Susie Butlin

This article includes descriptions of sexual assault and murder.

On the night of September 17, 2017, Ernest Ross (Junior) Duggan was alone at his Clarks Road home in Bayhead, drinking a pint of rum. Mid-pint, Duggan left his house, walked over to the yard of his next door neighbour Susie Butlin’s house, and called out her name. When Butlin came to the door of the house, Duggan fired a shotgun blast, killing her. Duggan walked into the house, looked down upon Butlin’s body, then left, leaving his bloody footprints on her porch. He walked back to his own house and finished the rum.

Duggan was initially charged with the first degree murder of Butlin, but pleaded guilty to a second degree charge. In September 2019, Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Jeffery Hunt sentenced Duggan to life in prison, with no chance of parole for 20 years (including the two years he had been in jail awaiting trial).

“A 20-year period of parole ineligibility reflects the fact that the moral and criminal culpability of Mr. Duggan is at the high end of the second degree murder continuum,” said Hunt. “Put it another way… the degree of culpability in this case falls closer on a continuum to first degree murder than it does to manslaughter.”

As reflected in the stiff 20-year minimum prison sentence, the murder of Susie Butlin was not a random killing or a one-off angry event. Rather, it was the culmination of a weeks-long series of harassment and threats by Duggan against Butlin related to a claim from Butlin that Duggan had sexually assaulted her.

Butlin told her friends and relatives about the alleged sexual assault. She told her therapist. She told Duggan’s wife. She told the RCMP, asking them to file charges against Duggan.

But no charges were filed, and the harassment and threats continued, until one day Duggan sat with a bottle of rum and decided to kill his neighbour.

Related article: “Insufficient grounds’: Susie Butlin repeatedly pleaded with the RCMP to intervene to stop her neighbour Junior Duggan from harassing her. The police took no action. A friend says an RCMP officer told Butlin her allegations against Duggan made her, not him, a ‘menace to society.’ Three days later, Duggan killed Butlin.

Related article: “Court documents contradict RCMP denial that they ignored Susie Butlin’s pleas before she was murdered

Related article: “Civilian Review & Complaints Commission to investigate how the RCMP handled sexual assault complaints from Susie Butlin

Investigative review

In June 2018, RCMP’s H Division [Nova Scotia] Criminal Operations requested an Independent Officer Review of the events leading up to Butlin’s murder. That review was conducted by Sgt. Linda Gray, of the Sexual Assault Investigative Team, with the HRP/RCMP integrated Criminal Investigation Division. It was co-signed  by Sgt. Jared Harding, of the HRP/RCMP Homicide Team, and Inspector Kevin O’Blenis, who is with the RCMP’s Halifax detachment. A redacted version of the document was released by the Mass Casualty Commission Monday.

The Independent Officer Review details that the RCMP officers who responded to Butlin’s initial sexual assault complaint decided that Butlin had consented to the July 2 sexual contact with Duggan, and therefore that no charges were warranted in the case.

The review faults the decision. “Throughout the course of the Sexual Assault investigation, including supervisory reviews, there appears to be several areas where both investigators and supervisors had difficulty understanding the perception of events from Butlin’s perspective,” wrote Gray.

But the decision that the contact was consensual seems to have coloured subsequent complaints to the RCMP from Butlin, concluded Gray:

Investigators and supervisors from the onset all appear to have truly believed that the sexual interaction between the victim and suspect was consensual and that as a result no offense had been committed. This original decision appears to have influenced the police’s perception of the victim and suspect’s relationship going forward.

In short, from the RCMP’s perspective, Butlin had consented to an initial sexual encounter with Duggan, then later wrongly viewed that encounter as assault. Then, each time she made another complaint about new threats from Duggan, they viewed her complaint through their initial decision that Butlin and Duggan had had a consensual sexual encounter, and, not to put too fine a point on it, she was complaining about nothing much. That meant that RCMP officers did not thoroughly investigate the subsequent incidents.

In addition to the cascading chain of indifference to Butlin’s complaints, the Independent Officer Review detailed how investigating RCMP officers and their supervisors did not take seriously other potential criminality in the Butlin/Duggan orbit, including a threat to Duggan’s wife and to Butlin’s adult sons.

Six weeks after her first call to the RCMP, Duggan murdered Butlin.

Consent or acquiescence in fear?

On August 7, 2017, Butlin called 911 to report a sexual assault that she said happened on July 2. Butlin was transferred to a non-emergency line, and she told the call taker that she’d like to speak with a woman police officer.

But no woman officer was then on duty at the Bible Hill detachment, so when Cst. Patrick Crooks called Butlin back, she reluctantly agreed to speak with him.

The phone call was an error in policing, wrote Gray, the author of the Independent Officer Review. Gray faulted Crooks for taking a sexual assault complaint over the phone: “The initial contact with the victim was not made using a trauma-informed approach — no sexual assault victim should be asked to discuss the specifics of their assault over the phone.”

Butlin told Crooks about the July 2 incident. She then said that “a few weeks after this occurred, she informed April Duggan (Duggan’s wife) of the incident via Facebook,” wrote Crooks in his report of the call. “This latter resulted in April Duggan confronting her at her home. She also disclosed that the weekend prior to reporting this incident (August 5th-6th, 2017) she had found a hole in her pool which had occurred while she was away. She felt this was caused by a knife and that the Duggans were responsible. She stated she had confronted them, but they admitted nothing.”

Crooks told Butlin there was no criminal offence and suggested she get a peace bond against Duggan. “Butlin responded that this was the reason she had requested a female member,” wrote Crooks.

Crooks passed the complaint on to Cst. Christina Whalen, who came in for the Bible Hill detachment’s evening shift and drove to Bayhead to get an audio recording of Butlin’s statement.

We only have Butlin’s version of events, as Duggan has simply denied it ever happened.

As she explained in her audio statement, Butlin was caring for her two grandchildren that weekend, as her adult son was away on work. On Sunday, the kids were down on Duggan’s property, where a group of friends had started a bonfire. From time to time, Butlin checked in with a woman who was at the bonfire, to make sure the kids were OK, and at 8:30pm decided it was time to retrieve them.

Clarks Road in Bayhead. Butlin’s house at 56 Clarks Road and Duggan’s house at 66 Clarks Road are the first two houses along the road after the small pond. Photo: Google Satellite

When she arrived, Butlin found her grandchildren with two other kids in kayaks in Dobson Creek, a tiny waterway that runs along Butlin’s and Duggans’ properties as it opens up into Tatamagouche Bay. Someone offered her a beer, and she accepted while she watched the kids play in the water. Duggan was riding around on a lawn tractor and yelled out, “oh, Susie! You’re looking lovely tonight!” Butlin shrugged it off. “I didn’t pay attention to him or do any kind of sexual flirtations. I was watching my grandchildren.”

Duggan was in his 40s and Butlin was in her late 50s.

Duggan had a wagon behind the tractor, and said “taxi service! taxi service!”, inviting the kids to hop on for a ride back to Butlin’s house. She OK’d it, and walked behind the tractor to her house. When they arrived, Duggan said, “Susie, I’d like to come in for a drink.” Susie agreed — “being good neighbours, like that we have always been, I said, ‘well, OK, Junior.’” Susie bathed her grandchildren and put them to bed while Junior left to take the other two neighbour kids to their homes. Then he returned for the drink. Butlin poured him a glass of wine.

While they were there, Duggan’s wife April showed up to say their friends wanted him back at the bonfire. He told her he was drinking with Susie, and he’d come down soon enough. April got angry and left.

Duggan talked with Butlin about how much stress he was under. Butlin got up to check on the kids, and when she returned, “he was gone to my bathroom, which is around the corner, and when I came to the living room, he called me and said, ‘Susie, come here,’ and when I walked around the corner…”

Frustratingly, here the document is redacted, with the notation that the redacted material contains “Graphic Images or Potentially Harmful Information.”

Butlin’s narrative continues after the redaction: “…so I went back in, I mean, he’s a big strong guy, and it just totally floored me, like had my grandchildren not been here, I would have, you know, I would have kicked him in the balls, and said, get the hell out of my house…”

The document is again redacted, for the same reasons.

It continues after the redaction: “…because I was friggin scared, and what else would you do, like, when you’re trying to keep things calm, I did only what, trying to keep him tame, or whatever you want to call it, because if you’re in a situation that you don’t know if [redacted] what in the hell this neighbour’s gonna do to you, that that, I did that, and I got up, and I came back out here, and at, during the discussion, he said [redacted] and I said ‘no, Junior, go home to your wife,’ and he said, ‘oh, I don’t wanna go home to my wife, I like the variety,’ and I said, ‘oh, you friggen scum,’ and he said, ‘oh, you’re not gonna tell my wife anyway.’”

“When I came back out here,” continued Butlin, “he eventually came back out here, he sat on my couch, he headed out [redacted]. I was sitting in this chair, and I said, ‘no, Junior, I’m not interested, no,’ and he finally decided that he wasn’t going to get what he thought he could just walk over here and apparently get. He walked to the door and he looked at me one more time, and he said [redacted]. I wasn’t quite sure what he meant by the term [another document relates that he said ‘I want to eat your ass’], but I said ‘no,’ and he said, ‘this is your last chance, are you sure you don’t want it?’ And I said, ‘yes, I’m sure, I don’t want it,’ and he looked at me and said ‘well, that’s alright, I may be back.’”

Butlin called April Duggan to say Junior was on his way back home. Butlin said she didn’t want to tell April about what had happened because April was grieving the death of a relative.

It’s frustrating that Butlin’s account is redacted in the document because a Supplementary Occurence Report written by Cst. Gavin Naime, a supervisor who reviewed Crooks’ file, contains a narrative of the event that is completely unredacted — that is, the documents released by the Mass Casualty Commission don’t allow Butlin’s firsthand description of events to enter the public record, but they do allow an RCMP officer’s interpretive retelling of the events to enter the record unredacted. Naime wrote his report four weeks after Butlin had been interviewed by Whalen, after a Crown prosecutor raised concerns that charges hadn’t been filed.

Naime’s narrative reads:

Butlin told investigators [redacted]* Even though she told Duggan ‘no’ because he was married, she later engaged in the sexual act. She admits she was not forced to do anything with Duggan. She made no attempt to call for help or even report the incident to police until after her pool was damaged. She knew he was in the bathroom with his pants down and she went back to the bathroom a second time without his prompting, which is when she engaged in sexual activity with him. She mentions in her statement that Duggan had not been drinking prior to that day as he had quit drinking alcohol. She also says she gave him a glass of wine, but then says he was drunk, which caused her to be scared as he was big and drunk. Butlin’s statement provides no evidence of sexual assault, rather consensual touching. Also, Duggan would need to have touched her for a sexual purpose, or in a manner that violated the sexual integrity of the person. Duggan did touch Butlin’s hand, however, Butlin admits that Duggan did not force her to do anything with her hand, nor did it violate her sexual integrity. The only sexual act committed was Butlin having [redacted]*. Duggan did not display any violent or domineering behavior and Butlin did not provide any evidence to support a reason for fearing Duggan other than that he was ‘big and drunk’ (drunk from one glass of wine which she provided).

I agree with Cst. Crooks’ assessment that no offence had been committed at this time. While it could be morally wrong for Duggan to proposition Butlin, he did not commit any crime by doing so.

* Update, 5:30pm, August 31: After publication of this article, the Halifax Examiner was contacted by the Mass Casualty Commission and was informed that this quoted passage was mistakenly left unredacted, and requested that we remove it. We have decided to leave in enough context to convey the essence of the passage, while removing the detail. Suffice it to say, that the revised redaction relates to sexual touching.

In her recorded interview with Cst. Christina Whalen, Butlin was pressed by Whalen as to why she returned to the bathroom. Butlin responded:

I mean, it’s hard to explain. You put yourself in my shoes. If your grandchildren were in the bedroom sound asleep, and you’re trying to keep things calm, like yes, I could have just kicked him, and said ‘get out,’ and maybe that’s what I should’ve done, and disrupted the, you know, I dun’t know. But he’s, just, he’s really strong and you don’t know, like, you don’t know until you’re in that situation what the hell you’re going to do, or how you’re going to handle it.

… I was scared because he’s a very strong man, and he was really, really drunk, and when you put those two things together, you don’t know what they’re going to do, it’s quite easy, and when you have your grandchildren, I wouldn’t [have] cared if my grandkids weren’t in the house, he could’ve did whatever and I would’ve fought, but I didn’t want to traumatize them with some, I mean, they look up to Junior.

What about Duggan having one glass of wine and being “drunk”?

In the very same recorded statement, Butlin said since the event, she learned that Duggan had started drinking again the previous April, when his wife April was out of town.

Linda Gray, the independent reviewer, critiqued the investigation of Butlin’s complaint, as follows:

• While the Q&A portion [of the interview] did provide some clarity, questions were missed which if answered may have impacted the outcome differently in regards to the perceived consent of Butlin by the initial responding officer and the interviewing officer. Drilling down to the minutiae of the activity of both subjects during the bathroom encounter by delving into an action/reaction line of questioning would have provided greater clarity regarding exactly what occurred in the bathroom

• At one point during the interview, Butlin referenced Duggan starting to [redacted] but this was not explored further

• Butlin described feeling old in comparison to Duggan, and although she didn’t use the exact word, her feelings of vulnerability were evident and should have been explored as they impacted her decision making in that moment. She clearly stated “you don’t know what you would do unless you are in the moment” (much like the articulation of use of force by police — it depends upon a person’s training, confidence in themselves, surroundings, etc. and that is why articulation is crucial). Photos of Butlin and Duggan clearly demonstrated the inequality in size/strength due to age, gender and physical fitness

• Butlin clearly articulated on several occasions that her response to Duggan’s overtures was “no” and she clearly articulated that she feared being raped

And, in terms of the supervisory review of the investigation, Gray wrote:

• References were made to the fact that Butlin stated she had only given Duggan one glass of wine — but claimed that he was drunk. It does not appear to have been recognized that the interview/investigation never determined what he might have been drinking prior to going to Butlin’s residence, which may have lent credibility to Butlin’s account

• Seemingly viewing the fact that Butlin stated she returned to the bathroom to see what Duggan was doing as being the same as inviting the sexual contact. The fact that Duggan was in the home at the same time as Butlin’s grandchildren seemed to be lost in the review. This was never addressed in Butlin’s statement, and she was never provided the opportunity to articulate her reasons for returning to the bathroom clearly

According to Butlin, the day after the event, she told her boyfriend about it, and her sister. She also discussed the incident with her therapist.

Later, her adult sons, Ben and Luke, were issued a veiled threat by a friend of Duggan.

Butlin said that the night before she called the RCMP, she spoke with one of her sons. “Saturday night he got a call from [redacted], who if you look in the records [redacted] and has been in jail, and he lives on [redacted], and apparently at ten o’clock he got a call from [redacted] saying something to him, about me, and threatening or whatever. [Her youngest son] didn’t know what in the hell. He called up [her other son] and said that he got this call from [redacted] and I don’t know they didn’t tell me the whole thing, because this was something, whole new situation. But anyways, they went to [redacted] house to see what in the hell he was talking about, and Junior was with [redacted], and so Junior I don’t know what there doing, but like [redacted] not a good character… and I don’t know what in the hell Junior’s hanging around him for, or why Junior would go to him. So it’s started another whole little feud that my sons are, you know…”

Gray noted that no investigator spoke with Duggan about Butlin’s allegation, or obtain the social media exchanges between the Duggans and Butlin.. Nor did any investigator follow up with any of the people Butlin said she spoke to — her boyfriend, her sister, her therapist — and nobody treated the veiled threats to her sons as a potential criminal matter.

Additionally, not a lot of research had been done into Duggan. Police did confirm that he had no registered firearms, but they don’t appear to have then pulled his criminal history.

Duggan’s rap sheet dates back to the early 1990s:

• For an incident on April 1, 1991, Duggan was charged with Breaking and Entering, Assault Causing Bodily Harm, and Criminal Harassment; he was convicted on the Breaking and Entering charge, fined $300, and sentenced to one year probation; the other charges were dismissed.

• For an incident on April 29, 1991, Duggan was charged with Mischief. He was convicted and sentenced to six months probation.

• For an incident on August 30, 1999, Duggan was charged with Assault Causing Bodily Harm, Uttering Threats/Cause Death, and Assault With a Weapon/Knife. The charges were withdrawn on Nov. 4, 1999.

• For an incident on January 10, 2010, Duggan was charged with Failure to Stop for a Peace Officer and Resisting/Obstructing a Peace Officer. He was found guilty on the Failure to Stop charge, fined $600 charge, had his licence suspended for six months, and received six months probation. The Resisting/Obstructing charge was withdrawn.

• Throughout, there were minor traffic-related offences and various probation orders.

We can’t know whether Duggan’s past (and admittedly, somewhat dated) run-ins with the law should have given pause to the RCMP officers who responded to Butlin’s sexual assault call, as those officers appear not to have been aware of Duggan’s history.

Peace bond

After Butlin told April Duggan about the incident, via Facebook, April called Butlin, and put her on speaker phone, with Junior Duggan present in the room. Butlin repeated the allegations, and Junior denied them. According to Butlin, she then said “If you don’t believe me, April, tell me how I know that your husband [redacted, but Butlin presumably described an intimate physical attribute of Junior’s].”

According to Butlin, April then came to her house in tears and said “it’s his drinking.”

Butlin’s swimming pool was vandalized on August 5, and she called the RCMP on August 7.

On August 10, Butlin petitioned the court for a peace bond against Duggan. On August 16, Duggan was served a summons for a court appearance for the peace bond hearing. As subsequent events show, this apparently set him off.

It’s unclear why Butlin’s application for a peace bond so angered Duggan. The process of securing a peace bond does not establish guilt or criminality of either party; it merely prevents the two parties from getting physically close to each other. No criminal charges had been filed against Duggan, and if he wished, he could have continued to claim Butlin had wrongly accused him. In fact, that would be a good reason to want to abide by the provisions of the peace bond.

‘I think he’g going to kill the neighbour’

At 11:30pm on August 21, April Duggan called 911. The line dropped before April could speak, so the call taker at the Operational Control Centre (OCC) immediately called back. The transcript of the call relates the conversation:

April Duggan: Hello?

OCC Call Taker: Hi there, its 911 calling back. Do you have an emergency?

April Duggan: yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

OCC Call Taker: What’s going on?

April Duggan: [yelling off the line] Susie! I’m calling Susie!

OCC Call Taker: What, what’s happening there?

April Duggan: Uhhh. My husband, I think he’g going to kill the neighbour.

OCC Call Taker: He’s going to kill the neighbour?

April Duggan: He’s saying— he’s really— scaring us. He’s not thinking clearly. She’s been threatening him. Uhhh.

April Duggan: He’s gonna — gonna kick the door in. [yelling off line] ‘I’m calling Susie. I’m trying to get her to ca— to settle down! I can’t!

April Duggan: [yelling off the line] He’s coming over.

OCC Call Taker: Where is your husband right now?

April Duggan: He’s outside trying to kick the door in

OCC Call Taker: Trying to kick the door of the neighbour’s house?

April Duggan: No, my house, because he’s mad I called 911.

April Duggan: [inaudible — high pitch yelling/crying]

The line went dead. The OCC quickly dispatched the RCMP to the scene, providing what little information was available. Cst. Rodney MacDonald and Cst. Stuart Beselt responded, but they were in Bible Hill, a half-hour away from the scene.

April left the house and called a friend who lived nearby; the friend picked her up and drove away, and April called 911 back to say that she was safe, but she was worried about Butlin.

MacDonald’s narrative of the evening relates that while driving to Bayhead, dispatch gave “very convoluted” details about what was going on. Dispatch had called both Susie Butlin and April Duggan, and related those conversations to MacDonald. He wrote: “Learned that there was an investigation by the RCMP on Aug. 7, 2017, an alleged assault made by Susan McNutt [Butlin’s previous married name] against Ernie Duggan. The investigation was deemed unfounded.”

MacDonald was told that Duggan had been served for the peace bond. “This reportedly triggered his rage,” wrote MacDonald. “His wife, April Duggan, said that Ernie has been stressed since McNutt [Butlin] made this allegation to April several weeks ago.” MacDonald went on to say that he understood that April said that after Duggan was served, he went “downhill,” was drinking a lot, and was very angry. “April said that on this night, Ernie said that he was going to hurt Susan McNutt [Butlin] as he was sick of her ruining his reputation by broadcasting her claim he had assaulted her all over the community.”

When MacDonald and Beselt arrived, they found Duggan drunk, sitting on the front porch of his house, drinking a beer. They spoke for about 20 minutes, and Duggan kept drinking. Duggan told the cops that he and April had been going through a “rough patch,” but he “would never hurt his wife, threaten her, or assault her. He said that he would never hurt anyone.”

MacDonald and Beselt then went to where April was, with her friend in a car, at some remove from Bayview. “She said that Ernie Duggan had been doing things like trying to pay mortgage and bills off and saying that he wants her to be financially sound before he leaves. She thinks he is suicidal…” April said that before she left her house, Duggan had driven to a neighbour’s house, and she thought he may have retrieved a gun.

Beselt went back to Bayview and parked on Highway 6, in view of Duggan’s Clarks Road home. Duggan was driving his truck around, up and down Clarks Road, and back to his house, before heading out to the highway. Beselt explained Duggan’s actions to MacDonald, who pulled Duggan over and arrested him. He was taken to Bible Hill, where he blew a 1.8 and a 1.6 on the breathalyzer, more than twice the legal limit.

The resulting impaired driving charge against Duggan was withdrawn after Duggan was charged with murder, presumably because it would pointlessly take up police and court time.

Sgt. Linda Gray, the author of the Independent Officer Review, faulted the investigation into the call of August 21, because no statement was obtained from April Duggan or the friend who rescued her; there was no follow-up to see if Junior Duggan had obtained a weapon; and there was no documentation of the officers’ communications with Butlin after-the-fact. She continued:

As with the sexual assault investigation, while it cannot be said that if these tasks being completed would have led to any charges, the information on the file clearly indicates there was information to suggest a considerable safety risk to Butlin that does not appear to be followed up or addressed with a proper investigation.

It’s hard to read MacDonald’s account of the evening without coming away with the impression that the responding officers felt that since Butlin’s sexual assault allegation against Duggan “was deemed unfounded,” there wasn’t much of a reason to further investigate Duggan’s potential violence against her. That’s tortured logic, but something must account for the lack of interest in pursuing the threat.

RCMP reviews result in no action

On August 26, Butlin again called the RCMP and spoke to Cst. Greg Wiley. Butlin told Wiley that Duggan had sent her multiple text messages the night before, and said that if she continued with the peace bond process, he would “tell people about her on Facebook.”

Wiley said that since she had not told Duggan to stop communicating with her, and since no threats were made, there was no criminality. Butlin should block Duggan’s number, said Wiley, and she did.

Butlin told Wiley that she simply wanted to document the continued harassment from Duggan, and she was waiting for the peace bond to be put into place.

Two days later, on August 28, the clerk for Judge Alain Bégin, who was scheduled to hear Butlin’s peace bond application, emailed to several people at the Public Prosecution Service:

Judge Bégin wants this peace bond forwarded to the Crown that will be in court on August 30th. He believes this matter is probably more than a peace bond and the Crown and Police may want to take a look into this.

The next morning, Crown lawyer Allison Brown relayed the judge’s concerns to the RCMP.

By 11:30, Sgt. Duane Cooper filed a Supplementary Occurrence Report saying he had reviewed Butlin’s complaint. “Based on this review, and the comments made by the Supervisor on the files,” he wrote, referring to himself in the third person:

Sgt. Cooper supports the decision made not to proceed with charges. Sgt. Cooper also noted inconsistencies in the information in the Peace Bond application (received from the Crown) compared to the information provided previously on this file. Sgt. Cooper asked Supervisor Cst. Naime, as well as CLO Cst. [Lori] Thorne, to also review the file. Sgt. Cooper will respond to Crown.

Naime’s Supplementary Occurrence Report, quoted above (giving details about the incident in the bathroom), was filed almost exactly at midnight that night.

(If Thorne filed a report, it’s not in the documents made available by the Mass Casualty Commission.)

August 30 was the first court appearance on the peace bond. A hearing on the peace bond was scheduled for Sept. 13 (it’s not clear why a peace bond, which is issued to ensure the physical safety of the applicant, should take so long to be approved). After the appearance, at about noon, Brown emailed Cst. Thorne, cc’ing Sgt. Cooper:

Ms. Butlin advises that just recently she received a text from the spouse of Mr. Duggan (apparently she has the communication which I urged her to show to police) advising that she was concerned for Ms. Butlin’s safety as Mr. Duggan was drunk and possible [sic] intending to confront Ms. Butlin.

We are scheduled to return to court September 13, 2017 and I would ask that an Officer take a formal statement from Ms. Butlin and determine if there are reasonable and probable grounds to believe that an offence has been committed.

About two hours later, Sgt. Cooper responded to Brown, saying that “Lori [Thorne] and I have reviewed the initial sexual assault file as well as the recent text message file…” But Cooper seems to have confused the multiple text messages Junior Duggan sent Butlin on August 25 with the single text message April Butlin sent Butlin just before August 30. Cooper repeated his opinion that no charges were warranted.

Here’s how Linda Gray understood the above situation:

Between August 29th and 30th the Sexual Assault and Harassment files were reviewed by two separate supervisors. Both agreed with the initial investigators that there was no basis for charge and neither identified any issues or follow up action with either investigation. It is not clear why the Impaired Operation file was not included in these file reviews. It can only be assumed that as the file is coded as an Impaired Operation file, reviewing members did not realize it contained unaddressed threats against Butlin which certainly would have been valuable information the Crown would have wanted to be aware of.

At the September 13 court appearance, the peace bond hearing was once again put off, to October 4.

Butlin left the court and called Cpl. Neil Wentzell at the Bible Hill detachment to complain that no charges had been laid against Duggan.

Wentzell dutifully filed a Supplementary Occurrence Report detailing the call with Butlin and explaining that he had spoken with Crooks, Whelan, and Thorne; reviewed the files; listened to Butlin’s recorded statement; and read the peace bond application. Wentzell continued:

Based on these noted discussions, and fruits of the investigation and statements provided to both Cst. Crooks and Cst. Whelan by the Com [complainant, Butlin], there is insufficient RPG [reasonable and probable grounds] and elements of a Criminal Offence to proceed with criminal charges in this matter. Sgt. Cooper’s previous correspondence with the Crown also drew upon the same conclusion.

That afternoon, Wentzell called Butlin back to ask her to “make arrangements to discuss the investigation.”

Four days later, Junior Duggan sat down with a pint of rum.


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Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. RCMP have the ability to issue peace bonds if they think it is needed. It gives an immediate solution to a potential problem while waiting to get in court.