'Justice has been served,' says slain Mountie's father

The father of an RCMP officer slain in Hay River, N.W.T., in 2007 says he is pleased a jury has found his son's killer guilty of first-degree murder.
Const. Christopher Worden's widow, Jodie Worden, left, stands with his brother, Michael Worden, and parents, John and Mary Ann Worden, after Thursday's verdict was announced. ((CBC))

The father of RCMP Const. Christopher Worden, who was slain in the line of duty two years ago in Hay River, N.W.T., says he is pleased a jury has found his son's killer guilty of first-degree murder.

Emrah Bulatci, 25, bowed his head and wept as the 12 N.W.T. Supreme Court jurors delivered the guilty verdict Thursday morning in Yellowknife.

Bulatci had been charged in the death of Worden, 30, who was responding alone to a call for assistance when he was shot four times in the early morning hours of Oct. 6, 2007.

"Today, justice has been served. The first-degree murder conviction handed down by the jury is the correct one," John Worden, Christopher Worden's father, told reporters at a news conference hours after the verdict was handed down.

"The convicted criminal shot our Christopher four times with only one intent: to kill," he added.

"While we are pleased with the first-degree murder verdict, nothing can bring back our son, brother, husband and father."

Bulatci was sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole for 25 years.

Defence wanted manslaughter conviction

Emrah Bulatci, centre, is escorted into the Yellowknife courthouse on Wednesday. ((CBC))

Bulatci's lawyers had been asking the jury to convict him on the lesser charge of manslaughter, to which Bulatci tried to plead guilty at the start of the trial.

During the jury's 12 hours of deliberation, which included a 10-hour session on Wednesday, members asked N.W.T. Supreme Court Justice John Vertes for clarification on the legal definitions of first-degree murder and manslaughter, with an emphasis on intent.

The jury also requested a transcript of Bulatci's testimony and cross-examination on Wednesday night.

Worden, originally from Ottawa, joined the RCMP in 2002 and spent most of his career in the Northwest Territories. He had been stationed since 2005 in Hay River, a town of about 3,650 located 400 kilometres south of the N.W.T. capital near the Alberta border.

Court had heard that Bulatci was in Hay River to sell cocaine when Worden stopped him outside a house early in the morning of Oct. 6 and tried to arrest him.

Fearing that Worden would find his illegally obtained handgun, Bulatci fled on foot, and Worden chased him to an area behind a local apartment building.

Bulatci testified last week that he shot at Worden's lower body twice in an unsuccessful attempt to slow down the officer.

But Bulatci said the final shots, which ultimately killed the officer, were fired by accident during a struggle with Worden.

The Crown maintained that Bulatci's version of events — that his handgun had fired accidentally twice while it was pointed at Worden — sounded implausible.

Some solace from verdict: RCMP

Const. Christopher Worden, 30, had been based in Hay River, N.W.T., for two years prior to his death. ((RCMP))
"The verdict of guilty to first-degree murder allows us some solace as to justice being served for this crime," Chief Supt. Tom Middleton, the RCMP's commanding officer in the N.W.T., told reporters Thursday.

"It does not, however, lessen the pain of the loss."

The national police force changed its backup policy after Worden's death, as well as the shooting death of another RCMP officer in Nunavut less than a month later.

In both cases, the officers were responding alone to calls for assistance in small northern communities.

Middleton said it would be impossible to say if those changes would prevent deaths similar to Worden's from happening in the future.

"There are so many volatile situations that we face, and these things change second to second when we are out on the streets, so it would be virtually impossible for me to give any kind of conclusion as to what a member might face tonight, tomorrow night and in the coming years," Middleton said.

"We train our people well, we try to provide them with good guidance and policy, and we hope that they look after themselves and do their best. But police work is challenging and dangerous."

Const. Douglas Scott, 20, was killed on Nov. 5, 2007, when he was responding to an impaired-driving call in Kimmirut, a remote community on Baffin Island.

The first-degree murder trial for Pingoatuk Kolola, 39, who is charged in relation to Scott's death, is scheduled to begin in late February in Iqaluit.