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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

WHO IS YOUR ALTER EGO?

ALTER EGO = a second self, as (a) a trusted friend (b) the opposite side of a personality.
A Counterpart.

"Life is the garment we continually alter, but which never seems to fit."
David McCord 1897 - "Wheras to Mr. Franklin." 1956

When I went to work for the newspaper, fresh out of highschool, besides longing to write like Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation writers, I had aspirations of becoming a crime reporter. In my apprenticeship as a copy runner (they'd call it 'intern' nowdays), I envied the guy copy runners who got sent off to sit in on court cases while I got sent off to cut my journalistic teeth on socialite tea-parties and library board meetings. I envisioned myself as eventually becoming an investigative journalist covering sensational events and trials. Unfortunately, the City Editor wasn't inclined to encourage an 18 year old preacher's daughter to be trained for a job on the news desk taking police calls. Instead, I was directed to the news library where I was put in charge of the biography and crime files.

At the time, there were a couple of mafia-type gangs operating in the city vying for control of the drug trade. I was entrusted with the 'secret' files where the names of individuals were kept, sorting out who worked for who according to the police reports which I collected daily from the police dept.I got to know and recognized the names of popular criminals, drug users, bookies, crooks whose names happened to come up on the lists or in the news. (For years afterwards when I saw a certain name in the paper I could remember the list of their former convictions from the files I'd kept in the library.)

At a popular downtown cafe where I used to hang out after ballet lessons, or on the weekends before my friends and I would head off for the local dance hall, I used to rub shoulders with some of these notorious characters who also hung out on Granville Street, because that's where the gambling clubs and after-hours booze-cans were located. Once I remember that, after a particularly well publicized attempted murder of a drug lord, one of these guys was flashing a wad of bills and bragging out loud (overheard by me.) I quickly reported what I'd observed and heard to reporters in the news room and soon found myself down at the cop-shop browsing through mug shots, putting the finger on the blabber mouth.It struck me then, that this was a dangerous business. So in the end I gave up my aspirations to be a crack crime reporter, and turned my interest back to historical fiction. (Although my play, "The Street", produced in 2000, was a semi-autobiographical story about the heroin addiction of teen-agers in the 50's. Another scene I was familiar with because of my boyfriend's addiction. I wrote the play as a cautionary tale for my peers, when I was 18. But it was highly censored. So when I had the chance to rewrite it and have it produced, I was able to tell it the way it was without anyone questioning how an 'innocent' like me could possibly know such things!)

I have never been a reader of murder mysteries, although when I was in my teens I was a devotee of Mickey Spillane and I did read a few well known crime stories. I have to admit I haven't read Agatha Christie. I was impressed with "Silence of the Lambs" because of the author's knowledge and extensive research about serial killers. I prefer real life crime stories. Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood" was chillingly real to me as at the time I was filing all the news reports on the case. Just as it was my job to keep files for any notorious crime that happened here or elsewhere.

At the present time our city has been brought to world attention, not for it's spectacular scenery and other amenities, but because of a gruesome murder case that has just come to trial after five years of extensive police investigation. That is, the trial of pig famer Robert "Willie" Pickton, who is charged with murder in the disappearance of at least 26 women from the Downtown East Side of Vancouver. By 2001 there were 45 women officially listed a missing. This later grew to 60 although since then a couple have surfaced, alive and well. These were mainly women who were caught up in the sex trade because of their drug addictions. They were all women who left behind families and friends who had searched without success to find them.

The investigation into their disappearance was hampered by police in-fighting, inexperience, under-resources and many mistakes. It wasn't until Feb. 2000 that the police raided Pickton's farm and laid the first of 26 charges of murder against him. From then on the findings were leaked or publicized were horrific, unbelievable. Rumous abounded from the onset when the police investigation turned to the pork rendering plant and there were rumours of 'snuff' parties behind held at the farm, in a place known as "Piggy's Palace". This guy, who calls himself "The Pig Man" brags about how in one day he killed 35 pigs and how good he was at the job. To an undercover cop, he bragged that he wanted to round out the number of women to 50 but 'screwed up' after the 49th. Of course, he's pleading "not guilty" to the six charges he is now being tried on (a trial which may last for a year before he he brought to trial for the next 20).

My alter-ego, the criminal investigator/journalist, has re-emerged. I started posting a few blurbs about this case when it first broke in the news in 2002, on my other on-line journal at and since the trial started this week I've posted a few other tid-bits. Over 350 representatives of the world press have descended on Vancouver to cover this sensational trial. It is likely to be the most notorious murder trial ever in Canada, to date it's the biggest. But I don't want to write about it here on my writer's blog so I am thinking of putting some of my comments and news on my other "Conversations with Myself". http://ruthakik.blogspot.com Or you can go on-line to www.cbc.ca or www.vancouversun.com

We have to remember these women. As one of the grieving fathers said: "These are our sisters, our daughters, our mothers, all human beings - all great people."

"I am a writer who came from a sheltered life. A sheltered life can be a daring life as well. For all serious daring starts from within." Eudora Welty 1909- From "Finding a Voice."

3 comments:

Gabriele C. said...

Weird, that one never made it into the German media.

Ok, we have our own mass murderers, cannibals and bodies of babies found in flower pots, but usuall the media jump at every juicy and dirty case no matter where it happenend.

Wynn Bexton said...

I've started posting the back story and trial details on my other blog: Conversations with Myself at
http://ruthakik.blogspot.com

The entries go back to 2002 when this horrifying case began to unfold.

Anonymous said...

How Utterly terrifying!!
Ewwww!
I read about it in the NY Times, I believe. Very scary thinking that there are people living in the society capable of doing such horrendous deeds. And here I was thinking my murder was over the top...
LOL
Sam