Campbellton python deaths investigation causes confusion

There are questions being raised about why it is taking so long for the RCMP to announce whether charges will be laid in the case of two brothers who were strangled by an African rock python in Campbellton last year.

RCMP says the investigation into the death of Connor and Noah Barthe is continuing

The RCMP is still investigating the deaths of two brothers who were killed by an African rock python last August 2:39

There are questions being raised about why it is taking so long for the RCMP to announce whether charges will be laid in the case of two brothers who were strangled by an African rock python in Campbellton last year.

Connor Barthe, 6, and his brother Noah, 4, were killed by an African rock python last August in Campbellton. (Facebook)
Connor Barthe, 6, and Noah, 4, were killed last August after an African rock python escaped from its cage in a pet store located in a building where the boys were sleeping.

The RCMP’s major crime unit has been investigating ever since.

Liberal MLA Donald Arseneault said the police investigation is taking too long.

He told CBC News Tuesday about a personal conversation between himself and Natural Resources Minister Paul Robichaud that happened in the press box back in February.

"The Minister of Natural Resources has told me personally that the RCMP, locally or in New Brunswick, has decided not to press charges," said Arseneault. 

He said their report has been forwarded to Ottawa to either to "stamp out that report or to revise that decision."

"I've been talking with the family. They're upset just with the standstill that we're in,” he said.

A spokesperson for the RCMP said the investigation into the boys’ deaths is continuing.

Natural Resources Minister Paul Robichaud denies the conversation with Arseneault about potential charges in the case.

The RCMP says the investigation into whether criminal charges will be laid in connection with the Barthe brothers' deaths is continuing. (CBC)
“This is pure fabrication and speculation,” he said.

Leslie Matchim is the Campbellton lawyer representing Jean-Claude Savoie, the owner of Reptile Ocean where the young brothers died. He could not comment on what was said between the politicians but he wasn't surprised to hear what Arseneault had to say.

"Certainly it's been known to the RCMP and they've communicated to me months and months ago that there were no criminal charges forthcoming," said Matchim.

Matchim said the lead investigator told him that the file has now been reviewed by several different people. He's been expecting a public announcement from police about the conclusion of the investigation for months now.

"I've been a defence lawyer for I guess more than 20 years," he said. " It would be the first time that I have been informed by a lead investigator on a serious matter that no criminal charges are forthcoming."

Government review delayed

After the Barthe brothers were killed, Premier David Alward promised the Department of Natural Resources would review its exotic pet regulations to see if any changes were required.

The legislature also unanimously passed a motion to start the review on exotic pet regulations a few months ago.

But Robichaud said as long as the RCMP investigation is ongoing the department cannot start its review of exotic pet regulations.

He said that decision is based on legal advice from three government departments.

Massimo Bergamini, the executive director of Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums, said he does not understand why the provincial government’s review has not started.

“A police investigation is a police investigation. Charges will be laid or charges will not be laid,” he said.

“We don't think it materially affects whether from a public policy perspective the government of New Brunswick should be looking at the question of exotic animals in human care."

Liberal MLA Donald Arseneault said the police investigation into the death of the Barthe brothers is taking too long.
​Bergamini said when he was in New Brunswick in December, he had high hopes the provincial government would lead the way for the rest of the country in terms of new rules for owning exotic pets.

Instead, he said the provincial government is in the same regulatory environment it was in last August.

"You still have some regulatory holes, some gaps that have not been addressed,” Bergamini said.

“We think given the growing appeal of exotic animals, not only in New Brunswick but right across the country that it would be highly appropriate for the government to move quickly to address the problems that were there last year and as far as we know, still remain."

The Liberal MLA said he is worried these delays in the police investigation and the regulatory review will mean nothing will change before the one-year anniversary of the brothers’ deaths.

The legislature is about to wrap up this week and then there will be a provincial election in September.


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