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'Happy tears' of victim's sister after prison attack on serial killer Robert Pickton

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Cynthia Cardinal said she was "overwhelmed" with happiness when she received a text message on Monday with the news that serial killer Robert Pickton, who murdered her sister Georgina Papin, was in a life-threatening condition after being attacked in prison.

She called it "karma."

The text came from a cousin of Tanya Holyk, another missing woman whose DNA was found at Pickton's pig farm in Port Coquitlam, B.C.

“I don't think anybody that evil should be walking on Earth, as far as I'm concerned,” Cardinal said on Tuesday. “I have happy tears. Very happy tears.”

Correctional Service Canada confirmed Tuesday that the B.C. serial killer was the inmate injured in a "major assault" Sunday at a Quebec prison.

Quebec provincial police said that 74-year-old Pickton was taken to hospital with injuries that were considered life-threatening.

Police spokesman Hugues Beaulieu added that a 51-year-old suspect was in custody.

Federal Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc said he was informed late Sunday and his thoughts immediately turned to the families of Pickton's victims in British Columbia as well as the officers at the Quebec correctional facility.

LeBlanc called Pickton "one of the most dangerous criminals in the country” but said he could provide no further details about the incident or Pickton's condition due to privacy laws. The minister did not name Pickton, but responded when asked about him.

"When we think about the inmate who was assaulted, when we say his name, we think about the victims, about the families," LeBlanc said in French, adding Correctional Service Canada has a process in place to review such circumstances.

"One of the primary concerns I have obviously is around the security of these institutions and the men and women who work in these prisons," he said in English.

Pickton was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison in 2007, with the maximum parole ineligibility period of 25 years, after being charged with the murders of 26 women.

The remains or DNA of 33 women, many who were taken from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, were found on Pickton’s farm, and he once bragged to an undercover police officer that he killed a total of 49.

Pickton's confirmed victims were Papin, Sereena Abotsway, Mona Wilson, Andrea Joesbury, Brenda Ann Wolfe and Marnie Frey.

Another sister of Papin, Tammy Lynn Papin, said she had been in touch with other victims' families about the attack on Pickton. “When I heard the news, I jumped up and down," she said.

Cardinal said she had reached out to Correctional Service Canada to get some information about Pickton's condition but hadn't heard back.

LeBlanc said Correctional Service Canada has "for a long time" declined to release details such as where certain inmates are serving their sentences "precisely to ensure the security of the institution and the staff that work there."

The correctional service first announced on Monday that an inmate had been sent to hospital after a serious assault at the maximum security Port-Cartier Institution, about 480 kilometres northeast of Quebec City.

It said Tuesday the assault did not involve any of its staff.

Cardinal, 63, said she felt that authorities suppressed information about Pickton, noting that she got word of the attack not from officials but from Lorelei Williams, Holyk's cousin.

She remembered her sister as "full of life" and a great mother to her seven children, the youngest of whom was only one year old when Georgina Papin went missing.

“She had so much talent. She also had a fierce temper though because as sisters we argued, you know how that is, but she was very tough,” said Cardinal.

She said the past two decades had been tough on Papin's family, and that every time Pickton's name came up it "kind of triggers you back to that time."

The latest news, though, brought with it "a great feeling."

"I think, karma, and he had it coming, to me, a long time ago," she said.

At the time of Pickton’s sentencing, B.C. Supreme Court Justice James Williams said it was a “rare case that properly warrants the maximum period of parole ineligibility available to the court.”

Police began searching the Pickton farm more than 22 years ago in what would be a years-long investigation into the disappearances of dozens of women.

Vancouver police were criticized for not taking the cases seriously because many of the missing were sex workers or drug users.

Pickton became eligible for day parole in February, which sparked outrage from advocates, politicians and victims' family members who criticized Canada's justice system, saying he should never be released from prison.

Four years ago, the RCMP applied to dispose of evidence found at a Ruskin, B.C., property linked to Pickton and being held at RCMP warehouses.

Items include pieces of clothing, shoes and hair pins — including one with hair still in it — as well as more daunting pieces of evidence, such as a sex toy and a rusty bolt-action rifle.

The RCMP’s application argued that the items were taking up substantial space and their storage continues to run up costs. It said the evidence in question will not affect future prosecution.

In an email Tuesday, RCMP Staff Sgt. Kris Clark confirmed the application remains before the courts and the process is ongoing.

A group of families, lawyers and advocates sent a letter to the federal public safety ministry in December calling for a halt to the disposal plan.

— By Morgan Lowrie in Montreal and Nono Shen and Chuck Chiang in Vancouver

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 21, 2024.

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