The lead investigator examining the 2008 suicide of Cpl. Stuart Langridge says he kept a suicide note from Langridge's family because he considered it evidence that might have helped determine whether the death by hanging could have been foul play.
Sgt. Matthew Ritco, of the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service, told a Military Police Complaints Commission inquiry Thursday the note could have had fingerprints or DNA, although the note was never forensically examined.
Langridge hanged himself at his CFB Edmonton barracks in March 2008.
In the note found near his body, Langridge asked for a simple funeral, "just family," but because the note wasn't disclosed, a decision was made to give him a large military funeral. The suicide note, addressed to his parents, Shaun and Sheila Fynes, was held in various lockers at the base for 14 months.
The inquiry is hearing a complaint brought by the Fynes that the military mishandled its investigation into Langridge's suicide.
Ritco said that the provincial medical examiner gave an opinion almost right away that Langridge's death was the result of suicide.
Ritco didn't come to his own conclusion that the death was a suicide until the end of May, two and a half months later. He said he doesn’t know why the suicide note wasn't given to Langridge's parents at that time, instead of more than a year later.
Decision to keep note from family
In a tense couple of moments, as MPCC Chair Glenn Stannard, a former police chief, listened intently, Ritco explained he had to consider the note might be a forgery, and so to reveal even the contents of the note to Langridge's parents was risky.
"What if he didn't write it?" Ritco said. "I'd feel really really bad, and horrible, if I told the family, 'yeah we found the suicide note, and this is what your son had said,' only to find out that my investigation showed that is was foul play and someone else had written that, and I'd have to go back to the family, and say, 'you know what, I made a mistake. It wasn't your son's writing, it wasn't your son's suicide note.'
"So, as a police officer, it's a judgment call."
Mark Freiman, the MPCC's lawyer, asked if any harm would have been done by telling the family the note could possibly be a forgery, but letting them know its contents so they could decide whether to follow the instructions for the funeral.
"Looking back at it in hindsight, no. But at the time during my investigation back in 2008 we didn't have a policy to state that that was one of my options," Ritco answered.
"What was the policy?" Freiman asked.
"The policy for suicide notes? There wasn't one," said Ritco. He said he understands that the military has since developed a policy about giving suicide notes to family members.
Ritco testified that he had never been involved in a sudden death case when he became the lead investigator in Langridge's suicide.
Ritco will testify for another full day tomorrow. He is one of 13 members of military police in CFNIS who are the subjects of the Fynes' complaint at the MPCC.