Saint John has hired a private investigation firm to look into new sexual abuse allegations against a former police officer, the late Kenneth Estabrooks.
Estabrooks, a former sergeant, was convicted in the late 1990s of abusing children decades earlier, while he was a police officer.
In 1975, Estabrooks had admitted to sexually abusing children, but he wasn't charged or fired.
Instead, he was transferred out of the police department into the city works department, where he was in charge of tire maintenance for city vehicles until he retired.
The city has now hired Toronto-based Investigative Solutions Network Inc. to look into at least one other historical complaint against Estabrooks that surfaced earlier this year, Mayor Mel Norton announced on Tuesday.
"On behalf of council, I want to assure the public that the City of Saint John and its officials took immediate action on the complaint," and contacted the private firm "shortly after," he said.
"We want to make sure we’re righting a wrong," said Norton.
No details revealed
No details about the case were released, including the nature of the complaint, or who the alleged victim was.
But it is "historical in nature," dating back to the mid-1970s, said private investigator David Perry.
City officials received a "partial complaint" regarding allegations of sexual abuse in early 2012. "Upon further review, it was learned that the allegations were against" Estabrooks, who was a police officer between 1953 and 1975, Perry said.
Asked whether the complaint relates to the time Estabrooks was an officer, or when he was in city works, Perry said he couldn't say because it might lead to the identity of the victim.
"But I can tell you that what we’re going to be looking at is both," he said.
Could be more victims
Perry also suggested there could be other victims.
"It is reasonable to assume, based on what we know historically, that there are other victims who have not been heard from," he said.
"It takes one brave individual to step forward to usually get an investigation like this going and quite often that can inspire others who’ve been struggling with the same issues to find the strength to actually come forward and talk about it for the first time.
"I suspect that we may hear from others."
Because Estabrooks is dead, there is no requirement for a criminal investigation, said Perry.
But he and his partner, Ron Wretham, intend to thorough investigate the latest complaint and "seek out any other potential victims," he said.
There is no deadline for potential victims to come forward, said Perry, declining to say whether additional complaints have already been filed.
"I’m just going to tell you that this started with one complaint and we’ve investigated that complaint thoroughly and we’re going to continue our work until we’re finished," he said.
He also described the investigation as being in the "infancy stage."
The private investigators will submit a confidential report to the city at the conclusion of their investigation and the city will offer support and counselling to all victims, Perry said.
Estabrooks was found guilty in September 1999 of indecent assault against four children, dating back to the 1950s. The abuse included fondling and oral sex.
He was sentenced to six years in prison.
At the time, the New Brunswick Police Commission described the city's handling of the case as substandard and unprofessional.
Estabrooks died in 2005.