Inquiry into soldier's suicide hears from police experts
An inquiry into the Canadian military police's investigation of a soldier's suicide heard Monday from other police forces on how they conduct similar investigations.
A panel of major crime investigators told the Military Police Complaints Commission how they routinely handled suicides: how long a body is left before it's cut down if the suicide is a hanging, and what happens to suicide notes.
One of the complaints before the Military Police Complaints Commission by Shaun and Sheila Fynes is how military police and the Canadian Force's National Investigation Service responded to their son's suicide.
Cpl. Stuart Langridge hanged himself at Edmonton barracks in 2008. The Fynes have charged that his body was left to hang for four hours while the military conducted its investigation. A suicide note was found at the scene, but the military didn't disclose it to the Fynes until 14 months later.
But the three police officers testifying Monday — Det. Insp. William C. Olinyk of the Ontario Provincial Police, Insp. Brendan Fitzpatrick of the RCMP and Staff Sgt. Bill Clark of the Edmonton Police Service — were not allowed by the commission to comment on the facts of Langridge's suicide.
Instead they spoke generally, and agreed that while it's difficult to keep the public at a distance if a body is hanging from a tree or, from a "high-level bridge," inside a building it's easy to just close the door or deny access to the floor.
The Fynes have complained that anyone in the barracks could have seen their son's body as it hung in an open doorway.
The three police officers also concurred that they would likely give any suicide note to the family.
"If we were into a situation where we believe that it's a suicide, clearly that information is critical to the family and that they (should) know the existence of it and if they want to know the contents and get a copy — we'd entertain it, " said the OPP's Olinyk.
The military withheld Cpl. Langridge's suicide note, which was addressed to his parents, for 14 months on the grounds that it was evidence in an investigation.
Last week, Shaun Fynes, Cpl. Langridge's stepfather, told the MPCC hearing how disturbed he and his wife were by the thought of their son's body being brushed aside as investigators entered and left the room where he killed himself.
"Stuart was in the doorway," he said. "It actually contaminated the scene more in my opinion, people pushing in and out past him continuously, rather than cutting down my son's body, covering him up and showing him respect."
Fynes is a former Toronto police officer and former RCMP officer.
A video shot by the military after Langridge's body was discovered was played at the commission hearing last spring. His body is shown suspended by a rope looped over a bar in the doorway. There are several close shots of his face. The video lasts for about half an hour.
The Fynes gave their permission for the video to be played at the hearing but neither of them attended that day. They have never seen the video.