British Columbia

Undercover officer targeted impaired driving suspect

Details of how police set up a three-month long undercover operation targeting the woman at the centre of a drunk driving investigation continue to emerge in B.C. Provincial Court in Surrey.
The scene in Ladner, B.C., on May 19, 2008, after the crash in which Alexa Middelaer died. ((CBC))

Details of how police set up a three-month long undercover operation targeting the woman at the centre of a drunk driving investigation continue to emerge in B.C. Provincial Court in Surrey.

Carol Berner, 57, is charged with impaired driving and dangerous driving in the death of four-year-old Alexa Middelaer, who was killed while feeding horses with her aunt on a Ladner roadside two years ago.

Earlier this week a female officer — who cannot be named in the media to protect her work — began testifying how police set up the three-month-long operation called Project Angel.

The officers developed 16 scenarios to make contact with Berner, befriend her and get information about the crash. A Crown spokesperson has already called the step unusual for a drunk driving investigation.

Meet in a Ladner bar

In court this week the undercover officer testified that she posed as a woman going through a divorce and planning to move to the Ladner area when she met Berner at the Sundance Inn Pub in Ladner.

The meeting was followed up with a tickets to a Madonna concert and a trip to Victoria as part of the elaborate undercover operation designed to create a bond between the two.

Defence lawyer David Tarnow, left, stands before his client Carol Berner, right. ((CBC))

The undercover officer testified about her growing friendship with Berner — how they'd shop together, had dinner and shared intimacies.

Police even rigged a hotel room with a video camera where Berner and the undercover officer were going to stay to secretly record Berner talking about the fatal crash.

During one meeting the officer testified Carol Berner became very serious and said she'd been involved in a bad car accident. 

The officer said Berner herself told her, "I killed a kid," saying she'd been driving too quickly over some speed bumps and had lost control.

At a later meeting the officer testified Berner was teary saying she'd been driving at a normal speed and had had only two glasses of wine when her car began swerving and hit an oncoming car, but she didn't consider herself to be drunk.

But then while secretly recorded on videotape discussing the crash, Berner told the officer she'd had three glasses of wine and said she may have hit the gas instead of the brakes before hitting a speed bump. 

Haunted by the accident

Carol Berner told the officer she'd been haunted by the accident ever since it happened and she'd been unable to sleep.  She had recurring nightmares and said she'd been considering suicide by driving in front of a train.

Alexa Middelaer, 4, was killed when she was hit by a car driven by Carol Berner, who is on trial on charges of impaired driving and dangerous driving in connection with the girl's death. ((CBC))

Outside the court house on Tuesday, Alexa's Middelaer's mother Laurel said she does feel some empathy for Berner.

"It's reasssuring to know that she has a conscience. You hope that there is a shred of decency in everyone, and you know, we'll see," she said.

"The bottom line is she's fighting these charges," said Middelaer.

Earlier in the week the judge allowed Breathalyzer test taken at the scene to be included as evidence, because Berner admitted she drank two glasses of wine before the officer decided to test her.