British Columbia

'A British bobby through and through': Slain B.C. police officer remembered as his killer gets life

More than two years after killing on-duty Abbotsford Police Department Const. John Davidson, Oscar Arfmann has been sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for 25 years.

Oscar Arfmann won't be eligible for parole for 25 years for murdering Const. John Davidson in 2017

Const. John Davidson leaves his wife and three adult children behind. His family had the chance to deliver victim impact statements at Oscar Arfmann's sentencing.

On the day Const. John Davidson was murdered, his wife — Denise — had been dreaming about their plans for an upcoming, month-long trip to New Zealand.

It was to be their first trip without kids since the oldest of their three children was born in 1991, the culmination of a life journey and a romantic partnership that had, until that point, turned dreams into reality.

"I was sure I was the happiest person I knew," Denise Davidson said as she recalled the moments before two Abbotsford police officers told her that Oscar Arfmann had shot and killed her husband.

"I spent the next two weeks unable to breathe normally."

'Killed like an animal'

Denise Davidson spoke Monday about the depth of trauma, pain and sadness she and her family have faced in the hours, days, months and years since Const. John Davidson's murder.

She and her three children stood in a witness box in a New Westminster B.C. Supreme Court room, hands outstretched to support one another, as they gave victim impact statements at Arfmann's sentencing.

In this courtroom sketch, Const. John Davidson's wife and children support each other during their victim impacts statements in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster. (Felicity Don/CBC)

Justice Carol Ross gave the 68-year-old former long-haul trucker a life sentence without the possibility of parole for 25 years — the mandatory sentence for someone who murders a police officer in the line of duty.

And Denise Davidson pointed out that her husband wasn't just murdered; he was executed, shot in the back.

"Without fail and to this day, the first thing I see when I wake up is John falling to the ground face first. I can't help but imagine the immense pain of a bullet ricocheting through his chest," she said.

"He was shot and killed from behind ... killed like an animal."

'My father did not die in a shootout'

Const. John Davidson was responding to 911 calls that flooded the Abbotsford police department after Arfmann was seen firing shots into a truck that was blocking the path of a car he has stolen several days earlier.

The 53-year-old officer, who began his policing career in Northumbria in the U.K., had worked for the Abbotsford force for more than a decade.

Watch: "Justice was served today": Abbotsford Police Chief Mike Serr

Abbotsford police chief reads statement on behalf of slain officer's family after killer's sentencing

BC

10 months agoVideo
1:32
Abbotsford police Chief Const. Mike Serr reads a statement on behalf of Const. John Davidson's family outside B.C. Supreme Court on Feb. 3, 2020, after the man who killed Davidson was sentenced to life in prison. 1:32

Davidson arrived at a parking lot in a white truck marked with emergency flashers. Arfmann shot him within seconds of Davidson emerging from his vehicle. He then shot him again as the officer lay on the ground.

Const. John Davidson's son, Drew, said that misinformation about the manner of his father's death has been particularly hard to take.

"My father did not die in a shootout. He was shot from behind after getting out of his car and again while lying face down on the ground," he said.

"He never saw Oscar Arfmann target him and he was executed in a calm and calculated manner simply because he was wearing a police uniform and was there to protect the public."

Killer seemed indifferent

Arfmann seemed indifferent to the victim impact statements, even as the many police officers and friends who came to lend their support to the Davidson family reached for boxes of tissue that had been placed on the wooden benches of the public gallery.

The killer pleaded not guilty, forcing prosecutors to tie him to a damning account of events woven together through a combination of witness testimony, video, audio and physical evidence.

Oscar Arfmann was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of Abbotsford police officer Const. John Davidson. (Geordon Omand/The Canadian Press)

Psychiatrist reports suggested that he may have been suffering from the psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia at the time of Davidson's murder, but that he was likely able to appreciate the nature and quality of his actions.

Ross asked Arfmann if he wanted to speak before he was sentenced. Arfmann, who wore red pre-trial sweats and has long, thin grey hair, sat with one leg crossed over the other while the Davidson family spoke.

He stood up and began a rambling speech in a soft voice that was almost impossible to hear from the gallery.

His lawyer later said that Arfmann believes he was the victim of an accident caused by police and was complaining about his injuries.

He showed no emotion as Ross sentenced him and was later led out of the court by sheriffs to begin serving his sentence.

'I will love him for the rest of my life'

Denise Davidson said she finds it difficult to find any happiness in life, and all she cares about are the three children who each took their turn beside her in front of Arfmann, speaking about their loss.

The couple brought the family to Canada to escape concerns about the youth culture that had worried Davidson in the U.K. 

A woman places a photo of Abbotsford Police Const. John Davidson, who died in the line of duty, on a window at a makeshift memorial outside police headquarters in Abbotsford, B.C., on Nov. 7, 2017. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

They talked about gun ownership in their adopted homeland.

But Davidson didn't believe anyone would shoot a uniformed officer in community like Abbotsford because the public knew they were "just doing our job." 

And when the moment came for Const. John Davidson to put himself in harm's way and climb out of his truck, hoping to find a peaceful resolution to a dangerous incident involving a man with a gun, he didn't hesitate.

"I will love him for that for the rest of my life," Denise Davidson told the court, sighing.

"And hate Oscar Arfmann who ended his life so intentionally." 

Denise Davidson said she is comforted by the occasional memory of her husband tapping the side of a cup with a spoon and laughing to himself about the time as a child when someone must have told him that would make his tea sweeter.

Throughout a policing career spanning 24 years on two continents, Davidson had never fired his weapon except in training.

His wife said he was immensely proud of that fact.

"He was a British bobby through and through."

About the Author

Jason Proctor

@proctor_jason

Jason Proctor is a reporter in British Columbia for CBC News and has covered the B.C. courts and mental health issues in the justice system extensively.

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