Edmonton

Edmonton playwright charged with possession of child pornography

Edmonton playwright and performer David Belke has been charged with possession of child pornography.

David Belke, pillar of Edmonton's theatre community and substitute drama teacher, arrested Friday

Edmonton playwright David Belke, seen here in a photo from 2013, was arrested on a charge of possession of child pornography. (CBC)

Edmonton playwright and performer David Belke has been charged with possession of child pornography.

Belke, 56, who had also been a substitute teacher in the city, was arrested Friday, the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT) said in a news release Tuesday.

Belke's employment as a substitute teacher in the Edmonton public system ended "as soon as we became aware that an investigation was underway," Edmonton Public Schools spokesperson Brad Stromberg said. He said he couldn't specify when that happened, or how long Belke had been with the district.

On Tuesday afternoon, Edmonton theatre company Shadow Theatre said on its Facebook page that Belke "has resigned from the artistic team." Belke had been the company's playwright-in-residence.

Shadow Theatre encouraged anyone with questions about the charges against him to contact Edmonton police.

Police began investigating in late February after a tip from the public, ALERT said.

Staff Sgt. Stephen Camp with ALERT's Internet Child Exploitation unit said the tip was from a computer repair business.

"The information was that there was some child exploitation material that was seen," Camp said in an interview.

"[An] affidavit was written, judge signed off on order, and we did an examination of the computer owned by David Belke and found child porn," Camp said.

"Subsequent to the discovery of the child porn and the examination, David Belke was contacted and he came in and was subsequently arrested and charged for possession of child porn."

More charges could be laid, police say

ALERT said it has no information to suggest Belke committed an offence with any children, but are urging anyone with information about the case to contact police. 

The investigation continues and more charges may be laid, Camp said.

Belke is scheduled to appear in court  April 6.

He was released on a number of conditions including:

  • avoid any place where children 16 years of age or younger are present unless they are in the company of a parent or guardian,
  • not be within 100 meters of a public park, recreation facility, daycare, or other facility that children 16 years of age or under would be present,
  • not work or volunteer where it could be reasonably foreseen that a person 16 years of age or under may be present.

Belke is a multiple Sterling Award winner, the annual awards which recognize the best of the Edmonton theatre season.

His connections are wide and I'm sure everyone is very saddened and shocked today.- Liz Nicholls, Edmonton theatre critic

Longtime Edmonton theatre critic Liz Nicholls said news of Belke's arrest spread quickly through Edmonton's tight-knit theatre community.

"It's a shocking and sad piece of news," Nicholls said.

"David Belke is a major figure in the world of Edmonton theatre and has been for quite a long time, especially since so many of his plays have premiered at the Fringe for, really, many decades, and his associations with Shadow Theatre and the Fringe," she said.

"His connections are wide and I'm sure everyone is very saddened and shocked today."

ALERT, funded by the Alberta government, is a compilation of the province's most sophisticated law enforcement resources committed to tackling serious and organized crime. 

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