Is 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.
Confused by the claim of the Shafia family that Hamed, one of the three convicted mass murderers, wasn’t 18 at the time of the killings, in June 2009? The surprising claim, which I have written about several times, and which will go before Ontario’s top court March 3-4, 2016, in Toronto, has left many people shaking their heads. To help explain it, I’ve created a short video (watch it after the jump), complete with a visual aid. I guarantee you’ll come away with a clearer understanding of the claims and, you might be left with a firmer feeling about whether you believe them.
There 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.
It is unlikely, if history is a guide, that Constable James Forcillo (inset), the Toronto police officer charged in a fatal streetcar shooting, will be convicted and sent to prison. No Toronto officer has ever been convicted of murder in an on-duty killing, according to the Toronto Star. But, if Forcillo were convicted, what would life be like in prison? It would be a hellish experience in which he’d be forced to live in protective custody, segregated from other prisoners, mindful always that fellow convicts would be plotting to kill him. A bounty might be placed on his head and the fellow con who succeeded in killing him would be regarded by other inmates as a hero. “To be a police officer in prison is very difficult,” former Niagara Region officer Lawrence Squire said in feeble voice, speaking to a documentary film crew from his solitary confinement cell at maximum-security Kingston Penitentiary, where he had been confined after his conviction for non-capital murder more than 30 years ago.
Four years ago today, four were found. Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, Geeti, 13, and Rona, 50, together inside a small black car. Together in death. It was a ghastly scene. The car sat on its wheels on the bottom of a shallow canal at Kingston Mills, a tiny crossroads in eastern Ontario. The four had been murdered – the car shoved into the canal in a bid to conceal the deed – killed because they dared to pursue freedom, friends, affection and love. Killed by – in the case of the three sisters, their father, mother and brother – in the case of Rona, by her husband and co-wife and son. During the murder trial of Mohammad Shafia, his wife Tooba and son Hamed, prosecutors played in court and released publicly the complete 14-minute video taken by a police diver on June 30, 2009. It appears here online for the first time (after the jump), a grim but necessary reminder of the terrible fate of four who died for honour and who should not be forgotten.
Many surveillance images are fuzzy, dark or lacking detail, but not these. Police have a trove of high-quality video and still images of a bandit who has been terrorizing banks across Canada. The images, including video of some of the holdups, have been compiled (see it after the jump) and released by police. The robber has been dubbed the “Vaulter” (inset) because he leaps over bank counters during the robberies (like infamous bandit Edwin Alonzo Boyd). A Canada-wide warrant has been issued and a reward of $20,000 offered for information leading to his arrest. It’s hard to imagine that another low-life won’t soon turn him in, in order to get that cash.
Montreal’s youth protection agency (DPJ) says, according to a recent report by Journal de Montreal, that it has intervened in the cases of 13 adolescents who were at risk of honour killing since the murders nearly four years ago of four members of the Shafia family. It’s a stark reminder that the conviction and imprisonment of three members of the Shafia family has not deterred others. Zainab Shafia, 19, her sisters Sahar, 17 and Geeti, 13, and Rona Amir Mohammad, 50, were found dead on June 30, 2009, inside a submerged car discovered in a shallow canal in Kingston, Ontario. The victims are buried together in a small Islamic cemetery in Laval, just north of Montreal, Quebec. (see video of the gravesite after the jump).
It’s been roughly a year since the Harper government shuttered six convict-run penitentiary farms across Canada, despite howls of protest. Opponents said the farms were a useful, low-cost rehabilitative tool. The Tories ignored the critics and protesters and closed the farms. But the opponents won’t go away or stay silent. More than 100 people returned Monday evening, August 8, 2011 (see video after jump), to the main gate of Frontenac Institution in Kingston, Ontario, where two dozen people were arrested a year ago in a failed bid to block the closing of the pen farm at Frontenac. No one was arrested this time, though three Kingston police cruisers appeared just as the demonstration was winding down at 8 p.m.