The family of Harley Lawrence, a homeless man who died in a suspicious fire at a Berwick bus shelter two weeks ago, is urging the public to be patient with the police investigation and stop spreading rumours.
The Mounties revealed Wednesday that officers had questioned a man over the weekend in connection with the case and released him without charges.
The man was arrested Saturday night on an unrelated matter, said RCMP. While in custody, he was questioned about Lawrence’s death before he was released the next day without charges.
Ronald Lawrence, Harley's younger brother and one of his eight siblings, said Wednesday the family is anxious to find out what happened to the 62-year-old man but has full confidence in the RCMP and urged the public to let the investigation run its course.
"There’s a lot of rumours out there, too many," Lawrence said Wednesday. "People have got to stop the rumours and carry on with their lives and let the police do their job."
Lawrence said his brother came from a large family and grew up in Hantsport. Family members and friends had tried numerous times over the years to help him.
Harley Lawrence was about 25 years old when he started "drifting away," sometimes for years at a time. The family reached out to him, offering him help and places to stay.
But Harley always refused, his brother said, pushing people away and disappearing "into the wind." It was a tough reality for the family.
"The family wants everyone to remember that he did have a family," said Lawrence. "People say he was homeless, but was he? None of the family would turn him away, but he didn't want to seek help.
"Everyone chooses where they lay their head at night and it's their own decision what they do in their life. Sometimes you've got to respect people for what they do and just carry on with life."
'Harley was Harley'
Lawrence suggested more supports need to be in place for people with mental illness.
Asked whether authorities should have the power to forcibly take someone off the streets, Lawrence said that might be a good idea, but he's not sure it would have helped his brother.
The family was touched by a weekend vigil in Harley’s honour, Lawrence said, and added the family feels bad for the town of Berwick, which has found itself at the centre of this storm.
"Yes, Harley was different. But the family respected that," he said.
"My famous words were, 'Harley was Harley.' Anybody that met him, or knew him or … worked with him knew exactly what I mean."
Police have not declared whether Lawrence’s death was an accident or deliberate, or whether the fire took his life or started after he died. They have said little about the investigation into Lawrence’s death, only that they believe the fire was suspicious.
The medical examiner is waiting for further information from the autopsy performed following Lawrence’s death.
A man and a woman who were delivering newspapers on Oct. 23 said they saw two young men fill what looked like a windshield washer jug with gas at a station in Berwick about 20 minutes before the fire started.
Shannon Taylor and James Harvey had finished bundling their papers outside a gas station and were heading down the town's main street when they saw flames rising from inside the shelter.
Taylor said she initially thought they were coming from a pile of leaves, but realized that it was Lawrence, who had been using the structure as his nighttime refuge. She said the men looked to be in their late teens or early 20s and headed in the direction of the shelter after buying gas.
Police wouldn't comment on the claims.