The Halifax Examiner is one of eight media organizations that has been petitioning the court to unseal documents related to the RCMP’s investigation of the April 18/19 mass murders.
The documents in question are the “Information to Obtain”s (ITOs) a search warrant, which the RCMP submitted to a court in order to get various search warrants. As well, we hope to get the search warrants themselves, and the “return”s, which are lists of what was seized during the searches.
This is a long and expensive count battle, as federal and provincial Crown attorneys are resisting us at every stage. On May 25, we received redacted versions of the first seven (of an expected 20 or so) ITOs. Those ITOs mostly (but not entirely) duplicate each other, and they are heavily redacted. See: “Here’s what the RCMP doesn’t want you to know about the mass murder investigation.”
We pressed on, and last Monday, July 27, the court unsealed a very small number of the redactions in the documents obtained on May 25. The Examiner then published an article I wrote about the newly released information: “Witness told police that mass murderer ‘builds fires and burns bodies, is a sexual predator, and supplies drugs in Portapique and Economy.’”
Thursday, the RCMP released a statement “to provide context to recently unsealed information.”
A previous RCMP statement
I distrust RCMP statements, both on principle and through experience.
The principle is that the RCMP shouldn’t be attempting to spin the public about material that could conceivably put the RCMP in an unfavourable light. Put simply: the RCMP’s PR wing is not a trustworthy narrator.
The experience is in a previous case, which also involved a successful petition to the court to unseal documents. Afterwards, the RCMP had issued a statement that, well, misrepresented what any objective person would understand the documents revealed.
I’m speaking of Glen Assoun’s wrongful conviction for the murder of Brenda Way. In that instance, the Halifax Examiner joined with the CBC and the Canadian Press to hire a lawyer to get the “preliminary assessment” of Assoun’s claims of innocence unsealed. It cost us collectively north of $50,000, but we prevailed.
And among many other particulars, the documents showed that the RCMP destroyed evidence that should have cleared Assoun — specifically, the evidence suggested that serial killer Michael McGray, and not Assoun, had killed Brenda Way. But because that evidence was destroyed, Assoun spent another nine years in prison for a crime he did not commit.
The evidence that was destroyed came in two categories: several hundred entries on a computer database called Viclas, and a collection of paper documents collected mostly in banker’s boxes. As I detailed in the Uncover: Dead Wrong podcast, it took an entire crew of RCMP officers working over many days to delete the computer entries, and one RCMP officer described the destruction of the paper evidence as “shredded.”
In response to that revelation, the RCMP issued a statement. It read, in part:
In 2014, a then serving member of the RCMP alleged that his analysis and material related to the homicide of Ms. Brenda Way were missing and had been intentionally destroyed. Given the seriousness of the allegations, the Nova Scotia RCMP immediately began an administrative review to determine what occurred.
The review was conducted by the Officer in Charge of Major Crime at the time who was an expert in ViCLAS analysis. The administrative review was extensive and found that ViCLAS worksheets had been deleted in 2004 when employees of the ViCLAS unit were asked to review a number of analyses completed from 2001-2003 for quality control purposes. The deletions were contrary to policy and shouldn’t have happened. They were not done, however, with malicious intent.
That statement was an exercise in obfuscation.
For one, the officer who made the allegation about destruction of evidence was Dave Moore; he first made that allegation known to the RCMP in 2005, not in 2014. It’s the review that was conducted in 2014. That’s not “immediately” — the review only happened because Assoun had successfully brought his appeal to the federal Criminal Conviction Review Group, and its lawyer, Mark Green, independently discovered the destruction of evidence nine years before.
Second, the RCMP’s statement only addressed the deletion of the computer files, and not the destruction of Moore’s paper evidence in the banker’s boxes. The statement made no mention of the paper evidence at all.
Third, the claim that the deletion of the computer entries was for “quality control reasons” is farcical on its face. As another RCMP officer pointed out in the podcast, you do not delete entries on a database of this sort for quality control reasons; you leave them in the database and address any problems with them on the database so everyone can see what’s going on.
Fourth, “They [the deletions] were not done, however, with malicious intent,” is at best laughably obtuse. Anyone who simply reads the preliminary assessment would come to the exact opposite conclusion.
Lesson: distrust RCMP statements.
Last week’s RCMP statement
So I wasn’t at all surprised to find last week’s RCMP statement similarly obfuscating.
Let’s deconstruct it.
The gist of the RCMP statement is two-fold: 1) to discount the person who told Halifax police that the gunman, who the Examiner refers to as GW, “builds fires and burns bodies, is a sexual predator, and supplies drugs in Portapique and Economy,” and 2) to admit that GW smuggled weapons from Maine but to dismiss the idea that GW was involved in the drug trade recently.
As I made clear in my article last week:
The most stunning revelation comes from one person who spoke with Halifax police. That person told police that the murderer, who the Examiner refers to as GW, “builds fires and burns bodies, is a sexual predator, and supplies drugs in Portapique and Economy, Nova Scotia.”
The RCMP says that because the claim of previous murders came only came from one person, it’s not credible:
The one same witness is the only witness who described the gunman as having been involved in other murders and the disposal of bodies prior to April 18, 2020. The RCMP has not received any credible or actionable information that the gunman was involved in any other murders outside the murders committed by him on April 18 and 19, 2020. This belief is based on:
o Investigators have confirmed that prior to becoming a certified denturist, the gunman worked as a licenced embalmer at a funeral service provider. In terms of any involvement that the gunman had in previous murders or of unlawful body disposal, the RCMP has not uncovered any additional information or evidence to support this claim.
o Forensic Identification Specialists have conducted a thorough examination of the gunman’s residence and surrounding properties. This examination included the sifting of surface debris as well as sub-surface excavation and sub-surface examinations using ground penetrating radar equipment. The searches and forensic examinations did not uncover any evidence to support the theory that the gunman had committed previous murders or the disposal of human remains on his property.
I don’t know if the witness’s claim is credible or not, but I would make a few points:
• The person was speaking to police; lying to police is a crime.
• The RCMP statement says that this “witness is the only witness who described the gunman as having been involved in other murders and the disposal of bodies prior to April 18, 2020.” [emphasis added]
I have no idea who the RCMP or the Halifax police have interviewed in this investigation, but I do know that Halifax Examiner reporter Joan Baxter interviewed a woman we’re calling “Boe,” who told Baxter that in the presence of an RCMP officer she called a relative of GW’s and put the relative on speakerphone so the RCMP officer could hear the conversation. Here’s how Boe related that conversation in an article we published on May 12:
So I called [the relative] and I said… “would you be willing to talk to the RCMP about what happened with [GW’s partner] and the illegal weapons that Gabriel has?” And he said, “no way, because he’s already told me he’ll kill me, because he’s already told me that he’s killed people in the United States.
So unless the person who spoke with Halifax police on April 19 is the same person who Boe had on speakerphone previously with the RCMP, there are two accusations of previous murders by GW.
• As related by Boe, the claim of previous murders was secondhand, but it came from GW himself. Was that claim of previous murders simply meant to intimidate, a kind of perverse bravado? Maybe, but in light of 22 other people murdered by GW, it’s worth fully investigating.
• If the person who spoke with the Halifax police on April 19 is the person Boe had on the speakerphone previously with the RCMP, then that bit of information was missed in the ITO. That could be understandable, as the Examiner didn’t report that conversation until May 12. But why wouldn’t the RCMP’s statement of July 25 mention that the person had made unsubstantiated claims twice, once at some previous time that an RMCP officer was listening in on and then a second time on April 19?
• Even if the two accusations of previous murders came from the same person Boe had on speakerphone, the alleged murders happened in the United States, not in Nova Scotia, so there’s no reason that digging around GW’s properties in Nova Scotia would reveal any evidence documenting previous murders in the United States.
• The person who spoke with Halifax police on April 19 did not just make an offhand comment that GW had murdered previously, but went on at length about it, saying:
— the person had known GW since 2011, but hadn’t seen him in eight months;
— GW “would speak of getting rid of bodies, burning, and chemicals”:
— GW “was controlling and paranoid”;
— GW “would tell [the person] different ways to get rid of a body and had lime and muriatic acid on the property. The barrels of these would be underneath the deck”
• Moreover, everything else (that isn’t still redacted in the ITO) that the person told Halifax police on April 19 checks out, including the layouts of the various properties, the many weapons GW collected, and even the pass code for a security system at the Portapique property.
The RCMP statement says:
· Witnesses have described that while attending university in New Brunswick in the mid to late 1980s, the gunman was involved in the smuggling and illegal sale of cigarettes and liquor as a means to make money during that period of his life. There has been no further information to suggest that the gunman remained involved in the smuggling or illegal sale of cigarettes or liquor after that time or in the recent past.
· The gunman was involved in procuring firearms illegally. In terms of the firearms, at this time we can confirm that this took place predominantly in the United States and that one firearm had been illegally obtained in Canada. Any transactions of firearms on the part of the gunman or anyone else remains part of the active investigation. As such, no further details in relation to this can or will be provided at this time.
The statement then goes on to define “organized crime,” and says there is no evidence that GW was involved in organized crime. So: GW smuggled cigarettes and booze in his university days, but that was all behind him, and more recently he only smuggled weapons.
But again, the person who spoke with Halifax police on April 19 was very specific about the drug running: GW “supplies drugs in Portapique and Economy,” “had smuggled guns and drugs from Maine for years,” and “had a bag of 10,000 oxy-contin and 15,000 dilaudid from a reservation in New Brunswick.”
The RCMP now implies that the person supplying this very specific information is, I don’t know, mistaken? Perhaps.
But I do know this: GW had an awful lot of money. He owned his properties outright and appears to have paid cash for them; at least, none of them had ever been mortgaged. He was able to obtain about a half million dollars in cash just a few weeks before the murder spree. People called the denturist “a millionaire.” He had expensive hobbies, including an elaborate garage with a half dozen cars and many motorcycles.
I certainly would need more information to come to a conclusive understanding that GW was running drugs, but given everything we know about him, it doesn’t at all seem an unreasonable suspicion.
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