RCMP opens up on Dana Bradley case

Chief in­ves­ti­ga­tor talks about the car, re­sponds to mis­in­for­ma­tion

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - FRONT PAGE - BY TARA BRAD­BURY AND GLEN WHIFFEN

Sgt. Kent Os­mond, lead in­ves­ti­ga­tor on the Dana Bradley mur­der file and head of the RCMP’s ma­jor crimes unit in St. John’s, stands near one of the many file cab­i­nets of ev­i­dence in the case. Os­mond has re­sponded in de­tail to spe­cific ques­tions posed by The Tele­gram about the 33-year-old in­ves­ti­ga­tion. In par­tic­u­lar, Os­mond an­swers why the claims of a man The Tele­gram called “Robert” have been dis­missed and why a car he claimed was used in the mur­der has not been ex­ca­vated from where it was buried many years ago. Check out this ex­clu­sive three-part se­ries start­ing to­day.

Why didn’t the RCMP dig up the car a man has claimed was used in the 1981 mur­der of 14year-old Dana Bradley? Why did RCMP in­ves­ti­ga­tors dis­miss this man’s claims that he wit­nessed the mur­der as a young boy? How ac­tive is this un­solved mur­der case af­ter 33 years?

Th­ese are ques­tions peo­ple would likely ask the RCMP’s ma­jor crime unit in New­found­land if they had the chance.

In to­day’s Tele­gram, we begin a three-part ex­clu­sive se­ries in which Sgt. Kent Os­mond, head of the unit and lead in­ves­ti­ga­tor, an­swers those ques­tions and more.

Os­mond ex­plains in de­tail how in­ves­ti­ga­tors came to their con­clu­sions about the man’s claims, their con­cerns about mis­in­for­ma­tion be­ing spread in the public and how ded­i­cated the team is to solv­ing the bru­tal crime that has gripped the prov­ince ever since it took place on the evening of Dec. 14, 1981.

The Tele­gram first car­ried “Robert’s” story in a se­ries that ran in March 2014.

Af­ter re­cov­er­ing mem­o­ries, Robert claimed he wit­nessed the mur­der as a six-year-old who was in the back­seat of the car — with an­other boy who was four — when Dana was picked up on Top­sail Road in St. John’s.

The mur­derer, he claimed, was a for­mer neigh­bour who had bor­rowed one of his fa­ther’s cars. He also claimed he was sex­u­ally as­saulted by the neigh­bour on many oc­ca­sions.

Af­ter a 16-month in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Robert’s story about the mur­der, the RCMP dis­missed his in­for­ma­tion, say­ing his story did not match known facts of the case.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual as­sault is be­ing han­dled by an­other RCMP unit.

Since last March, public in­ter­est has grown in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and in Robert and his story, and the RCMP has been crit­i­cized on so­cial me­dia, and in The Tele­gram by for­mer RCMP mem­bers — in­clud­ing the orig­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tor, Jack Lavers.

Robert had ap­proached Lavers with his story be­fore go­ing to the RCMP in 2011.

The RCMP breaks its si­lence for this Tele­gram ex­clu­sive, re­spond­ing to the crit­i­cism and spe­cific ques­tions about the case.

Q : Why won’t you dig up the cars re­lated to Robert’s story?

A: Through in­ves­ti­ga­tion, we determined that th­ese cars were not used in the com­mis­sion of this mur­der. The in­for­ma­tion was taken se­ri­ously, thor­oughly pur­sued by many in­ves­ti­ga­tors, and found to be false. We didn’t base our find­ings on opin­ion or the­o­ries, but on facts that can be mea­sured against the au­topsy re­sults, other foren­sic ev­i­dence, scene pho­to­graphs and the like.

I can un­der­stand why some peo­ple, who do not have all the in­for­ma­tion the po­lice have, might won­der why the cars are not be­ing ex­ca­vated. Sim­ply put, there is no ev­i­den­tiary rea­son to do so.

The vast dif­fer­ences be­tween the known hard facts of the case and this per­son’s ac­count can­not be over­stated. If there was any ev­i­dence what­so­ever that in­di­cated we should dig up the car, we would act.

Q : Did Robert’s state­ments or the de­tails he de­scribed change over the course of your in­ves­ti­ga­tion into his tip?

A: Yes. His ac­count changed dramatically from the first con­tact with Mr. Lavers to the last con­tact with RCMP in­ves­ti­ga­tors, and at points in be­tween.

Be­fore meet­ing with Mr. Lavers, he re­searched the mur­der by read­ing his­tor­i­cal me­dia cov­er­age, and a book, on the case. It was clear that he had im­ported cer­tain things he would have seen or read in the me­dia into his own state­ments.

Over the years, the me­dia, since it doesn’t have ac­cess to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, has re­ported some as­pects of the mur­der that aren’t ac­cu­rate. This per­son made the same mis­takes in his ac­count.

He also changed his ac­count when he learned cer­tain facts were in­cor­rect, and has amended his de­scrip­tion of how his mem­o­ries were re­cov­ered. Over time, his state­ments be­came more and more graphic and spe­cific, mak­ing them eas­ier to com­pare against the ac­tual mur­der facts. They also be­came more and more in­cor­rect.

This ob­vi­ously af­fected the re­li­a­bil­ity of his in­for­ma­tion, and of him as a pos­si­ble wit­ness.

Q : Are there pieces of Robert’s story that do not match known ev­i­dence?

A: Yes. When he at­tempts to de­scribe the mur­der in a man­ner that goes be­yond what has been re­ported in the me­dia, he is in­cor­rect.

It would be ex­pected that a six-year-old wit­ness would have mem­ory gaps, and al­lowances are made for this. How­ever, in this case it is ac­tu­ally the in­cred­i­ble de­tail he pro­vides that dis­proves his ac­count, not a lack of de­tail. His very spe­cific, ex­tremely de­tailed ac­count al­lows for an easy com­par­i­son against the known facts such as scene pho­tos and au­topsy re­sults. His ac­count con­tra­dicts the known facts of the case, and clearly shows he did not wit­ness the mur­der.

Q : Did your in­ves­ti­ga­tors in­ter­view the other per­son who was al­legedly in the car as a small child?

A: Yes, we did. Q : Is it pos­si­ble, with­out di­vulging ev­i­dence, to ex­plain in more spe­cific de­tail why this tip was dis­missed?

A: There are ar­eas of con­cern that can be sep­a­rated into loose cat­e­gories. How­ever, th­ese ex­am­ples are a small por­tion of the is­sues iden­ti­fied by in­ves­ti­ga­tors. Fur­ther, his in­for­ma­tion was as­sessed in to­tal­ity, not sim­ply as in­di­vid­ual points as men­tioned be­low:

1). In­cor­rect facts. He de­scribes in­juries that were not ac­tu­ally in­flicted on Dana, and does not re­mem­ber in­juries that we know, with cer­tainty, oc­curred. He in­cor­rectly de­scribes as­pects of Dana’s cloth­ing in ex­plicit de­tail, and some of the cloth­ing he de­scribes didn’t ex­ist. He de­scribes han­dling and look­ing through pos­ses­sions of Dana’s that didn’t ex­ist. He is in­cor­rect about body po­si­tion and many other crime scene de­tails.

2). Po­ten­tial wit­nesses do not sup­port him. Ac­cord­ing to the com­plainant, var­i­ous wit­nesses should have been able to ex­plain why the chil­dren were with the al­leged sus­pect in the car that day; should have been able to cor­rob­o­rate how the al­leged sus­pect ex­plained his late re­turn with the two chil­dren; should have been able to de­scribe in­ter­rupt­ing the com­plainant and the al­leged sus­pect dis­pos­ing of ev­i­dence; and the child who he claims was with him in the car that night de­nies he was there. No one sup­ported his ac­count, and many of th­ese wit­nesses are very close to him.

3). His story changed greatly over time. A de­tailed ac­count in which he de­scribes the al­leged sus­pect (with the two chil­dren in the car) in­ter­act­ing with Dana on two sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions be­fore he picked her up isn’t sup­ported by the facts of the case. He later re­canted that event, and the con­ver­sa­tions they sup­pos­edly had with her. He re­canted a vivid mem­ory that claims he held and ex­am­ined a spe­cific pos­ses­sion of Dana’s. A spe­cific mem­ory of a con­ver­sa­tion be­tween the al­leged sus­pect and Dana that in­di­cated the sus­pect knew Dana’s fam­ily was aban­doned as well.

Also some por­tions of his ac­count that have been of­fered to the public as fact, were not pre­sented that way to in­ves­ti­ga­tors. He has said they en­coun­tered and spoke to the po­lice right af­ter the mur­der. How­ever, when of­fer­ing this in­for­ma­tion to in­ves­ti­ga­tors on two sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions, he stated that he may have imag­ined that event.

Q : How thor­oughly was the al­leged mur­derer in Robert’s tip in­ves­ti­gated? Why no lie de­tec­tor?

A: We ded­i­cated all the re­sources in the ma­jor crime unit to in­ves­ti­gate this par­tic­u­lar com­plainant’s tip. We in­ter­viewed ev­ery per­son who might have had any in­for­ma­tion or ev­i­dence. Of all the peo­ple we in­ter­viewed, most of whom were ac­tu­ally sug­gested by him, not one per­son sup­plied any ev­i­dence to sup­port his ac­count.

The com­plainant stated that cer­tain wit­nesses should re­mem­ber very spe­cific facts that would sup­port his claims, but they did not. We uti­lized DNA tech­nol­ogy, ground searches, file re­search, ge­o­graph­i­cal ex­perts, con­sulted with an­other po­lice agency, con­sulted with the be­havioural sciences branch and searched for doc­u­men­ta­tion that might sup­port his al­le­ga­tions.

No ev­i­dence was found.

Q : Has your in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Robert’s tip been re­viewed by other po­lice agen­cies? Other RCMP in­ves­ti­ga­tors out­side your unit?

A: Ma­jor crime files are peer re­viewed as part of the in­ves­tiga­tive process. Ev­ery­one in the ma­jor crime unit played a role in this tip, re­viewed each other’s work, and the con­clu­sions drawn were unan­i­mous.

An ex­pe­ri­enced RCMP mem­ber from out­side the ma­jor crime unit also re­viewed our work. He pre­sented a com­pre­hen­sive re­port to RCMP man­age­ment, which drew the same con­clu­sions. The in­ves­ti­ga­tion was then re­viewed by the pro­fes­sional stan­dards unit of the RCMP, and again sup­ported.

Lastly, this per­son lodged a com­plaint with the Com­mis­sion for Public Com­plaints against the RCMP, which is an in­de­pen­dent agency. Their com­pletely in­de­pen­dent re­view determined that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was thor­ough and pro­fes­sional.

Q : Is the per­son of­fered by Robert con­sid­ered a sus­pect in the mur­der of Dana Bradley?

A: No, he is not. Q : Would dig­ging up the cars not put an end to Robert’s con­cerns that the RCMP has not done all it can to

in­ves­ti­gate his tip?

A: There is no ev­i­dence that it would. How­ever, the rea­son for not ex­ca­vat­ing the car is that there is no rea­son­able pos­si­bil­ity that it con­tains ev­i­dence of Dana Bradley’s mur­der.

Q : Robert’s fa­ther has stated to the me­dia that the al­leged sus­pect had ac­cess to his ve­hi­cle, the ve­hi­cle they feel may have been in­volved in the mur­der of Dana Bradley. Would that not be enough rea­son to ex­ca­vate the car?

A: When we in­ves­ti­gated this as­pect of the tip, the com­plainant’s par­ents could pro­vide no oc­ca­sion when this al­leged sus­pect ever used their car. Fur­ther, they told in­ves­ti­ga­tors that it makes no sense that the al­leged sus­pect would have had their car on Dec. 14, 1981, or that their son and the other child in ques­tion would have been with the al­leged sus­pect on that day.

Q : In your opin­ion, has there been a de­lib­er­ate at­tempt to mis­rep­re­sent the RCMP in­ves­ti­ga­tion of

Robert’s ac­count?

A: It has been stated by this per­son in the me­dia that the RCMP in­ves­ti­gated his tip with the in­tent to dis­prove him, that rel­e­vant wit­nesses weren’t in­ter­viewed or were in­ad­e­quately in­ter­viewed and that there wasn’t enough done to in­ves­ti­gate his al­le­ga­tions. He stated the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was shal­low. This is com­pletely un­true. De­lib­er­ate or not, his ac­count of the RCMP’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into this mat­ter has been in­ac­cu­rate and mis­lead­ing.

Q : Why have you cho­sen to re­spond to ques­tions the public has been ask­ing since Robert came for­ward?

A: We have ac­tu­ally spo­ken with the me­dia about this is­sue on sev­eral oc­ca­sions. How­ever, cer­tain com­men­tary re­gard­ing this topic has taken on a con­cern­ing tone. It con­tains mis­in­for­ma­tion about this per­son’s treat­ment by po­lice, the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of his tip, and has the po­ten­tial to erode public faith in this in­ves­ti­ga­tion. This may have caused the public to feel that the mur­derer has ac­tu­ally been pos­i­tively iden­ti­fied, which might make peo­ple hes­i­tant in com­ing for­ward with any new in­for­ma­tion they might have. We cer­tainly don’t want that to oc­cur.

Also, it might lead some mem­bers of the public to be con­cerned that, should they come for­ward, their in­for­ma­tion would not be pro­fes­sion­ally man­aged. The RCMP wants the public to un­der­stand that the mur­derer is still be­ing sought, and any in­for­ma­tion pro­vided will be promptly and pro­fes­sion­ally in­ves­ti­gated.

We know we are an­swer­able to the public. We felt that peo­ple may be won­der­ing, “Why don’t they just dig up the cars?” Or, “what are they re­ally do­ing on that file, any­way? It’s 33 years old, there can’t be much go­ing on.”

We felt we needed to bring some con­text and clar­ity to those is­sues.

PHOTO BY KEITH GOSSE/THE TELE­GRAM

KEITH GOSSE/THE TELE­GRAM

Six mem­bers of the RCMP’s ma­jor crimes unit, and all part of the Dana Bradley in­ves­tiga­tive team, at RCMP head­quar­ters. From left to right are Const. Mike Nip­pard, Cpl. David Smith, Const. Wayne Pomeroy, Cpl. Steve Burke, Brenda Spurrell and lead in­ves­ti­ga­tor Sgt. Kent Os­mond. Miss­ing from the photo are Donna Bo­nia, ma­jor crime ad­min­is­tra­tive as­sis­tant; Cpl. Monty Hen­stridge; and Const. Vic­tor Dray.

KEITH GOSSE/THE TELE­GRAM

Some of dozens of boxes of ev­i­dence col­lected in the Dana Bradley mur­der case.

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