, saying it was needed to protect the investigation, although they also acknowledged more people may have received meat from Pickton than they had originally thought.

"We have carefully considered all the issues," said Vancouver Police Detective Shelia Sullivan.

Pickton is officially charged with 15 murders but prosecutors have said seven more counts are waiting to be filed. Tests have identified the DNA of nine more women, but not yet resulted in charges.

The victims were among more than 60 drug-addicted prostitutes who disappeared from Vancouver's poor Downtown Eastside neighborhood. Families of the missing women expressed horror at the news, with one telling a Vancouver radio station bluntly. "I'm not eating dinner tonight."

Pickton, in custody since his arrest, is the only person charged in the case. He has not entered a plea to the criminal charges but denied wrongdoing in a related civil lawsuit.

03/10/04 21:12

Copyright Reuters Ltd. All rights reserved. The information contained In this news report may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of Reuters Ltd.



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