On 5 February 2002 police, armed with a search warrant, entered the Pickton farm looking for illegal firearms. Within hours of the 57 year old being in custody, the police obtained a second court order to search the farm as part of the ongoing 20 year police investigation into the disappearance of over 60 women from downtown. The search by dozens of forensic suited investigators amongst the slurry and dirt turned up an asthma inhaler belonging to one of the many missing, but the police could only charge Pickton with minor firearm contraventions. Later released, he was now under police surveillance.
A few weeks later, the police arrested and charged Pickton with two counts of first degree murder for the killings of Sereena Abotsway and Mona Wilson. A fortnight later, the names of Heather Bottomley, Jacqueline McDonell and Diane Rock were added to the charges. One week later, Andrea Joesbury became the sixth charge.
With the addition of Heather Chinnock, Tanya Holyk, Sherry Irving and Inga Hall, the total murder charges reached fifteen, making Pickton Canada’s biggest formally charged serial killer. By this stage, large conveyor belts were being used to shift through tons of soil, going as deep as 30 feet down for sifting and DNA analysis by over 100 forensic specialists. It broke new ground for forensics. They had found blood-stained clothes and pieces of human bone and teeth. Amongst a pile of animal bones, human toes, heels and rib bones were found.
By November, there were nearly 30 charges against Pickton but investigators were constantly thwarted by the conditions on the farm and the fact that Pickton’s pigs had helped in the disposal of the evidence.