Pick Me Up! magazine asked for my professional opinion on Robert Pickton, a former pig farmer and serial killer convicted of the second-degree murders of six women in Canada. He was also charged with the deaths of an additional 20 women. Out in the 24th May 2012 edition, I supplied the following psychological insight.
What impact did his mother’s strict working regime have on the young Robert Pickton?
The main impact that his mother’s strict working regime would have had on young Robert would have been the denial of a childhood. From school to the slaughterhouse, where was there time for Robert to play, have fun, or spend time with friends? If he wasn’t at school, he was surrounded by the flesh and blood of slaughtered animals. In such an environment there was no room for childhood innocence.
How would his close proximity to death in the workings of the pig slaughterhouse have affected him? It was rumoured he used to hide in the gutted carcasses of the larger pigs.
Even though these were animals as opposed to human beings, the environment in which Robert was raised was one where death was ‘normal’ and carcasses were familiar. We all tend to stay with the familiar, however bad that might be. Robert stayed with the familiar, which had tragic consequences for his victims.
How can we understand his fear of showering?
Whether Robert feared showers or more so craved the sense of comfort that came from the familiarity of the smells he grew up with is questionable. Indeed, Robert used to hide in the gutted carcasses of the larger pigs. The thought of this would make most people feel nauseas, but for Robert it had protected him from something or someone. Therefore, the smells associated with hiding in a pig carcass or, indeed, of the slaughterhouse itself, were likely a comfort to Robert.
He was famous locally for his poor personal hygiene. Why would someone let themselves get so dirty and smelly?
See above re the associations between smell and safety. Also, lack of personal hygiene can act as a protective mechanism, keeping people away.
When he was young, his mother tried to cover up a hit-and –run accident his brother had been involved in by dumping the victim’s body in a lake before he had died. How would this have affected Pickton?
Robert was given the message that it is ok to take someone’s life and hide the evidence. Also, the way the body was dumped shows a lack of respect for human life in general.
Why did such a quiet man throw such wild parties/orgies?
Robert was quiet on the outside, but most certainly not on the inside. The parties and orgies were a way to release the chaotic thoughts, feelings and emotions that were inside a man wearing a quiet mask. Indeed, the rape and murders committed by Robert were another way of releasing the vast amount of negative energy inside him.
Pickton would kill just after having sex with his victims. Could there be a link between his sexual appetite and his need to kill?
Often with serial killers, it is the killing part that satisfies the sexual appetite. However, Robert killed his victims after raping them. This man had two needs to meet – sexual needs and killing needs. I suspect Robert could have met one need without the other, but doing the two together was a convenient way of satisfying his thirst for these two activities.
Why would anyone feed a dead body to pigs? Or put a dead body through a mincing machine?
Pigs are the perfect way to dispose of a body. They eat anything, crushing bones and eating them too. Robert would have known this from growing up in a slaughterhouse and thus used his knowledge to dispose of any evidence to his crimes.
Pickton would serve the flesh of his victims to his customers and those attending his parties? Why would a man knowingly feed human remains to someone unsuspecting?
Power. Anger. A need to secretly share his ‘accomplishment’ with others. In many ways, Robert was quietly but satisfyingly showing off.