OTTAWA -- Basil Borutski had nothing to say for himself Monday as the former millwright, accused of killing three women in the Ottawa Valley in 2015, refused to enter a plea at the start of his murder trial.

The 59-year-old remained silent in the prisoner's box as a court clerk first asked him to confirm his name before asking how he would like to plead to the three first-degree murder charges against him.

The charges relate to the deaths of Carol Culleton, 66, Anastasia Kuzyk, 36, and Nathalie Warmerdam, 48, whose bodies were found in separate crime scenes in and around Wilno, Ont., on Sept. 22, 2015.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Maranger said since the presumption of innocence is inherent in Canadian law, the court would take Borutski's silence as a plea of not guilty.

Borutski, who appeared in court wearing a white T-shirt with a bushy grey beard and his shoulder-length grey hair pushed back, has not hired a lawyer and is instead representing himself.

He refused to acknowledge the court throughout Monday's proceedings, alternately staring at the ground or the back of the room, or squeezing his eyes shut and leaning against the wall.

Borutski also chose not to respond or look at court officials when asked if he objected to the appointment of any individual juror, as was his right given his role in defending himself.

The court has appointed a defence lawyer to cross-examine witnesses who aren't comfortable being questioned by Borutski. It has also appointed what's known as an "amicus curaie," or "friend of the court," whose main job would typically be to ensure an accused without a lawyer gets a fair trial.

Both are expected to serve in an extremely limited capacity, leaving Borutski to conduct his own defence, if he so chooses.

Prior to jury selection, Maranger told potential jurors that Culleton was beaten and strangled inside her cottage near Combermere, Ont., during the night of Sept. 21, 2015, or early morning of Sept. 22, 2015.

Kuzyk and Warmerdam were shot and killed at their homes in Wilno and near Eganville, Ont., respectively, on the morning of Sept. 22, 2015, Maranger said.

The trial is scheduled to run to January 2018.