Lessons for Calgary from a failed, body-less murder prosecution

Robert BaltovichThere is a name – Robert Baltovich – that Calgary Police homicide investigators likely are loath to consider as they hunt the bodies of three murder victims. Baltovich (inset) is a member of an exclusive club in Canadian criminal history: a man convicted of murder in the absence of the body of a victim, who was later was exonerated. Baltovich was convicted of second-degree murder in 1992, although police had not found the body of his purported victim, his girlfriend Elizabeth Bain. The 22-year-old Toronto woman disappeared in 1990. Baltovich spent eight years in prison. In 2008, he was acquitted after a second trial. Baltovich is suing, claiming malicious prosecution, in a case that soon will pass the quarter century mark and that exemplifies the difficulties of a prosecution in which authorities lack a critical piece of evidence, the body of the victim. Elizabeth Bain’s remains have never been found. In Calgary, nearly two months have elapsed since the disappearance of Alvin Liknes, 66, his wife Kathryn, 53, and their five-year-old grandson Nathan O’Brien. Police have said that their bodies have not been found. Despite this, investigators concluded that the three were murdered. Douglas Garland, a 54-year-old man with business and personal ties to the victims and a criminal record, has been charged with the murders.

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Notorious child sex killer Duane Taylor murdered in prison

Duane TaylorA child sex killer who was possessed by deviant desires to molest and harm children beginning in his youth, has been murdered in a prison in Manitoba, according to Winnipeg Free Press crime reporter Mike McIntyre. Duane Taylor (inset) is notorious in Kingston, Ontario, where he raped and murdered a two-year-old girl, April Morrison, in 1981. Taylor has been behind bars since his conviction for first-degree murder in April’s slaying, a crime that rocked the small eastern Ontario city. (UPDATE: A 25-year-old inmate at Stony Mountain Institution is charged with murdering Taylor).

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Realtor: Calgary mass murder house has “all the right bones”

Brentwood mass murder houseCalgary realtor Tom Malin needs a good editor. Malin has one of the most talked about real estate listings in Calgary right now. He’s selling a 53-year-old two-storey (inset) on a leafy street in Brentwood, one of Cowtown’s older neighbourhoods in the northwest. The house at 11 Butler Crescent NW is listed at $489,900. The house is described, in Malin’s listing, as having “all the right bones for you and your family.” The word choice seems questionable and tasteless, given that the house was the site, 15 weeks ago, of a horrific mass murder in which five people were stabbed to death. Having ‘good bones’ is real estate marketing lingo tantamount to saying that the structure and foundation of a house is solid, but, cosmetically, it needs work. Surely Malin could have found a more creative and tasteful way to describe a property that is a lightning rod for community grief.

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Could serial killer Paul Bernardo father babies behind bars?

Do killers locked in Canadian prisons marry, get conjugal visits with their new wives and father children, while they remain behind bars? Yes, yes, and yes. In fact, it happens regularly. But what about a sadistic serial rapist and killer like Paul Bernardo (inset), who has been in prison since November 1995, after he was convicted of murdering two teenage girls in Ontario, Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy? Well, maybe. The questions are relevant, given news (broken in a story by Sunmedia) that Bernardo has struck up a romantic relationship with a 30-year-old woman from London, Ontario, who wants to marry the man considered one of the most depraved serial killers caught in Canada in the last half century. I think Bernardo may be working a scheme with this relationship.

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Judge accepts convict’s claim that shiv in prison cell isn’t his

Prison shivThrough my late teens and early 20s – in late 70s and 80s – heavy-duty plastic milk crates had one notable use, as containers/carriers for long-play, 33 rpm records. Albums fit perfectly into the rugged, square containers that were designed to transport jugs and plastic bags of milk and other products from dairies to retailers and restaurants. It turns out the crates have an entirely unexpected use inside a federal penitentiary, as the raw material for fabrication of a sturdy and lethal prison shank. I dug out of my personal archive a photo I snapped of one of these marvels of convict engineering (inset, in full after jump), after seeing a recent decision of a Federal Court judge who tossed out the internal prison conviction of an Ontario inmate after a five-inch long Fibreglas knife was found inside the convict’s cell.

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Five years after Shafia killings, legal process unresolved

Mohammad ShafiaFive years ago today, around 10 a.m. on June 30,  2009, Brent White, a constable with the municipal police department in Kingston, Ontario, received a dispatch instructing him to go to Kingston Mills, a scenic and secluded spot on the northern edge of the city’s built-up area. At Kingston Mills, a series of ancient locks lifted boats from the level of Lake Ontario up to the level of the Cataraqui River. At one of the locks, a submerged car was spotted that morning by lock worker John Bruce. He had called police, beginning a chain of events that would reveal a horrifying quadruple homicide, Canada’s worst mass honour killing, orchestrated by Afghan immigrant Mohammad Shafia (inset). [Read more...]

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4 reasons Justin Bourque may be a good candidate for parole

Justin BourqueWhat happens to Justin Bourque (inset) if he is convicted of murdering three RCMP officers and wounding two others in New Brunswick? Will the 24 year old spend decades penned in a small concrete box, languishing there until he dies of old age? Maybe not. Bourque, who faces three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder in a shooting rampage in Moncton, N.B., on June 4, 2014, could be a good candidate for parole, some day, given the bits and pieces of information that are now available. (UPDATE: On July 31, 2014, Bourque was declared fit to stand trial. SECOND UPDATE: On August 8, 2014, Bourque pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder)

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Contamination of Kingston Pen land exceeds guidelines: Secret memos

Kingston PenitentiaryContaminants that cause cancer, neurological impairment and a host of other ailments have been found in soil around a closed federal prison in Kingston, Ontario at concentrations as high as 93 times federal guidelines, secret documents reveal. Copies of the documents, two briefing notes prepared by Corrections Canada for Public Safety Minster Steven Blaney, were obtained by Cancrime (read them in full after the jump). One briefing note, dated January 29, 2014, reported that “widespread soil contamination” was found around 179-year-old Kingston Penitentiary, which ceased to operate as a prison in September 2013. The note explains that lead, arsenic and hexavalent chromium – substances described in the note as “hazardous to human health” – were found “in exceedance of Federal and Provincial guidelines.” Corrections Canada, which will conduct an open house on the issue today (April 25) in Kingston, has revealed publicly only that areas around the prison show “preliminary evidence of possible soil contamination.” Information posted online at a website established by Corrections – the agency that manages the federal prison system – omits many details contained in the briefing notes, notably that the contaminants were found at levels far in excess of federal guidelines.

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National data needed on honour killings, panelists agree

Deeyah KhanMissed me on TVO’s program The Agenda with Steve Paiken on February 26? You can watch the entire program online (embedded after the jump). The segment, a panel discussion on honour killings, featured Deeyah Khan (inset), whose film about the honour killing in 2006 of Banaz Mahmod in England won the 2013 Emmy Award for best International Documentary. The panel also featured activist and educator Aruna Papp, a South Asian immigrant to Canada who wrote a book about her struggle against the oppressive honour and shame code to which her family subscribed, and Hafsa Lodi a freelance journalist based in London, England and Dubai, who is a former Ryerson University (Toronto) student who wrote a column about media coverage of honour killings in Canada, particularly the Shafia case.

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Lawyer sues honour killer Mohammad Shafia over trial bill

David CroweI’m not surprised that Kingston criminal lawyer David Crowe (inset) has sued convicted mass honour killer Mohammad Shafia. Crowe claims in a civil lawsuit that Shafia agreed to pay the trial legal bill of his accomplice/killer/wife Tooba and has now reneged on final payment. Crowe represented Tooba during the trial. Sources tell me that Crowe has been complaining for more than a year that he was never paid in full for his work on the trial. Maclean’s reporter Michael Friscolanti has this excellent story about the legal action. I’m not surprised, given what many people told me after I began covering the case in 2009 – that Shafia was a wealthy but incredibly stingy man who worshipped money. My book on the case, Without Honour, includes revelations you won’t find elsewhere about the depths of millionaire Shafia’s tightfistedness – such as his insistence in staying in cheap hotels and eating at discount restaurants during a lengthy business trip to China. One lawyer I spoke to who had dealings with Shafia noted that: “It’s one thing to have lots of money, but parting with it is another matter.”

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