Crime & Punishment

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Posts Tagged ‘murder

IIO complaint nothing but sour grapes

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The news release issued by the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) on Wednesday is instructive and unique. Not in the fact they announced that the VPD officer involved in a fatal shooting in April, 2015 would not face any criminal charges, but for the way the report ended.

The incident itself took more than 14 months for the IIO to determine the officer did nothing wrong. Albeit, that’s a few months quicker than their average and frankly, given the circumstances, about a year longer than it should have taken any competent investigator.

I don’t say that lightly. Let’s look at the circumstances. VPD received multiple 9-1-1 calls about a man with a knife who had stabbed two people in the 400 block of Gore on the Downtown Eastside. Three officers responded from close by, one equipped with a shotgun and beanbag rounds, a non-lethal use of force option.

The first officer, armed with his duty pistol and the officer with the shotgun immediately located the suspect armed with a bloody knife. The VPD members challenged the man pointing their weapons and yelling, “drop the knife, drop the knife.”

Three beanbag rounds were fired which struck the suspect and had no effect. The suspect then charged at the officer with what one civilian witness later described as a “bull charge.” The beanbag weapon was fired again and again with no apparent effect. That officer later said, “I thought he was going to stab me.”

Several shots were then fired by the other officer which momentarily doubled over the suspect. But it didn’t drop him. He then ran across the street to a parkade entrance at a church where a passerby female was bent over to pick a $20 bill she had dropped. Without warning the suspect attacked and stabbed the woman several times. The officer chasing then shot the suspect several times. He fell down, dead, on top of the woman he was stabbing.

Police had to pull the assailant off the woman to get her out from underneath to begin first aid. She later told IIO investigators, “I’d like to thank that cop that killed him. Because without him getting that lucky shot I wouldn’t be here right now.”

The IIO were called in as protocol requires. They interviewed three “Witness Officers” and 17 civilian witnesses. With all but some small exceptions, as one would expect, the witness accounts coincided and was corroborated with other associated gathered evidence including area video, recorded radio transmissions and 9-1-1 recordings.

The law is very clear when giving police the right to use lethal force and from this set of circumstances it would seem a textbook, righteous shoot.

But nothing is ever cut and dried with the IIO. This leads us back to what made the press release remarkable.

After the usual statement and case synopsis came this: “All firearm discharges resulting in death or serious harm are the subject of an automatic administrative review by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner.  As such, this incident is subject to review by that office. In addition to this, the CCD will be forwarding a complaint to the OPCC regarding the failure of two of the involved officers to write any duty-to-account report relating to this incident.”

“This case appears to be an example of a pattern of problems with respect to subject officers involved in critical incidents in British Columbia failing to prepare timely duty to accounts or notes of their involvement in incidents.”

The Chief Civilian Director (CCD), the almost outta’ here Richard Rosenthal, apparently is all pissy because designated subject officers are no longer filing duty to account reports or copies of their notes. Well, he has only himself to blame.

Because he saw the role of the IIO to gather evidence to prosecute police officers and demonstrated that attitude with the incredible overreach in bringing a murder charge against Delta Cst. Jordan MacWilliams and others like Cranbrook Cst. Rick Drought. Charges were ultimately dropped but not after putting the affected officers through hell.

When the BC Chiefs and the RCMP agreed to the original Memorandum of Understanding, they believed the IIO would conduct professional, unbiased investigations to determine the truth of any incident. But that’s not what they got. And now it seems, they have finally realized it.

In a nutshell, the various unions, agencies and the RCMP have obtained legal opinions which essentially say that police officers are Canadians first and police officers second. They may avail themselves of the Charter of Rights & Freedoms just like anyone else. The Charter supersedes all other statutes including the BC Police Act. And why Rosenthal’s pathetic complaint will go no where.

If you know someone is looking to criminally charge you, why help them? It’s a fundamental principle of our constitution and the police have now decided to fight back against the IIO’s nonsense. Fairness is all the police wanted, but that’s not how the IIO operate. So, now the battle is on.

And it’s not just the police unions driving this bus. Senior management are on board. So too, surprisingly, are the RCMP.

In an 8 page memo dated August 16th, the RCMP directed Liaison Officers (officers assigned to facilitate between the agency and the IIO in an investigation) not to provide “compelled notes, statements or reports to the IIO.”

Cudos to seniour management of the RCMP to back their members. Trust me, it’s rare when  that happens.

In my opinion, the IIO, as it is currently constituted and operating in the manner it has, needs to be completely re-thought by the government. Their mandate should be to conduct professional, unbiased investigations to find the truth. If the truth leads to a criminal charge against a police officer then so be it. Every police officer knows they are responsible for their actions. But that’s a far cry from the IIO’s attitude, as stated by their Director of Investigations John Larkin, “We start out believing they are guilty and work from there.”

Rosenthal is firing a parting shot with this complaint to the OPCC. It’s just sour grapes from a man who failed utterly.

He had the opportunity to create a first class police oversight agency. It isn’t and he didn’t. A career bureaucrat has been appointed as interim CCD while headhunter PFM Executive Search looks for someone to take over this mess. Whoever that will be will have to dismantle a flawed culture and start over. If not, the chasm between the police and the IIO will grow wider.

Neither the citizens of BC nor the police who serve them should be satisfied with that.

Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

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Written by Leo Knight

September 4, 2016 at 12:36 am

Despite charges stayed, more questions remain in Starlight Casino case

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The announcement yesterday by the Criminal Justice Branch (CJB) in BC outlining that second degree murder charges against Delta Police Constable Jordan MacWilliams were stayed and the accompanying explanation did little to clarify why charges were laid in the first instance. In fact, it speaks more to the incompetent investigation done by the Independent Investigations Office (IIO). Or perhaps something more nefarious.

In the media release the CJB attached an 8 page document they called “Clear Statement.” Well, it was anything but.

In it, CJB says as a result of the charge being laid, Crown prosecutors conducted “exhaustive” interviews with police officers at the scene at the Starlight Casino on November 8, 2012 and this led them to the conclusion that this case did not meet the charge approval standard in the province.

Well, in the first instance, doesn’t this really say that the investigation conducted by the IIO was sub-standard? Why wouldn’t they have surfaced this information during their interviews? Information such as the suspect’s finger was on the trigger when the gun in his hand moved to horizontal? Information such as there were other officers who had moved their fingers from the finger guard to their own triggers and would have also shot had MacWilliams not shot first?

These are no small matters. The information from the witnesses didn’t change. It’s more likely IIO investigators never asked the right questions. Why then, becomes the next question. Was it the incompetence of the investigators or perhaps, they were trying to come to the conclusion they wanted no matter the truth? Either is a possibility knowing what I know about the IIO.

Whatever the answer to these questions it is very clear that the CJB should not have approved the charge in the first place. None of the circumstances changed, nor has the standard to be met for the charge approval system. It seems to me that for all the reasons outlined by the CJB in their “Clear Statement,” that is exactly why the charge never should have been laid.

The matter of what the officer perceived the threat to be when he made the decision to use lethal force is paramount to the charge. If other officers had the same perception of the threat as did MacWilliams, then clearly no charge should have been laid.

Another aspect in this that is badly explained by the CJB is the reaction time from threat perceived to shots fired. This is known as “perception, processing and action.” Police are trained to minimize the time between perception and action, but it still exists. In this case the time delay was .49 of a second. A blink of an eye. Yet somehow, this became a salient issue in the decision to charge MacWilliams.

Retired Vancouver Police homicide investigator Bob Cooper was incredulous as he read the document especially as it glossed over this aspect. He said via email yesterday, “Any Use of Force expert worth his salt knows this and would have pointed it out in his report because it explains the differences in the perceptions of not just PC Mac Williams but a number of his colleagues as well as opposed to what is seen in the video.”

There are many more questions than answers in this and one hopes the CJB would answer them. But they won’t. They cannot be held accountable for anything they do except by the minister responsible and I have never seen any minister tread that path. The IIO report to the Deputy Minister responsible for the CJB, so again, while there are many questions to be answered in this by the IIO, but that too, seems unlikely.

Charging this officer with murder in these circumstances was an incredible over reach by the IIO and the CJB. Yesterday they stepped back from that over reach and did the right thing. But, they never should have been in this position in the first place.

Jordan MacWilliams was elated yesterday when he got the news from his lawyer David Butcher. This nightmare is finally over for him and he can go back to the job he loves, protecting and serving the citizens. I hope though, for his sake, that his emotional self can recover from the stress and damage done to his psyche by being put through this gut-wrenching experience. Not the shooting. He has said that were he to do it all over, he would do the same thing. For him, the critical thing was that he and his colleagues were able to go home to their families that night.

I mean, of course, going through the experience of being charged for murder when all he did was his job in trying and exigent circumstances. I truly wish him well. And I also truly hope that the CJB, the government, the IIO and the public of British Columbia has learned much from this sordid chapter in our province’s history.

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Leo Knight
@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

July 15, 2015 at 4:39 pm

Public, police deserve to know why charge laid against cop

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Last week the Criminal Justice Branch (CJB) in Victoria released a statement saying that no charges would be approved in a case involving a relatively minor motor vehicle accident. That isn’t surprising, based on the facts where a female RCMP member was trying to effect a traffic stop and a motorcyclist coming in the opposite direction dumped and the rider suffered a broken leg.

The IIO investigation tried to allege that it was due to the mountie, who had lights and siren activated, had somehow contributed to the accident and therefore would have been charged with something like drive without due care and attention. Which, of course, is nonsense and so said the CJB.

But what was interesting to me was the media release was six pages long and 3,134 words explaining why they were not going to charge the police officer. Yet, in the case of Delta Police Constable Jordan MacWilliams who was charged with second degree murder, the media release consisted of a single page and was 414 words in length and said absolutely nothing about why this extraordinary charge was laid against an ERT officer doing his job at an armed hostage taking situation.

The last media release by the CJB was on January 14 in a case where the IIO tried to get charges laid against two dog handlers in incidents where the suspects were bitten in the course of the arrest. In that release, also announcing no charges would be laid, the CJB made the announcement in 4,144 words.

In the one before that, on Dec. 23, 2014, the CJB announced no charges in the case of an Abbotsford police officer who made an arrest during which the suspect suffered a broken finger.The CJB used 3,357 words for that particular announcement.

Lots of talk about why no charges would be laid in relatively minor incidents but precious little in a singular case where a charge of murder was laid against a police officer engaged in the execution of his duty. This makes no sense. If the public deserves to know why a charge wasn’t laid, surely it is entitled to know why a charge was laid.

Equally, the police community needs to know. As it stands now in the MacWilliams case the thousands of police officers in BC don’t know why MacWilliams was charged when for all appearances he did the job he was paid to do on that fateful day in November, 2012.

In not telling them why, the CJB risks the possibility of a police officer hesitating, second-guessing what he or she is doing instead of following their instinct and training. That hesitation could cost someone their life.

In December the President of the BC Police Association, Tom Stamatakis, had this to say on the subject of a police officer being charged with murder in the execution of his or her duty: “The expectation is that police officers respond proactively to protect the public, if in responding proactively we are going to now face these kinds of charges, I worry that police officers will hesitate to intervene in circumstances like these, and if they do hesitate than that means the safety of the public is at risk.”

He went on to say that the charge against Macwilliams was “absolutely unconscionable.”

I have to agree with Stamatakis but it is equally unconscionable not to tell the public or the policing community why this is being done.

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

February 10, 2015 at 9:55 pm

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Murder charge against police officer outrageous

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The mystery deepens the more one learns in the bizarre case of Delta Police Constable Jordan MacWilliams, who has been charged with murder in the second degree for doing his job in a shots fired / hostage taking incident at the Starlight Casino in New Westminster in November of 2012.

Peter Juk, the Crown prosecutor responsible for this outrageous debacle, is, I am told, an ambitious political sort with little trial experience. Yet he, together with the civilian director of the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) Richard Rosenthal, have somehow contrived to have this fine young officer charged with murder.

Frankly, it’s outrageous.

Jordan MacWilliams appeared in court this week to face a charge of second degree murder. He is a third generation police officer. His wife is also a police officer. If I were a betting man, I would bet that at least one of his young kids will aspire to be a police officer. Yet, given what is happening to him, one might ask why.

The desire to serve is what drives police officers to do what they do. It is unique and ubiquitous in their ranks. And, simply put, that is just what Jordan MacWilliams was doing when he responded to a call, as a member of MIERT (Municipal Integrated Emergency Response Team) on that fateful day when he shot a man who had fired three times at a female employee of the Starlight Casino and then dragged her at gunpoint more than 500 metres up the parking lot.

When MacWilliams arrived on scene in response to that call, he knew it was a difficult and dangerous situation. The man had a gun. He had fired it three times at the women he now had taken hostage.

As he took up his position to contain the armed man, by chance, the hostage managed to create some separation between herself and her captor.

MacWilliams and another member of MIERT saw the opportunity and moved between the hostage and the suspect. They deliberately placed themselves in harm’s way to rescue the hostage. Had MacWilliams intended to kill the suspect he could have easily shot him at that point. But he didn’t.

And why not?  Because he wanted everyone involved to get out of this alive.  That’s his nature as a cop. That he had to take the shot eventually that killed the suspect was regrettable but necessary when the suspect’s gun pointed in the direction of the Alpha Team (ARWEN operators) who were designated non-lethal in the attempt to arrest the suspect.

MacWilliams went home to his family that evening. So did the members of Alpha Team whose back was his responsibility.

Why he has been charged is anyone’s guess. I harbour no illusions about what Rosenthal is about. How he managed to get a member of the Crown prosecution service to go along is another question.

On Thursday at MacWilliams’ court appearance Global TV veteran crime reporter John Daly said that a document was given to MacWilliams’ lawyers outlining finally what it is that they think they can prove to justify a murder case. One of those lawyers, David Butcher erupted to the media as a result.

“We don’t accept it at all,” Butcher said.

“I think the public needs to be very concerned about the developments in this case because if it puts a chill on police protection, particularly in a world that’s become so dangerous, the public needs to be very, very concerned about the developments in this matter,” said the lawyer. And he is, of course, correct.

The fact is that the suspect’s gun was pointed at the Alpha team members when MacWilliams took the shot. Period. There should be nothing more to discuss. Suspect, shooter, kidnapper, hostage-taker, armed person threatening police got shot for his trouble. Done deal. End of. He was the author of his own misfortune.

Whatever Juk’s political ambitions may be, I sincerely doubt they will succeed with this nonsense. In point of fact, I rather suspect he may be doing fatal damage to those ambitions with this.

Equally, Rosenthal, who was hired by this government to lead the IIO would seem to be in serious jeopardy. He has fired or lost well more than a dozen investigators in the short time his agency has been in existence. And the dissension within is growing. He is facing accusations of mismanagement, micromanagement, weak leadership, cop-hating (especially RCMP) and more. There is little doubt he is trying to justify his existence.

It’s also interesting to note there have been three different IIO Directors overseeing this file since the incident happened. Great continuity.

In this case Rosenthal and Juk, by their actions, have declared war on every police officer in British Columbia just trying to do their job in the service of the public.

Frankly, in my view, both of them should be fired. The Premier should then publicly apologize to every police officer in BC for what is being done in the name of her government. And then she needs to rethink the configuration of the IIO and the adversarial nature of its function.

I don’t say that lightly. But that won’t happen any time soon.

Nothing is forthcoming. The silence, in fact, is deafening. And Jordan MacWilliams is still facing a murder charge for no other reason than he did his job.

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Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

December 21, 2014 at 4:42 pm

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Delta Cop charged with murder appears in court

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Yesterday, Cst. Jordan MacWilliams appeared in New Westminster Supreme court to answer the charge of second degree murder laid inexplicably after he fired the fatal shot in a armed-hostage taking situation in November, 2012.

There is something political about this and why this charge has been laid against a good, young officer who did his job and did it well. I don’t yet know what it is, but, I will find out and I will ensure that is made known publicly.

Whether it is the political ambition of prosecutor Peter Juk or the political survival of IIO chief Richard Rosenthal, I don’t yet know. Equally, I don’t know why Attorney General Susan Anton is letting this pantomime play out on her watch. But I will find out.

Yesterday, the Crown provided MacWilliams’ defence team with a document outlining what it is they think they can prove to justify a charge of second degree murder against MacWilliams. It is a flight of fancy at best.

More to come in this.
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Leo Knight
@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

December 19, 2014 at 1:50 pm

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Murder charge against cop a travesty of justice

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Since I started looking at the circumstances surrounding the murder charge laid against Delta Police Constable Jordan MacWilliams the biggest question that remains unanswered is why.

Last week in a discussion with me on Global’s Unfiltered with Jill Krop, former Crown Counsel Sandy Garossino tried to explain the charge approval process as it is practiced in BC. In a nutshell, she explained that for a charge to be approved it must have a “substantial likelihood of conviction” and “be in the public interest.”

If a police officer abuses their authority then certainly it would be in the public interest to charge them. But in this case, MacWilliams was on a tactical call out with the Municipal Integrated Emergency Response team to a shots fired, hostage taking call.

After MacWilliams and two colleagues heroically affected the rescue of the hostage, a then employee of the casino who was arriving for work, a stand off ensued which lasted five hours. All the while Mehrdad Bayrami, 48, was waving a pistol he had already fired three times. In fact, he ejected the clip late in the incident, leaving one round in the spout and pointed at one of the ERT officers held up one finger and said, “I only need one.”

So, with the means and the stated aim, the police tried to arrest and disarm the suspect using a tactical, non-lethal approach using a flash bang and an ARWEN gun. As the “non-lethal” officers broke cover, they were covered by MacWilliams, designated in a ‘lethal’ sniper position covered by an armoured police vehicle.

When the flash bang went off and the ARWEN rounds missed, the suspect leapt back and the weapon moves toward the ARWEN operator. It’s at this point MacWilliams fired one shot which felled the armed suspect.

It’s impossible to see from that set of facts how any Crown Counsel could possibly perceive there’s a substantial likelihood of conviction. The Criminal Code gives the police the authority to use force in a number of circumstances but it holds police accountable for that use of force if it is deemed to be excessive. The suspect had a loaded weapon. He had fired three shots from that weapon on that day. He threatened police when he held up one finger and said what he did. He then moved the weapon towards the ARWEN operator. What could possibly be deemed excessive or unlawful in this?

Nor does it seem to be in the public interest to prosecute a police officer doing his duty to protect the public.

I should add that MacWilliams submitted a written statement to Crown late last Spring outlining what happened and why he pulled the trigger. His counsel even offered to address any and all questions the Independent Investigations Office might have. The IIO declined that offer.

So, this seems to tell us that there is not the same standard used by the Crown when it comes to prosecuting those we employ to protect the rest of us.

Why would that be?

Most likely it has everything to do with the 1998 death from exposure of Frank Joseph Paul, who was left intoxicated in an alley by a young VPD constable who didn’t know what else to do with him after Detox and the police jail sergeant both refused to take him.

That case culminated in Commission of Inquiry headed by William H. Davies, QC between 2009 and 2011 when he issued his final report.

In that Inquiry Davies looked at the allegations of conflict of interest against Crown levelled by the usual crowd of hand-wringers. He found there was no evidence of any conflict but wrote that when the possibility of a conflict was present, the case should be given to a lawyer in private practice to review or a prosecutor from another province.

That wasn’t done in this case.

Interestingly enough though, in that inquiry, then Director of Legal Services for the Criminal Justice Branch, Gregory Fitch, testified that while charges were considered he decided not to lay charges because “there wasn’t a substantial likelihood of conviction.”

So, what’s changed? Has the Crown suddenly decided that the rule of law and stated policy no longer applies for police?

We ask the police to do a job most of the population wouldn’t want to do. They see things you wouldn’t want to see. They deal with people with whom you would not want to come into contact. And we ask them to deliberately put themselves in harm’s way. And, if that’s not enough, we demand they be unfailingly polite no matter the abuse and invective that’s hurled at them.

Despite all of that, young men and women willingly take on that challenge. They know their actions will be reviewed and that in their lives, on and off duty, they are held to a higher standard than you are. So, how is it possible that when a decision to charge an officer engaged in the execution of his duty, and courageously I might add, a lower standard is applied by Crown?

This appears to be little more than a charade performed by those lacking in testicular fortitude who are afraid of the perpetually unfounded criticisms of the likes of the Pivot Legal Society or the BC Civil Liberties Association.

Bayrami made his choices that fateful day when he armed himself with a pistol, fired it at a woman he later took hostage and threatened police. MacWilliams made the choice that all members of his team would go home safely to their families that day. To be facing a charge of murder as a result is an absolute travesty of justice. For the Crown to proceed by direct indictment thereby not allowing the defence team to test evidence led at a Preliminary Hearing only exacerbates that travesty.

As one experienced homicide investigator said when we spoke about this case, “It’s like a Chinese Show Trial.”

Indeed it is.

Leo Knight

@primetimecrime

Written by Leo Knight

November 23, 2014 at 4:05 am

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More questions in case of cop charged with murder

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The more the extraordinary 2nd degree murder charge laid against Delta Police Constable Jordan MacWilliams in the 2012 death of 48-yr.-old Mehrdad Bayrami is looked into, the more it appears to be the railroading of a good, young police officer.

Murder is an extraordinary charge to be laid against a police officer engaged in executing his or her duty. It is even more extraordinary when laid against an officer working as an ERT (Emergency Response Team) officer.

There are so many aspects of this story that haven’t been told and I’m sorry to say so many apparent gaps in the investigation conducted by the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) that one must question whether ulterior motives or politics played a part in laying a charge of murder in this case.

MacWilliams was a member of the Municipal Integrated Emergency Response Team (MIERT) on November 8th, 2012 when, at the start of his shift, his phone went off alerting him to a call-out after shots were fired and a woman was taken hostage.

MacWilliams was the first MIERT officer to arrive on scene at the Starlight Casino in New Westminster. Within the first half-hour, the ERT members arriving set up their containment process which limited the armed suspect to a small patch of pavement on the sidewalk just outside the casino parking lot.

MacWilliams then noticed the hostage had created some separation between herself and the armed suspect. Throwing caution to the wind, MacWilliams and two other officers broke cover and ran towards danger. They deliberately put themselves in harm’s way. MacWilliams and New Westminster Const. Cliff Kusch positioned themselves between the armed suspect and the hostage while fellow Delta PD Const. Mo Parry grabbed the terrified hostage and shepherded her to safety.

MacWilliams and Kusch retreated back to cover, despite the fact either could have taken the shot to take out the suspect during the rescue. They didn’t, while risking their lives, they retreated to try and achieve a peaceful conclusion.

Hours later, the decision was made to try a non-lethal approach to arrest Bayrami using a ‘flash bang’ and ARWEN guns, which fire large plastic projectiles. MacWilliams was designated ‘lethal’ and positioned using an armoured police vehicle for cover. His job was to take the shot if the non-lethal approach went bad and the exposed officers were in jeopardy. This is a typical tactical deployment.

The flash bang went off and Bayrami jumped back, pistol waving in hand, the ARWEN rounds missed the intended target and MacWilliams fired one shot hitting Bayrami, who died nearly two weeks later in hospital.

Last Monday, the woman whose life was undoubtedly saved by MacWilliams and his colleagues showed up at the front counter of Delta Police headquarters incensed after hearing of the murder charge laid against one of the police officers who rescued her. She demanded to speak to an investigator to give a statement. Apparently, in the two years the IIO had the file, she had not been contacted by any investigator.

Think about that. The central figure at the heart of what happened on that day was not contacted by the IIO to tell her story. It’s stunning.

But it doesn’t end there.

According to casino security, to date, the IIO has not asked for, nor received any of the video from the Starlight Casino where the bulk of the events took place.

The suspect laid in wait on that morning in the parking lot of the casino. He attacked a woman as she drove into the parking lot firing three shots into the vehicle, mercifully missing her. He then dragged her from the vehicle at gunpoint and nearly a half a kilometre across the parking lot to the road where police, responding to 9-1-1 calls from casino security, responded. It was at that point the standoff began and the call went out to MIERT. And it was all watched live and recorded by casino security.

One might think that the video of all this activity might be germane to any investigation. But not to the IIO apparently. New Westminster police, who conducted a parallel investigation thought it was and obtained a copy. The Coroner’s service also thought it important and they too have a copy. But not the IIO who is the agency who have sought the charge of murder against MacWilliams.

There is undoubtedly much more to come on this very puzzling case.

Leo Knight

primetimecrime@gmail.com

Written by Leo Knight

November 19, 2014 at 6:06 pm

Posted in Crime & Punishment

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