Nfld. & Labrador

The plot, the characters, and the shaved pig: Potter murder trial delves into undercover sting

They shaved a human-sized pig, covered it with blood, then convinced Al Potter to help bury it.

They shaved a human-sized pig, covered it with blood, then convinced Al Potter to help bury it

Al Potter places his pointer and middle finger in a V on the left side of his chest, as he's done during previous court appearances at Supreme Court in St. John's. (Ariana Kelland/CBC)

He ordered wings and beer. Just enough to hold the table at a bar called the Barking Cat on the outskirts of rural Belmont, Ont., for two and a half hours.

Enough time for two men to meet him to discuss a job that had to be taken care of — a dead body he left tucked away near a tree line in a corn field about five minutes away. 

Around 9:20 p.m. on Sept. 25, 2016, he met Al Potter.

"I gave him some wings and he thanked me," the man, bald, bearded and wearing a suit, told a 13-person jury Tuesday at Potter's first-degree murder trial at Supreme Court in St. John's. 

"[Potter] proceeded to tell me he just got out of jail ... that he'd gone in for a violent offence, told me that a lot of deals had been offered to him ... I said to him, 'So you're solid?'"

"He said, 'f--k yeah.'"

The man, wearing a black leather jacket and hoodie, blue jeans and black boots, fist-bumped Potter, and stopped the conversation.

On this day, the undercover officer with the RCMP was playing the part of "underling."

The undercover police officers testified at Supreme Court in St. John's Tuesday. (Ariana Kelland/CBC)

Potter had just been released from a jail in Lindsay, Ont., and the court's been told, he was under the impression that he was hired to work with a debt collector, who was in search of two brothers who owed money.

The story, concocted by an RCMP sergeant from St. John's, was that the underling had killed one of the brothers the night before and had cleaned up the scene, but needed help disposing the body.

The purpose of the whole plot was for Potter to feel comfortable enough to reveal details of the vicious stabbing of Dale Porter, 39, in Conception Bay North, on June 29, 2014. Potter was a suspect. 

"I was to take them to the body, so I had a van and they had a vehicle and I would lead them to the body, where we would pick it up and after picking up the body — a pig — we would follow [the first undercover officer] and Potter to another location," the 10-year veteran of the force told the jury.

He did most of the heavy lifting and then after then at the cemetery ... I don't know if excited was the right word, but it didn't seem to faze him one bit.- Undercover police officer who played the 'underling'

They drove to a corn field about five minutes away, the location of which was carefully selected by the lead investigator — or cover officer — as was the Barking Cat and the cemetery where they'd eventually go. 

"I brought them to a clump of trees and bush where we staged the bag with the pig inside," he said.

He carefully unzipped the hockey goalie bag, exposing the pig's shaven, bloodied torso to Potter and the purported debt collecting boss.

RCMP officer plays graveyard worker

Unbeknownst to Potter, the police had prepared the "prop" the day before — shaving the pig, which weighed by his estimation between 150 to 200 pounds, sliced its torso, and poured blood on the skin. 

Potter seemed calm and eager to help, the officer said, as Potter watched his former acquaintance take the stand against him. 

"He did most of the heavy lifting and then after then at the cemetery ... I don't know if excited was the right word, but it didn't seem to faze him one bit." 

Once the human-sized pig was lifted into the back of the officer's white panel van, the group drove toward a cemetery in London.

The first undercover officer, who played the part of boss, and Al Potter rode in one vehicle, and the second undercover officer, who played the role of underling, drove from a corn field in Belmont to London, Ont., in the evening of Sept. 25, 2016. (CBC Graphics)

They were met at the gate by a purported graveyard worker on a backhoe, wearing work boots and overalls — he too was an undercover operative. He also took the stand Tuesday. 

"I leaned into [the first undercover officer's] vehicle and said he needed to give me more time next time," the 17-year veteran of the RCMP and undercover cop testified Tuesday morning.

While staying in character, the man led the group of three, including Potter, to a three-foot-deep, pre-dug grave on the undeveloped side of a cemetery. 

With Potter doing the heavy lifting, the officer testified, the three men dragged the hockey bag to the hole and dropped it in. 

"The overall mood was motivated," he told Crown prosecutor Erin Matthews, "There was a task at hand. Motivated to just get the job done."

What about the sound?

Neither one of the officers — the underling or graveyard worker — were wearing listening devices, the court was told. 

Potter then sent the "scenario" in an unsuspecting direction when he asked for bleach, the first officer testified.

"The three of us washed our hands in the bleach and Potter asked, 'What are we gonna do with our shoes,'" the officer said.

He said they proceeded to bleach the outsides of their shoes, and the officer told Potter, "good idea."

Defence lawyer Randy Piercey speaks with co-counsel Jon Noonan before the second round of jury selection for Al Potter's trial. (Ariana Kelland/CBC)

"[Potter] said, 'Well if you leave the top of the bleach open in the back of the van it will get rid of the smell' and I said 'That's a good idea."

The officer said Potter exhibited a calm focus, but his defence lawyer Randy Piercey questioned the officer on if his client was spooked while walking with the two men in the darkened corn field. 

"Did you recall Mr. Potter being startled by a noise?" Piercey asked.

"No I don't. I don't recall any noise."

"Is that something you would necessarily make notes of?" Piercey asked.

The officer responded that he didn't make note of the sound because "I didn't hear any sound in that field."

By the end of the operation that night, the pig was removed from the hole and the grave was filled back in.

The officers retreated and took notes.

Potter spent a night at a hotel in London, unaware that the next day he'd be arrested by police for a killing that happened in North River, Newfoundland and Labrador, more than 2,000 kilometres away, two years earlier.

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About the Author

Ariana Kelland

Reporter

Ariana Kelland is a reporter with the CBC Newfoundland and Labrador bureau in St. John's.