Witness to murder: “I will always blame myself”

This post includes a podcastHeather FraserIs a witness to evil, who does not intervene, culpable or guilty only of cowardice? Annette Rogers has been to this precipice. Her scarred conscience reflects her failure. She did not do the difficult thing, the right thing. If Rogers had, 16-year-old Heather Fraser (inset) might have survived her encounter with a killer. Fraser was raped and stabbed by James Harold Giff on a cold Monday evening, January 28, 1985, in Smiths Falls, a small town in eastern Ontario on the historic Rideau waterway. Rogers was Giff’s girlfriend at the time. For nearly 25 years, she kept a terrible secret about the murder, until she spoke to me in 2009 (the podcast, after the jump, features her interview). Rogers revealed that she was taken by Giff on the night of the murder – in an act that would forever bind her to that night’s horror – to the snowy park where he had left his victim after raping her and stabbing her twice. Heather wasn’t dead. Bleeding profusely, she was crawling on her hands and knees through nearly two foot deep snow toward a nearby street. Rogers says she heard – but could not see in the dark – Heather’s faint cries for help. Rogers did not do the right thing. She did not run to Heather’s aid, or call police or for an ambulance.  She agreed with Giff’s demand for silence, and assistance. She became, for a time, an accomplice. Heather was found hours after she was attacked and was rushed to hospital where she later died. Rogers says her inaction stemmed from fear that Giff would kill her. He had threatened her many times in their abusive relationship, she says. After Giff was jailed for Heather’s murder, Giff warned Rogers that he would hunt her down after release and kill her. This lingering threat has driven Rogers, in an act of self flagellation, to attend every one of Giff’s parole hearings, to listen over and over again to the sordid details of his crimes, and to plead with authorities not to free him. Giff was granted day parole to a halfway house in Montreal in January 2015, but nine months later, his release was suspended, then reinstated. Corrections Canada, which was responsible for supervising Giff’s freedom, refused, at the time, to disclose why Giff’s parole was suspended. Recently, the Parole Board of Canada released documents (read them after the jump) that reveal Giff had a “change of attitude” that sparked concern.

NOTE: This is an updated version of a story first published in 2009. It includes new information, new documents and a new podcast that includes portions of my recorded interview with Annette Rogers not previously released.

Giff, at age 17
Rapist/murderer James Giff, at age 17

In its latest decision, dated April 22, 2016, the parole board ruled that Giff can continue to live in Montreal on day parole but he won’t be granted full parole, which brings far greater freedom, until a full hearing is held. The April 22 decision was made on paper. Giff’s case management team had recommended he be granted full parole. But the parole board noted that Giff  “had been incarcerated for almost the entirety of your adult life, and that you have only been in the community on Day Parole for a relatively brief period of time.”

“Full parole is a major step in your reintegration into society, and brings with it stresses and risks with which you will be confronted,” the parole board decision states. “In order for the Board to properly evaluate the risk that Full Parole may present and to assess the extent to which it would be appropriate for you to take this further step, it will be necessary for the Board to meet with you in a hearing. At that time, you will have the opportunity to exchange with the Board with respect to your request to be granted Full Parole.”

Another parole document, the written record of a decision January 27, 2016, reveals that Giff was behaving “out of anger and a sense of revenge” when his parole was suspended late last year. The behaviour was linked to his failure to call a parole supervisor to report his arrival at a planned destination. Giff lost privileges at the community facility where he was living on day parole but he didn’t like the sanction. He became, according to the document, “legalistic and demanding” and, at one point, he “alluded to bringing down the institution.”

In the end, his parole was reinstated. Giff was permitted to continue to live at a community correctional centre. He is doing volunteer work and began working in January at a paid job as an assistant cook (he took cooking instruction in prison), though the employer is not revealed in the documents. He’s also taking karate lessons, which, the parole board notes, “like your faith, help you to maintain a balanced lifestyle.”

Giff continues to live under conditions that forbid him from using drugs or alcohol. He must report all intimate relationships and friendships with females and he must avoid contact with people in the drug subculture.


Here is my account of the murder of Heather Fraser, first published in The Kingston Whig-Standard newspaper November 2009:

Heather Margaret Fraser was the daughter every parent hoped to raise.
In Grade 6, she was named outstanding student in her school. In Grade 8, she was president of her student council. She was awarded one of the Girl Guides’ highest honours.
As a teen, she began to teach Sunday School at her family’s Presbyterian Church.
At Smiths Falls District Collegiate, she joined the student council. She won spots on school basketball, volleyball and badminton teams. She was a member of the school band.
With excellent grades, she was enrolled in the school’s gifted program. Outside of school, she played ringette and softball. She won medals in highland dancing competitions.
She worked part time at the canteen at the community centre and the arena.
The tall, brown-eyed Grade 11 student with short-cropped hair and a big smile had no enemies.
Though she lived in a small, historic eastern Ontario town known for its railway roots and a chocolate factory, her father Ian, a construction supervisor with Parks Canada, had always cautioned her about walking in some places, after dark.
Smiths Falls had an underbelly, though invisible to most. In a town of roughly 9,000 people, the regular troublemakers were well known to police, but mostly for petty crimes – break-ins, vandalism and fights fuelled by booze and drugs.
There had never been a sex murder in the town, until Jan. 28, a cold Monday in 1985 that fell one month after Heather’s 16th birthday.
Heather’s day began early.
Her mother Carolyn drove her to school shortly after 7 a.m. for volleyball practice.
After school, she attended a student council meeting.
It ended around 4:45 p.m. Friends saw her leave the school alone, bundled in her multi-coloured parka and blue sweatpants, around 5 p.m. Her books were stowed in her green canvas backpack.
Though she often called family for a ride, Heather decided to brave the 15-minute walk south from school to her home, despite the falling temperature and the fading light.
A cold southwest wind made it feel like –12 C. At eight minutes after 5, the sun set.
It was not fully dark when Heather reached Abbott Street. She followed the sidewalk that abutted the sprawling Parks Canada property where the Rideau waterway bisected the town.
The grassy expanse around the canal that lured children with fishing poles and picnickers in summer was now desolate, blanketed by 20 inches of snow. The day before, a few new inches had fallen.
Heather crossed the first of two bridges that spanned the waterway.
She was just three blocks from home when she met another solitary figure on the sidewalk.
James Harold Giff, a slight 17-year-old with bushy, shoulder-length brown hair, was wearing his signature Tuf Mac workboots. As he walked, the soles imprinted distinct wavy lines in the snow.
Heather did not know Giff.
Although they lived just a few doors apart, he existed in another world.
She might have run at first sight of him, if she had recognized the rage fermenting inside this troubled highschool dropout who viewed women as evil.
Giff had lasted just four months at Smiths Falls District Collegiate before continued brushes with the law landed him in a training school in the spring of 1983, at the age of 15.
He had been a drinking, thieving truant since the age of 11.
In 1984, he spent six months in a reformatory for his role in armed robberies at two Smiths Falls convenience stores.
Since his release, Giff had been living at his uncle’s house, at 58 Alfred St. Heather Fraser lived at the corner of Alfred and Abbott streets.
For parts of the past 24 hours, Giff had been guzzling cheap wine, swallowing Valium pills, and hunting the girlfriend with whom he lived, 17-year-old Annette Rogers.
He had threatened to choke, stab, or shoot the confused runaway who was his regular punching bag, the girl he often condemned as a lazy, stupid slut.
She was his slut, at least.
Like a terrified mouse, Rogers had scurried to a hiding place, waiting for the now-familiar fury to subside.
Something had clicked in her battered brain. She had the temerity to defy her abuser-lover and threaten to end their relationship.
At midday, Rogers spoke to Giff on the phone. He spewed more threats, warning her to come to their home and retrieve her belongings.
She refused to come out of hiding.
Her defiance stoked his rage.
Giff met Heather on the swing bridge that crossed the canal.
It was about 5:15 p.m.
She appeared, at least to him, like the stuck-up snobs who looked down their noses at him.
“Do you have a light?” Giff asked.
Heather said she didn’t smoke.
Giff pulled out the buck knife he always carried, the one he intended to use on Rogers.
The violent fantasies of harming women that had often possessed him were swirling in his brain.
“Follow me,” he told the terrified girl.
He ordered Heather to walk into the park, through the unbroken snow, away from the road and into the creeping darkness.
He marched her toward the rusting railway lift bridge at the western edge of the property.

Annette Rogers, in 1994

A sheaf of documents is sprawled across the thick pine table in Annette Rogers’ small kitchen, in a tiny eastern Ontario community where she lives with her husband and three children.
There are parole board reports, dozens of pages of victim impact statements – statements over which she laboured for hours, sometimes days – and newspaper clippings. The papers are a tangible reminder of a tortured life.
“People need to know the truth,” says Rogers, who seems too worn to be just 42.
Long, brown hair is pulled back from her face. She is calm. Words don’t always come easily or eloquently, but her message is clear.
“I think we better get the story out there, even if it’s going to cost me having to answer to a lot of things,” she says. “It needs to be done.
The truth is painful and she knows that she will be judged, not just for what she did, which has been obvious to most people, but for what she did not do, which has been secret, until now.
She was there, that cold night in the park nearly 25 years ago.
“I died that night,” she says, recalling Jan. 28, 1985.
So much life has since slipped away in a blur of drug abuse, self-induced torment and despair. After 16 years of therapy, frequent mental collapses and a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress syndrome, there is some clarity, and a fierce determination to keep a killer locked up and to purge her demons.
“He took me to the spot and I was one of the last people to hear her alive,” Rogers says.
When Giff found Rogers that day, she expected a beating or more threats, but instead, Giff asked her to go somewhere with him.
He told her he had done something terrible.
“He says, ‘I killed somebody,’ ” Rogers recalls. She did not believe him.
“I went along with him and the walk was pretty quiet because, you know, he wasn’t talking very much and I was still very uneasy.”
It was after 6 p.m., fully dark, when Giff led Rogers to the property along Abbott Street.
“When we got there, I didn’t hear nothing, did not hear nothing whatsoever so I walked up the bank,” Rogers recalls. “I walked up to where the bank is, the snowbank, and I stood there and I said like, ‘What are you talking about? I don’t hear nothing,’ and all of a sudden, you could hear her, very faint, yelling, trying to yell but she couldn’t even do that.”
Rogers did not go to toward the muffled sound of a young woman, crying out in agony.
She did not call police.
She did not go for medical help.
She went home with Jamie Giff.
Years of therapy have trained her to accept that she was a battered woman-child whose mind was traumatized, fractured, by what she saw and heard that night.
“I used to think that was a piss poor excuse for not doing the right thing, for not going and helping her, for not going to the police right there,” she says, her voice getting louder. “I could have done it.”
Now, she is pounding the table, her hand thumping the pine.
“I could have done it, you know,” she says, pausing to exhale in frustration.
She has been told, often, that she is not to blame.
“Ahhhh,” she says out of exasperation. “Does any of this make sense?”

Ken Graham, the police officer who pried a confession from Giff

Ken Graham has been retired 20 years from the Smiths Falls police department, but he has not forgotten Jan. 28.
“I vividly remember,” he says. “I was actually at the curling club, off duty and I was curling and I was hardly dressed for the winter.”
At 8:45 p.m., Graham received a phone call from his inspector.
Then a 10-year veteran of the department, Graham was ordered to come to the office immediately. A young girl had been assaulted in the Abbott Street park.
“I didn’t even have a gun with me, I didn’t even have my notebook, nothing,” says Graham, who became the department’s lead investigator on the case.
“It was bloody cold and we ended up spending a lot of time out in the cold that night and I wasn’t dressed for it,” he remembers.
The weather would be crucial to solving the crime.
“I don’t know what we would have done if it happened in the summer,” Graham says, standing atop the abandoned, elevated rail line that skirts the marshy Rideau shoreline.
He points, halfway down the bank below him.
It is the spot where Heather Fraser was pushed, perhaps thrown, onto the ground. Investigators found a large swath of matted snow, red stains and one mitt.
They had quickly found the isolated crime scene by following two sets of tracks, the only footprints in the sprawling park.
“It was like virgin snow,” Graham says. “There were no other footprints in the snow, so the only set of footprints into the scene were hers and his.”
At roughly 3 a.m., six hours after Graham was called away from his curling game, light snow began to fall. It could have been disastrous, but for the quick thinking of investigators, who needed to preserve evidence.
“We had to run down and get the manager of the liquor store to open the liquor store up so we could get boxes,” Graham says. “The boxes were being used to cover footprints in the snow so they didn’t get eradicated by additional snowfall.”
It is no more than 20 feet from the scene of the attack to the rusting, 97-year-old railway lift bridge that once raised like a giant steel jaw to allow boats to pass.
Unused for decades, it is now permanently frozen at a 45-degree angle so that the massive steel trestle pokes skyward, as if to mark this terrible place.

It was about 700 feet from the Abbott Street sidewalk to the lift bridge at the western edge of the canal property.
Two solitary figures walking in darkness would have been nearly imperceptible from the road by the time they reached the bridge.
Once they passed under the steelwork and curved north behind the concrete abutment and the railway embankment, they were invisible.
They walked only a few feet more before Giff, still brandishing his knife, put his coat down on the snowy slope.
He put his hand on Heather’s breast.
He knew what he was doing was wrong but he was full of rage and could not stop. He wanted to humiliate his victim.
Heather begged him to stop.
Giff raped her.
He used his knife to mutilate her vagina.
He plunged the knife into her upper right chest, through her parka, opening a wound one and a quarter inches long.
She was stabbed a second time, in the back, below the right shoulder blade.
Believing he had killed Heather, Giff scampered up the embankment, tossed his knife away and walked north along the disused railway line.
He had underestimated the tenacity of his victim.
With blood seeping from her chest, Heather began to crawl on her hands and knees, back along the same route that brought her to the embankment.
She lost her mitts, but clawed through nearly two-foot deep snow toward the lights of Abbott Street, scraping the skin from her knuckles.
She cried out for help.
By 6 p.m., Giff was at his uncle’s home on Alfred Street, looking for Annette Rogers. He had something to tell her – something to show her. He stayed only a few minutes before he left the house to search for her.
Carolyn Fraser was worried when she arrived at the family’s Abbott Street house just after 6 p.m. to discover that her daughter had not come home from school.
Her husband Ian suggested the oldest of their two daughters had likely stayed late at school for sports or other activities.
Carolyn Fraser phoned Heather’s friends then jumped in the car and drove to the high school, then to the youth centre.
No one had seen Heather since 5 p.m.
The worried mother drove home, expecting to find her missing child.
By about 6:30 p.m., Giff had found Annette Rogers and together they returned to the Abbott Street park.
Standing at the top of a snowbank, Rogers heard faint cries for help, enough to convince
her that Giff’s unbelievable boast about committing murder was real.
“He told me to get down and come with him or he would finish the job, which was me and it was my fault he did it and so I was to blame that she was there and that we had to get out of there because now I was an accessory and I would go to jail,” Rogers recalls.
The pair returned to 58 Alfred St.
It was 6:45 p.m. when Carolyn Fraser returned home again to find that there was still no sign of Heather.
Ian Fraser figured mother and daughter had missed each other at the school. Carolyn Fraser got back in the car and returned to the high school. Shortly after 7 p.m., she phoned her husband from the school. Heather could not be found.
Ian Fraser decided to retrace the route his daughter likely would follow to walk home.
He walked north on Abbott Street. Thirty feet north of the swing bridge, he noticed something in the snow, to his left, on the Parks Canada property.
It was nearly 7:30 p.m.
“I ran to it and when I got there I saw it was Heather,” Fraser later told police (read Ian Fraser’s entire statement to police). “She was hunched over on her hands and knees with her head down as though she was crawling.”
Remarkably, Heather had dragged herself more than 600 feet, to within 50 feet of the road.
“I turned her over on her side,” her father told investigators. “I asked her what was wrong and she just uttered one word, ‘Stabbed.’
“She was deep in shock, because her eyes were bulging and wide open. There was sort of a gurgling sound in her throat.
“After she said stabbed, I had her head in my arm and I could see that her shirt was dark and could feel that it was wet. I’m not sure if I opened her coat, not sure whether I unzippered it or not. I think I unzippered it.
“Her slacks were part way down, about her hips.”
Fraser hesitated only a moment before dashing to the nearby road where he flagged down two passing vehicles.
Heather was bundled into the back of a stranger’s van and driven to the Smiths Falls hospital.
She was cold and pale but conscious when she was wheeled into the emergency department. Staff worked furiously to stanch the bleeding and stabilize her. She was X-rayed and an intravenous tube was inserted in each arm.
In agony, she thrashed and moaned.
She could not answer questions.
Just after 8:30 p.m., she was in an ambulance racing to the Ottawa Civic Hospital.
Dr. Brian Penney, her family doctor, was in the ambulance, along with a nurse, an ambulance attendant and a police officer. Penney asked Heather if she knew him.
She nodded.
He asked if she could tell them what happened.
Heather winced, thrashed and shook her head.
At 9 p.m., she went into cardiac arrest.
The ambulance arrived at the Ottawa Civic Hospital at 9:12 p.m.
Heather was pronounced dead at 1:02 a.m. (read complete autopsy reports)

In February this year, Jamie Giff told the National Parole Board, in a hearing at Pittsburgh Institution in Kingston, the minimum-security penitentiary where he is now imprisoned, that he poses no risk to anyone, after 24 years behind bars (By 2014, Giff had been transferred to an aboriginal healing centre in Quebec).
Giff asked for unescorted passes that would allow him to leave prison for up to 72 hours at a time, without supervision, to travel to London, Ont.
He wants to open a bank account, get a driver’s licence, visit Fanshawe College, the YMCA and the local mosque.
Giff married while behind bars and has converted to Islam. He prays five times a day, he told the board. He has earned his high school diploma and has been a model prisoner.
He claimed that he no longer objectifies women and that he has been free of drugs and alcohol for years and has contained his rage.
Annette Rogers does not believe it.
She attended the hearing, faced Giff and read an eight-page statement, the fifth such statement she has submitted to the board.
“Please, I beg you, he is not ready to be released,” Rogers told the board members. “His lies are so deep that you have to see his little bit of therapy is not enough to let him in society and society to be safe.”
She reminded them that after Giff was convicted, he threatened to kill Rogers and her family.
Giff faced other problems in convincing the parole board that he could be trusted.
In group therapy sessions, he admitted, for the first time, to mutilating Heather Fraser. He said he deliberately cut her genitals to make her scream in terror because she wasn’t reacting the way he had imagined in his violent fantasies.
After the admissions, Giff was diagnosed a sexual sadist, a perpetrator who takes pleasure in inflicting pain and suffering.
Before the parole board in February, Giff said his group therapy confessions were lies, concocted because he had been warned by other participants that if he didn’t admit to acts of which he was accused, he would be forced to repeat the program.
The parole board denied Giff’s request for unescorted passes.
In July this year, the warden of Pittsburgh Institution granted a year-long package of escorted temporary absences that permit Giff to leave the prison daily from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. to do community service work in the Kingston area with the Salvation Army.
He also gets passes for “personal development.”

Ken Graham recalls sitting in a restaurant with his wife in the weeks after the murder.
The killer had not yet been caught.
She scolded her husband for his distracted behaviour.
“ ‘You’re doing it again, you’re looking at people’s feet,’ ” Graham recalls his wife saying.
The determined investigator was inspecting the footwear of every person who passed through the restaurant.
He was looking for those boots, boots with a distinctive sole.
Police had photographed and documented the pattern they found stamped in the snow of the Abbott Street park.
At the arch was an oval that encircled the words, “Oil Resistant.”
The words, “Star Valenti” appeared below the oval.
The front of the sole was wavy ridges.
Police weren’t yet sure they had found those boots, or its owner, even though they had quickly compiled a suspect list.
Jamie Giff was not on that first list. It included known sex offenders. Giff had no history of sex crimes and his criminal record was primarily minor assaults, robberies and thefts.
“To me, this was outside the range of crimes that I thought he was capable of,” Graham says.
There were other better suspects, but Giff succeeded in quickly pushing himself near the top of the list.
For days after the stabbing, a police cordon remained in place around the Abbott Street property.
Patrol officers guarded the perimeter.
A young man and woman walking past approached an officer to ask what was going on.
The officer noted a distinctive pattern being left in the snow by the young man’s boots.
Though Jamie Giff’s appearance had changed – Rogers had cut off most of his long hair – he was wearing the same size 8 Tuf Macs (see Giff’s boots) that he had worn Jan. 28.
“The [officer] noticed his boots and said, ‘Hey, those prints look familiar,’ so he actually hustled him right in the car and took him right over to where we were doing our investigation,” Graham says. “His boots were taken off him and photographed and measured and then he was released.”
Though he could have refused the police request to inspect his boots, Giff co-operated.
The designs in the sole of Giff’s boots matched the impressions found in the snow, but there seemed to be a discrepancy in the
Graham went to Toronto, to the factory of the boot manufacturer. He retrieved sample soles from every size boot.
The manufacturer explained that each size of boot had a distinct number of ribs on the bottom.
“The rib count for his size was consistent with the rib count that was at the scene,” Graham says. “So he very quickly became a person of interest.”
Giff was approached by police repeatedly but denied any involvement in Heather’s murder.
He refused to provide blood or saliva samples and refused to take a lie detector test.
“We started to focus on him more and more,” Graham recalls.
Thorough police work also paid off.
Because of the scope of the crime, the Ontario Provincial Police had immediately been called in to help the small, Smiths Falls municipal police department.
Officers created a grid and collected every bit of snow from the railway embankment at the spot where they believed Heather was raped and stabbed.
The snow was hauled to the OPP station, where it was allowed to melt and pass through filters.
The filters were carefully packaged and taken to the Centre of Forensic Sciences in Toronto.
“In my humble opinion, it was a gargantuan effort to come up with some evidence,” Graham says,
In an era before DNA testing, the snow yielded invaluable clues.
Forensic investigators found fibres that were later matched to a coat that Giff owned.
They also found semen.
And they learned that the man who produced the semen was a secretor, someone whose blood type can be detected in saliva, tissue and semen.
The blood type of the rapist was relatively rare.
That set off a desperate hunt for the bodily fluids of everyone on the suspect list. Blood typing would eliminate many of the names.
Giff’s family handed investigators what they needed.
While his mother was being interviewed by investigators, Giff came into the room and lit a cigarette. He put it out, left it in an ashtray and left the room.
The investigator asked Giff’s mother if he could have the butt.
“To give her credit, she is his mother, but she said she didn’t believe he did it but if he did do it, he should be responsible,” Graham says.
Saliva from the cigarette butt was from a secretor with the same blood type as the killer.
The net was closing around Giff, but police could not yet definitively place him at the scene of the crime.
“He did that himself,” Graham says.
In early March, Giff was arrested on an assault charge unrelated to the murder. He was being held in the police cells.
For more than a month, investigators had dogged Giff, interviewing family, friends, acquaintances and, of course Annette Rogers.
She insisted he was innocent, though Graham knew that she had information she was concealing. He could not extract it from her.
On March 2, an acquaintance of Giff’s mother called police to say they were picking on the wrong guy.
“Why are you focusing on him?” Graham recalls the man asking. “He didn’t have anything to do with it.
“He just found her. He panicked and he left her. He didn’t kill her.”
Investigators were stunned by the revelation.
Graham believed Giff likely had grown tired of needling by friends and family asking why police were so interested in him. The veteran officer imagined Giff had finally explained away the police focus by saying he’d been at the crime scene, so of course his footprints were there, and perhaps other evidence.
Graham realized Giff should be interviewed immediately.
He and another senior officer brought him from the cells to a bland little room barely larger than a bathroom.
There were three, vinyl-padded chairs and one desk.
It was March 2. The case was about to crack wide open.
Giff acknowledged that he was passing by the Abbott Street property on Jan. 28 when he heard what sounded like a scream. He walked out through the snow, he said, to investigate.
“Ya, I went back, to the bridge,” he told the two investigators, in a tape recorded interview (read the transcript of the entire interview).
He said he walked to the old lift bridge, under the steelwork and around the corner to the railway embankment.
There, he claimed, he discovered a girl.
“When I found her, she was laying, up on her side. She had holes in her chest and she had her knee up,” Giff said.
“Uh huh, did she say anything?” Graham asked.
“She didn’t say, she didn’t say any names. The only thing she said was, just said, leave me here to die.”
“So what did you do?” the officer wondered.
“Well, okay, yous got hair from somebody’s head, right?”
“Uh huh,” Graham replied, though he was lying.
“More than likely, it’s gonna be mine,” Giff offered.
“Why would it be yours?”
“Cause I picked her up,” Giff replied.
He claimed that Heather suddenly went limp and appeared to pass out and, with that, he realized that if was seen carrying the wounded girl out of the park, he would be fingered as the person who attacked her.
He said he got scared and ran.
Then, the wily investigator cornered his prey.
Graham asked Giff if he remembered anything about Heather’s clothing.
“Um, there was a green, ah, what you call em, canvas bag there,” Giff said.
The bag was under the railway lift bridge, he said, describing accurately the spot where police officers found it that night.
Police had never revealed publicly that they had found the green canvas bag. Graham knew, because there were only two sets of tracks in the park – those made by Heather and by the killer – that Giff had, in fact, been there.
He had him.
“Okay, Jamie, I have a, ah, I’m gonna have to tell you something now,” Graham said. “That it’s my duty to inform you first of all that you have the right to retain and instruct counsel without delay. Do you understand that?”
Giff muttered, “Uh, huh,” though he did not yet seem to grasp the gravity of unfolding events.
“I wanna tell you now that, ah, you may be charged with first-degree murder,” Graham continued. “Do you wish to say anything in answer to the charge? You’re not obliged to say anything, unless you wish to do so but whatever you say may be given in evidence. Do you understand that?”
The caution continued for another minute, until Giff interjected.
“What’s this mean, I’m under arrest or something?”
Yes, Graham told him, touching off angry denials.
“I don’t care if I go to jail, I didn’t do it,” Giff insisted.
“You want to give a statement about it?” Graham asked.
“I’m not giving no statements at all.”
“Okay, well under the circumstances Jamie I think that ah, I already cautioned you on first-degree murder and from what you’ve told me…” Graham said, before Giff interrupted him.
“I, I, I, I knew, I knew, I was, yous were gonna, ah, screw me for this,” Giff sputtered.
“Well, we’re not screwing anybody Jamie.”
“Oh, no, well I’m getting pinned for it right here.”
Giff said he would not give a statement until he had a lawyer.
“I fuckin knew I shouldn’t a said nothing.”
“Well you’re wrong Jamie,” Graham said. “If you had anything to say, you should have come forward right from the start.”
“Ya, I shoulda, but I’m not familiar with people getting stabbed. And I ain’t familiar with people passing out when they’re stabbed in front of me. What am I s
upposed to do?”
Giff was charged with first-degree murder and pleaded not guilty.
He was convicted after an eight-day trial and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. Because he did not testify, he has never offered a public explanation of the crime. He refused to be interviewed for this story. (Giff agreed to an interview with me after this story was published. It was the only time he has spoken to a reporter. He told me that he was driven by a “rage to kill.”)
Giff admitted, midway through the trial, to the rape and stabbing, in the face of mounting evidence including damning testimony of an undercover police officer.
The officer masqueraded as an inmate and shared a cell with Giff in a detention centre.
“I did her,” Giff told the officer.

Annette Rogers still cannot adequately explain to others, or to herself, why she protected Jamie Giff and failed to help Heather Fraser.
“I will always blame myself,” she says. “She’s lost her life because of me, because I stayed in hiding.
“She didn’t deserve any of this.”
Seemingly as penance, Rogers has taken on the role of Giff’s nemesis. Despite the anguish she suffers from constantly revisiting her dark past, she vows to attend every parole hearing and argue that he is too dangerous to ever be trusted or freed.
“I am … fighting to keep him where he needs to stay and if that makes me lose the rest of my life, so be it,” she says.
She has long since confessed her sins.
In 1999, she went to Smiths Falls police and revealed that Giff took her back to Abbott Street that night. She admitted hearing Heather’s cries for help and admitted to doing nothing.
She was not charged with any crime.
After the murder, and before Giff was caught, he continued to beat and brainwash Rogers.
“He was always telling me it was my fault,” she recalls. “I made him do it. I made him so mad that I made him take another person’s life.”
Even after Giff was arrested, Rogers continued to support him. She demonstrated with family members who walked outside the police station, carrying placards pronouncing Giff’s innocence.
At the trial, Rogers continued to shout to anyone who would listen that Giff was not guilty.
“Oh, I made a spectacle of myself and I’m very ashamed of it,” she says.
After his conviction, she finally accepted his guilt and told Giff, whom she had visited behind bars, that she could no longer stand by him.
He became enraged.
He warned Rogers that he had years to plan his revenge, she says. When he was paroled, he pledged he would hunt her down, kill each one of her children and then tie her naked to a tree, before he killed her.
Giff has told the parole board he has no intention of harming Rogers.
He has another parole hearing set for April 2010.
Rogers already is at work on another impact statement that she plans to read to the board.
“I’m not going to be the victim, I’m going to be the accuser,” she says.







Written records of two most recent parole decisions in Giff’s case



A letter written by Giff in 2001 to his lawyer, withdrawing his bid for a faint hope hearing for early parole



A letter addressed to Rogers, written by Giff from prison in 2004, that was sent to the parole board but was not delivered to Rogers




» All of Cancrime’s coverage of the Giff case and the murder of Heather Fraser


Podcast music: Music For Podcasts 2 (Lee Rosevere) / CC BY-SA 4.0
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3 thoughts on “Witness to murder: “I will always blame myself”

  1. i was worried this crazy lunatic would be out now….read some of his stuff saying he never abused annette rogers ..he forgets the town saw it u threw her through the arcade window once…u also threw the teacher mr skibinski in chimo school over three desks….. u try and blame your past and yr upbringing on this …u don’t deserve a life…what goes around comes around …please god and hopefully its the one your praying to as well …do something with this waste of skin…he was a bad ass all over town and his family made complete fools of them and our town during this time…annette included ….this is shameful…

  2. Leave the bastard behind bars..If he does get out a whole big posse will be after his a$$…Have a nice day..

  3. this is for everyone who thinks they know the truth. were u there that day and night. have u ever been so alone and scared. well ms rogers has. she had been beaten by this boy so much. drags her back to something she thinks is cruel joke. and like our men from war saw more then her mind could handle. yes she made bad decisions and only she knows how that feels. she didnt do this for attention she did it because he is a freak of nature that will kill again. its like this if you think u know the truth why dont you go to the parole hearings there the truth lies. so unless u have been to paroles u have not idea about the truth so until then maybe some people should not make remarks. his family found out just 2 years ago the whole truth. he lied for 20 years about all of it. ya and we want him out like hell.

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