REPEATING: Sunday August 10 at 3am ET on CBC Newsworld
James Roszko killed four RCMP officers in Mayerthorpe, Alberta.
On March 3, 2005 four young Mounties were cut down by dangerous predator, James Roszko, on his farm in rural Alberta.
Since then, one question has lingered: how could a lone gunman kill four officers? Despite Alberta Justice's pledge for a full public inquiry there has been only silence.
The day after the murders, the fifth estate began to investigate the national tragedy. Nine months later we aired a one-hour documentary,
A Hail Of Bullets. The program raised serious questions about how the RCMP policed Roszko and what could have been done differently to prevent the tragic outcome. As RCMP members told us, there were lessons to be learned.
Shawn Hennessey (left) and Dennis Cheeseman have been charged as accomplices to murder in the RCMP killings.
New Arrests in the Mayerthorpe RCMP Killings
Then, in July, 2007 the RCMP arrested two young men and charged them as accomplices to the murders. After more than two years and millions spent on the undercover investigation, the RCMP trumpeted the arrests as a major breakthrough. Although neither man pulled the trigger, Dennis Cheeseman and Shawn Hennessey were each charged with four counts of first-degree murder. The families of the four slain officers publicly supported the RCMP for a job well done. But is the job done?
Now, along with old questions, new ones: were the arrests of Cheeseman and Hennessey a breakthrough or a smokescreen? Are Hennessey and Cheeseman murderers or scapegoats?
Deputy Commissioner, William Sweeney, was commander of the Alberta RCMP in 2005.
RCMP Response to the Tragedy
The fifth estate went back to Alberta, and across Canada, to find some answers. In Bad Day at Barrhead, we probe the RCMP investigation into Hennessey and Cheeseman and for the first time hear from devastated family and friends who watched as the two young men were snagged by a controversial and sophisticated police sting. As well, we talk to RCMP officers who have faced censure for raising questions of their own and we raise serious new questions about why federal labour investigators, tasked with independently investigating the murders, simply followed the Mounties lead.
In an exclusive interview with Deputy Commissioner Bill Sweeney – the commander of the RCMP in Alberta in March, 2005 – we ask for answers.
But, through it all only one thing is clear, three years later, the RCMP has still not been held to account for its role in the worst police massacre in modern Canadian history.