The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary had no record of domestic violence risk involving murder victim Juliane Hibbs over the last 17 years, the chief of police said Friday.

Hibbs and her fiancé Vince Dillon were shot to death by Hibbs' former boyfriend Brian Dawe one month ago in Conception Bay South.

Her family, and a former RNC inspector, have said the risks were clear and present for years, but getting help and action to deal with them was often frustrating and futile.

Retired inspector Connie Pike went so far as to describe Hibbs as "being a hostage living in broad sight."

But Const. Suzanne Fitzgerald, the RNC's new domestic violence co-ordinator, recently told CBC that the risk of violence in the Hibbs case was never brought to the attention of police.

"There was nothing. No calls for service ... or any way we could have potentially identified this [shooting] happening."

On Friday, RNC Chief Robert Johnston said a review of records over the past 17 years backs that up.

Some impediments

Johnston said police faced several obstacles in the Hibbs case.

"There were no files that we had in our database indicating that Juliane ... had the [risk] markers in relation to domestic violence," Johnston told CBC.

He acknowledged Pike was dealing with the family in the late 1990s, and their efforts to convince Hibbs to leave Dawe.

But he said the age of consent at the time was a barrier.

"There were no files that we had in our database indicating that Juliane ... had the [risk] markers in relation to domestic violence." - RNC Chief Robert Johnston

"The frustration for us, as a police organization, back in 1996-97, is the age of consent was 14. Today it is 16." 

Hibbs was 16 when she first began seeing the 24-year-old Dawe in the mid-1990s. The relationship ended about four years ago.

Unbeknownst to police, Dawe was also stockpiling a serious arsenal of guns over the years — more than 50 weapons, mostly rifles.

"In terms of looking at our database, and looking at the information we had, there was no indication to us of the weapons that Mr. Dawe had, in relation to him and the domestic violence piece," Johnston said.

"There was a long period of time when we had no contact with Juliane, in relation to domestic violence."

As for the guns themselves, Johnston said police would have had a record of them, because they were registered.

Many people with many guns

But, Johnston said it also comes down to the sheer number of people who own guns.

"Unfortunately, there are so many firearms in the homes. As chief of police, they are the things that I worry about when our officers answer calls at two o'clock in the morning ... the number of firearms that are in homes that are legally registered to individuals," Johnston said, noting automatic weapons are included in that.

"If people are able to get the necessary permits ... there are the laws and rules around obtaining and maintaining these types of weapons, unfortunately."

Johnston said it is troubling that such high-powered automatic weapons are legal.

But he said it has become harder to track who has them.

"The firearms registry has been taken away from police, so we don't have some of those tools at our disposal that we had before."

The Canadian Firearms Registry requires the registration of restricted and prohibited firearms in Canada. 

The federal government scrapped the provision requiring the registration of all rifles and shotguns last year, and ordered the destruction of data on the almost six million long-guns registered across the county.


  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the long-gun registry required all restricted and prohibited firearms to be registered with police. This version has been updated.
    Dec 13, 2013 1:32 PM NT