This is the Dead Wrong Extra — explorations angles to the story of Glen Assoun’s wrongful conviction that didn’t make it into the Uncover: Dead Wrong podcast series.
In the first Extra, I looked at the what the Halifax police knew about serial killer Michael McGray. Today, I discuss one very problematic witness who testified against Glen Assoun at trial.
In the second Extra, I looked at Corey Tuma’s ever-changing testimony against Glen.
Today, I’m publishing Pt. 1 of a two-part series looking at witness Robin Hartrick.
One of the most important witnesses against Glen Assoun was Margaret Hartrick, known as Robin.
That’s because Robin placed Glen very near the spot where Brenda Way was murdered. Robin said she ran into Glen in front of the apartment building at 109 Albro Lake Road at 4:15 am on November 12, 1995 — about three hours before Brenda’s body was discovered behind the building. And, said Robin, Glen knew that Brenda was dead.
But that damning evidence against Glen was quite problematic. First, Robin didn’t come forward with the information until almost a year after the murder, when she was being investigated in an unrelated case — Robin, a sex worker, had been servicing a man in his car under the Macdonald Bridge, and the man died during the act.
We can guess that the man had a heart attack. But whatever the cause of his demise, Robin didn’t seek help. She didn’t wave down passing cars. She didn’t call 911 or look for police. She ran, and did nothing to help the man.
As she ran, she left her jacket behind, and that’s what led police to Robin: they were so familiar with Robin that they recognized her jacket.
As she was interviewed about that case, Robin, perhaps thinking she was deflecting attention away from her own inaction when the man died, told police that she had become a sex worker in order to help police. She told police that “she was working the streets only to get information on who killed Brenda Way,” said Constable Peter Gallant at trial. Robin went on to tell Gallant and Constable Anthony Blencowe about what Gallant called “vague details” about a red truck somehow being involved in the murder.
Blencowe gave the details in his testimony:
We asked her if she could give us the size, a make, a model, a year, a license plate, at which time she told us she couldn’t give us any of that because she had never seen it. We asked her to specify a little more, at which time she stated she had never seen or heard about the truck but she had psychic visions, and that she had a psychic vision about a truck being responsible.
We became a little more frustrated and asked her if she had any information she could give us at all, at which time she started to talk about a vision of what we call the old Pipeline Road, which was the old Ultramar pipes that used to run off of Windmill Road. We asked her if she had any information based on knowledge or if it was another vision. Again, she stated it was a psychic vision.
By this point, we felt that she was wasting our time, and we were getting ready to escort her out of the building, and she made the statement to us, “Well, I guess it doesn’t matter that at 4:15 Glen told me in front of Linda Grandy’s apartment that he knew Brenda was dead,” and that’s where her statement was taken, starting at that point. And we asked her if that was based on knowledge or another vision, at which time she said that was based on knowledge, and we began a statement.
None of this makes sense. If Robin knew Glen was near the murder scene at about the time of the murder, and he knew that Brenda was dead, she wouldn’t have needed to start “working the streets only to get information on who killed Brenda Way” — she already had that information.
Moreover, why wouldn’t she start her discussion with Gallant and Blencowe with that information about Glen instead of vague psychic visions?
And why would Gallant and Blencowe take any of this seriously?
There’s one obvious question Gallant and Blencowe didn’t ask Robin: Why’d you wait a year to tell us this?
Robin gave three version of her story of meeting Glen on the morning of the murder: the first as a statement to Gallant and Blencowe on November 14, 1996; the second as a “KGB statement” — a videotaped statement — on January, 22, 1998; and a third time at the the Preliminary Inquiry in court, on August 18, 1998, in which the court decided that the murder charge against Glen held enough merit to move to trial.
There are lots more problems with Robin’s story, which I explored in detail back in 2016.
Tragically, Robin was murdered before Glen’s trial began, and so she wasn’t able to testify at trial.
One of the most important issues in Glen’s trial was whether Robin’s previous statements, and her Preliminary Inquiry testimony, would be allowed as evidence in the trial. This was no simple matter: with very few exceptions, the accused has the right to cross-examine a witness, and with Robin dead, she obviously couldn’t be cross-examined.
The issue of Robin’s statements would take up a few days of proceedings at trial. Let’s review the evidence.
Robin’s history as a sex worker before the murder
Is Robin a credible witness? My answer to that is: No; without question, no. I think any objective observer would think the same.
But don’t take my word for it. Below is Robin’s videotaped KGB statement, which has never been published before. I’m publishing it so readers can make their own assessment:
In the video, Robin several times made reference to being a sex worker before Brenda’s murder.
At the 14:38 mark, RCMP Cost. Derek Williams asked Robin how she knew Brenda:
Williams: Can you remember when you met her?
Robin: Around August, in the summer. Um. Glen Assoun introduced me to her.
Williams: You knew Glen Assoun before you knew Brenda?
Williams: How long did you know Glen?
Robin: A week.
Robin: I had just met him. He had just moved in the Four Star. He was a date.
Williams: He was living at the Four Star?
Robin: Both of them.
Williams: Oh, both of them? And Glen was a date?
Robin: Well, yeah, he, it was he and his son, [Glen] Jr.
Robin: On the balcony drinking, and they asked me if I wanted to come up with them.
Williams: OK. And that’s how you met them?
Williams: And how long did you live at the Four Star with them, do you remember?
Robin: A couple of months, three, four, five months, almost, I wouldn’t say a year, but I’ve known her for a year.
Williams: You knew her for a year before she died?
Williams: During that time that you knew —
Robin: We worked together on the street.
So Robin said she met Glen because he was a “date” — that is, a john, purchasing sex — and also that she and Brenda “worked together on the street.” She made that explicitly clear in the Preliminary Inquiry (page 109), agreeing that Glen was a “paying customer.”
In her KGB statement, Robin then said that Glen was beating Brenda, and that she (Robin) had twice cleaned up blood from Brenda’s injuries. Still, said Robin, Brenda loved Glen and Glen loved Robin. “They always argued, it was like living with The War of the Roses, I guess.” (“The War of the Roses” was a 1989 film about a marriage falling apart.)
At the 18:35 mark, Williams asked Robin about the day before the murder:
Williams: November 11, 1995, can you describe what you did that day?
Williams: November 11, Remembrance Day, 1995, can you remember what you did that day, if you seen Brenda?
Robin: [long pause] Remembrance Day?
Williams: That’s the day before she was murdered.
Robin: Oh, she was at my place, behind the bowling alley, on Pine Street.
Williams: What happened there?
Robin: We were sitting there and we were smoking.
Williams: Was Glen there?
Robin: No. He didn’t know where she was. He [spooked?] her. For once that day, he didn’t know where she was, couldn’t find her, couldn’t follow her around. He was, wiped.
Williams: That was… [confusion about year]
Williams: When was the last time you seen Brenda?
Robin: That day.
Williams: That day. And what was she doing that day?
Robin: With me?
Williams: With you.
Williams: OK, and what did she do then?
Robin: I told her she could stay there and I went out and worked and then she went out and worked and we met up on Albro Lake Road and then I went home, and Glen had found her.
Williams: Glen found her?
Robin: Yeah. On Albro Lake Road because that’s where she would’ve went and worked and kept on going towards the New Bridge way — to go over to Halifax. That’s where she always worked…
Again, Robin was clear that she was working as a sex worker before Brenda was murdered: “I went out and worked,” she says.
There’s no evidence that corroborates Robin’s story that Glen saw Brenda at any time the day before she was murdered. In fact, as Robin continues her narrative (broken up by a washroom break), it becomes a mess of contradictions. The following exchange came just minutes after Robin said she and Brenda “met up on Albro Lake Road,” starting at the 23:12 mark:
Williams: She [Brenda] was up on Albro Lake Road…
Robin: Albro Lake Road, and like I said, that day we spooked him, he [Glen] was probably looking all over crazy for her, couldn’t find her, until she got up into the normal surroundings, Albro Lake Road, or…
Williams: When you seen her up on Albro Lake, did you see him around?
Robin: Oh, I seen him driving around, yeah.
Williams: That day?
Robin: But I hadn’t seen her.
Williams: OK, when she goes up to Albro Lake, do you see Glen driving around looking for her?
Robin: Oh, all the time!
Williams: That day?
Robin: Every time. Every time she’s up, that’s when I know when, where’s she, if I don’t sometimes, if I don’t see her, she’s either all over in Halifax.
Williams: OK, so that day —
Robin: But half the time she’s, she’s with me.
Williams:: Do you know what time, roughly you would have seen, the last time you would have seen her up there?
Robin: That day.
Williams: Like, was it the afternoon? Evening?
Robin: Well, not to the evening.
Williams: OK, and where did you go?
Robin: The last time I would’ve seen her was the day of her death, and that was in front, on Prince Albert Road, by the Irving.
Williams: By the Irving?
Robin: Where she was hitchhiking, and that was the last time I seen her.
Williams: But — The Irving on the Prince Albert Road*?
Williams: And which direction was she hitchhiking in?
Robin: Towards town.
Robin: Going uptown, going up to north end.
Williams: To the north end of Dartmouth?
Williams: OK. And, on that same day, what time in the afternoon would that have been? Or the morning?
Robin: Around 10, 11.
Williams: in the morning or night?
Robin: In the afternoon.
Williams: In the afternoon? So at nighttime?
Robin: Not at nighttime, no.
Williams: So it would’ve been around 11 o’clock in the morning?
Robin: Well, around lunch.
Williams: Lunch. OK. And after you seen her hitchhiking, what happens then? Where do you go?
Robin: Where did I went? I went on back to 111, Lloyd States…
Williams: OK, so you went there and you left, how long did you stay there at his place?
Robin: Until I go back out and work again.
(* in 1995, there was an Irving Station on Prince Albert Road where the Banook Shores apartment building now stands.)
Once again, Robin made clear that she was out on the streets as a sex worker before Brenda was killed.
Is the fact that Robin told constables Gallant and Blencowe that she became a sex worker in order to investigate Brenda’s murder relevant? Am I making a mountain out of a big nothing?
Well, lying to police is a crime itself. But it’s also standard court procedure for defence lawyers to point to lies witnesses make in their statements to discredit the witnesses. They problem in this case, however, is that Robin’s claim that she became a sex worker in order investigate Brenda’s murder was not in Robin’s statement — not in her original November 14, 1996 statement, and not in her January 22, 1998 KGB statement. That’s because Gallant and Blencowe didn’t ask her about it when taking her statement.
I can’t say whether Gallant and Blencowe left that information out of the statement by design, but they were truthful about it in their court testimony. They also truthfully testified that Robin was going on about “psychic visions” before saying she met Glen — but they didn’t ask Robin about that either, when taking her statement.
Here’s the thing, though. Certainly, in all the investigation and preparation for trial, lead investigator Dave MacDonald and the two Crown lawyers must have know both about Robin’s claim that she became a sex worker to investigate Brenda’s death and that she was speaking about psychic visions before saying she ran into Glen the morning of the murder. Dave MacDonald and the two Crown lawyers knew about these things, but that didn’t concern them enough to question Robin’s truthfulness in her statement. Hold that thought.
Robin’s claim of meeting Glen at the murder scene
In the KGB video, Robin went on to give the account of running into Glen outside 109 Albro Lake Road. You can watch it yourself — it starts at the 26:30 mark. There’s one point I made about this part of the video back in 2016:
In all three versions [of Robin’s story], Robin said she was “freaked out” by Glen, but evidently not so freaked out as to then ask him the time, and hold his “shaky” arm or hand so she could read his watch. (In Version 1 Robin grabbed Glen’s arm, but in Versions 2 and 3 she grabbed his hand.) Version 2 [the KGB statement shown in the video above], however, relates an interesting exchange between Constable Derek Williams (the questioner) and Robin. Williams appeared to be trying to pin down the time of the incident, and so he attempted to get Robin to relate how she asked Glen what time it was and had to hold his hand. First, Williams asked, “Did you do anything with Glen?” but didn’t get the response he was looking for. So he asked twice, “Did you ask him anything?” but likewise didn’t get the conversation about time. Williams then backed up and asked, “Let’s describe,” only to have Robin go on a long rambling description of her feelings. Williams then appeared to have given up and simply asked Robin directly: “What time was this, did you see?” Robin finally responded, “About around 4:15,” but even then Williams had to continue to question Robin and had to ask her straight out, “So you took a hold of his hand?” It’s a textbook example of leading the witness.
Dan MacRury argued for the Crown that Robin’s KGB statement should be allowed. One point he made (page 602) was that:
In relation to the KGB statement, it was done clearly. There was no leading questions.
I would argue that when Constable Derek Williams was trying to elicit the time of the alleged meeting with Glen from Robin, he in fact was leading her. That’s not an argument Glen’s lawyer Don Murray made, however. I’ll leave it to legal minds more informed than me to discuss that.
Regardless, even within the narrative of Robin’s story, Robin asking Glen what time it is makes no sense. Supposedly, she comes out of the apartment building and runs into Glen, who says “She is gone,” referring to Brenda. Robin doesn’t say, “Who’s gone?” or “Let’s help her!” or anything about her friend Brenda. OK, she says she was “freaked out” by Glen. But then she asks him what time it is?
And since when did Robin care about time? Here’s a woman who is tragically addicted to crack. She’s roaming the streets night and day, turning tricks to get money to get high. She doesn’t wear a watch herself. She can’t remember one day from the next. She went months at a time too stoned to give a coherent statement to police. And yet, this one time, when by her own admission she was smoking crack all night, suddenly, she’s wondering what time it is?
Star Dust Motel
Of all the information in Robin’s various statements, only one thing was independently verified and checks out — that she and Glen stayed at the Star Dust Motel a week or two after the murder. Police were able to verify that through the records at the motel; Glen paid $45.14 in cash for a room for two people on November 23, 1995.
But what does this tell us? The Crown lawyers argued that because this one fact checked out, it means that everything else Robin said is truthful. Again, however, consider it in the context of Robin’s own story: She ran into Glen at the murder scene, and thinks he’s responsible for Brenda’s murder. But then just 11 days later, she spends the night in a hotel with Glen, the man she thinks murdered her friend. And, she rips him off for $400. This makes no sense.
Specific to the night Glen and Robin spent at the Star Dust Motel, Crown lawyer Dan MacRury argued (page 603):
You have the evidence of the record, which is an exhibit, that Glen Assoun is at the Star Dust Motel, which is important in that it corroborates Margaret Hartrick’s evidence.
Glen’s lawyer Don Murray addressed this specifically in his argument (page 635):
You have no sense in the quality of any of the other evidence that’s being offered against Glen Assoun. You have no stance as to whether there’s going to be any forensic evidence that serves to connect Mr. Assoun with the death of Brenda Way. You have no sense about whether there’s even going to be evidence that Brenda Way was in fact dead or deceased at 4:15 in the morning on November 12th, 1995. You have no sense of anything other than whether the allegation of Robin Hartrick fits with anything other than a visit to the Star Dust Motel. And that, with respect, is self-serving.
That is the equivalent of me saying, My Lady, Mr. MacRury and I were here last Friday in court. Mr. MacRury and I also played hockey last winter. Now, My Lady knows because you were here that Mr. MacRury and I were indeed here last Friday. But does that help you believe at all that Mr. MacRury and I played hockey last winter? There’s no necessary connection between the two.
And so there is absolutely no necessary connection between the fact that Margaret Hartrick talked about one night when she went to the Star Dust Hotel with Glen Assoun, supposedly to give him some information about the murder, that necessarily makes it more likely that it’s true that Margaret Hartrick saw him on November 12th at 4:15 in the morning. It contains nothing. There’s nothing about the Star Dust that materially corroborates November 12th, 1995 at 4:15 in the morning.
My Lady also has nothing before you yet that would independently support the assertion oor the allegation that Glen Assoun was anywhere near 109 Albro Lake Road at 4:15 a.m. on November 12th. Nor do you have anything before My Lady which would tend to confirm that Maureen Hartrick, Robin Hartrick, in fact visited with Laura Marsh that night, as she said, or that there was a Linda Gra[n]dy or a Mickey Bates at 109 Albro Lake Road, whom she visited that night.
That last point was particularly vexing for me as I was researching this story. Robin said she went to Laura Marsh’s crack house on Windmill Road, then to Linda Grandy’s crack house at 109 Albro Lake Road, but so far as I can determine, police never talked to Marsh or Bates or Grandy to confirm that.
Marsh didn’t testify at trial at all. Bates testified for the Crown, but only to discuss Glen and Brenda’s relationship — he specifically said he did not live at 109 Albro Lake Road at the time of the murder, the night Robin said she visited him there. And Glen, not the Crown, called Grandy as a witness, because she also said that she didn’t live at 109 Albro Lake Road at the time of the murder, and in fact she didn’t know Robin at all. Grandy said that not only did she not live at 109 Albro Lake Road the night of the murder, the very next day she was interviewed by police at her actual residence on Jackson Street.
A Michael McGray reference?
There’s another interesting aside in the video:
Robin: There’s only three guys that almost look like him [Glen]. Two — one, I know is a cop. One, I don’t know who the hell he is — I think that he just play Mr. Dressup Day. The other one, you can’t miss Glen, I would never miss — names, yes, I would probably have a hard time, but faces, I would never forget a face.
It’s impossible to know after all this time. Maybe like so much else in Robin’s statements this was just muddled nonsense. But is it possible that Robin’s “Mr. Dressup Day” was Michael McGray? McGray and Glen Assoun had uncannily similar looks.
A victory for the Crown
Having heard all the evidence and testimony, and considering arguments from the Crown lawyers and from defence lawyer Don Murray, Justice Suzanne Hood ruled that Robin’s statements and Preliminary Inquiry testimony would be allowed in as evidence.
In Part 2 of this Extra, I’ll explore how police testimony and Crown arguments led Hood to that decision.
My investigation into the wrongful conviction of Glen Assoun, and the Uncover: Dead Wrong podcast that resulted from it, would not have been possible without the financial support of readers.
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