Canadian police held off on phone records crucial to India slaying, PI says

Canadian authorities didn't act on phone records presented to them years ago crucial to the probe of an Ontario doctor's slaying in India in 2003, a private investigator says.

Ottawa police didn't act on memo recommending local man's arrest, says another investigator

A family photo shows Asha Goel, fourth from left in the pink sari, with brothers Subhash Agrawal, in the black suit in the centre of the photo, and the late Suresh Agrawal, to his left. Mumbai police believe the brothers conspired to kill their sister. (Courtesy Goel family)

Canadian authorities didn't act on phone records presented to them years ago crucial to the probe of an Ontario doctor's slaying in India in 2003, a private investigator says.

The records were pertinent to the investigation into the slaying of Dr. Asha Goel, who was found dead from severe injuries in her brother's Mumbai apartment on Aug. 23, 2003, says Dave Wilson, the investigator.

Wilson said the records revealed phone calls between Mumbai and Ottawa just before Goel's death. The Mumbai number was registered to her brother, Suresh Agrawal, who Mumbai police implicated in the homicide. The Ottawa number was registered to another brother, Subhash Agrawal.

Subhash Agrawal, who resides in Ottawa, was not in India at the time of the homicide and has not been investigated or charged by Canadian authorities.

Wilson, a retired RCMP officer, was hired in 2005 by the family of the doctor, who had worked as the chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Headwaters Health Centre in Orangeville, Ont.

Mumbai police believe Subhash Agrawal conspired with Suresh Agrawal, who died of natural causes just after Goel's death, to kill her. They issued a warrant for Subhash Agrawal's arrest in 2006, but he has appealed and the matter is before the courts in India.

In addition to the Agrawal brothers, Mumbai police have implicated three other men.

Police in Mumbai allege the motive for Goel's killing was her intervention in a dispute over her father's multimillion dollar estate. Goel's family alleges the two brothers wanted to split the estate between themselves, leaving nothing for a third brother.

Subhash Agrawal has denied he had anything to do with Goel's death and said in a statement to CBC News that he had "absolutely no financial gain which could flow as a consequence of her murder."

"These allegations, made by other family members, that I should be investigated or charged, are utterly false and without merit, and unsupported by any evidence whatsoever over the past nine years," he wrote.

As CBC News reported last month, Mumbai police said they have made repeated requests to the Canadian government for Agrawal's bank and phone records, but have had no co-operation from Canadian authorities.

'Flurry' of calls

Just weeks after he was hired, Wilson said, he uncovered records that showed a "flurry" of calls just before Goel's death between a phone number registered to Subhash Agrawal and a number registered to his brother Suresh.

"And then it stopped," the PI said in an interview.

Investigator Dave Wilson says he turned over phone records to Ottawa police and RCMP years ago, but says there hasn't appeared to be a response. (CBC)

"We're only talking about four or five days, but there are several phone calls in that period of time," he said.

Wilson added there might have been "a call two months later," but nothing like the frequency of calls that took place before Goel was killed.

The reason for those calls "should be looked into, that's for sure," the former Mountie said.

Wilson said he turned the documents over to Ottawa police and the RCMP sometime in either 2005 or 2006. But neither police force responded or actively pursued the matter, he said.

Wilson acknowledged police would have to obtain a search warrant in order to obtain those same phone records for use in court. But that process, he said, is "very simple."

Part of the problem, Wilson said, is that law enforcement agencies didn’t co-operate. The RCMP told him Ottawa police should investigate, while Ottawa police said they wouldn’t investigate, but would assist Indian authorities if they applied for information through diplomatic channels.

The federal Department of Justice, meanwhile, thought Ottawa police should be investigating, Wilson said.

"There was ample ground for them to commence an investigation of conspiracy and the frustrating thing is everybody is waiting for someone else to do something," he said.

"Everybody sounded like they wanted to help, but it was always the other guy's problem," Wilson said.

Ottawa police urged in internal memo to arrest Agrawal

Former Ottawa police homicide investigator Ken Doyle tried to help. CBC News has uncovered an internal police memo he wrote to his superiors on Jan. 7, 2006, in which he says he believed there was enough evidence to arrest Subhash Agrawal.

Asha Goel is seen with her husband, Sadan Goel, in one of the last photos taken of her. (Courtesy Goel family)

But Ottawa police ignored his recommendations.

Based on what was presented to Doyle by Indian investigators, he thought "there was sufficient evidence to warrant [Subhash Agrawal's] arrest, and [for him] to be brought before a court to determine guilt or innocence," he said.

"And I continually say: I'm not suggesting he's guilty, that's for a court to determine. But the evidence that was presented to me would suggest there was certainly sufficient evidence."

Ottawa police have said they were aware of the Goel case, but were unable to formally investigate without backing from the federal Department of Justice.

But the Justice Department told CBC News that "departmental officials expressly advised the Ottawa Police Service in 2006 that they do not require the approval of the Department of Justice to pursue a domestic investigation into Mr. Agrawal."

After CBC News reported that Doyle was told by his superiors not to investigate the case further, Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau ordered a review on Oct. 19 of all documents pertaining to the force's involvement in the homicide probe.

That review is still ongoing, Ottawa police said.

The RCMP refused to comment on the case.