Newfoundlander's ordeal with RCMP sting subject of CBC documentary

A lawyer representing a central Newfoundland man who was twice convicted but ultimately cleared of murdering two German tourists is critical that RCMP officers working in an undercover sting fuelled her client with alcohol to get a confession.

A lawyer representing a central Newfoundland man who was twice convicted but ultimately cleared of murdering two German tourists is critical that RCMP officers working in an undercover sting fuelled her client with alcohol to get a confession.

Andy Rose was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the 1983 shooting deaths of German tourists Bernd Goericke, 27, and Andrea Scherpf, 22, in central British Columbia.

—Lawyer Tanya Chamberlain

Rose won appeals on both cases, although RCMP remained so suspicious of him that they launched a sting operation in which Rose was led to believe he was speaking with members of a criminal gang.

Rose's ordeal will be described in a full-length documentary to be broadcast Wednesday night on CBC Television's The Fifth Estate.

The documentary details how Rose came to make an alcohol-fuelled confession to supposed gang members — a confession that became meaningless when DNA evidence later exonerated Rose of the crimes.

Asked repeatedly about crimes

Tapes made by the RCMP show that Rose was asked repeatedly in a bar about the shootings, but refused to bite. Eventually, and grudgingly, he told an undercover officer what the force wanted to hear.

Rose's lawyer, Tanya Chamberlain, said she could not believe he had admitted to murders he could not have committed.

"How could they do this to him? How can this be OK?" Chamberlain said.

"How can it be OK to take an alcoholic and ply him with liquor and ... entice him to commit crimes? How can this be OK?"

Goericke and Scherpf, his fiancée, were shot in the head. Their bodies were found in woods about 30 kilometres outside Chetwynd, B.C., where Rose was working in 1983. A pair of bloody jeans found near the site was the key piece of physical evidence.

The killings went unsolved for six years, when RCMP suddenly caught a break. A drug dealer, who was also a confidential police informant, said a woman from Grand Falls-Windsor — the Newfoundland town where Rose had grown up — had told him a story about the shootings.

Based almost solely on the testimony of Madonna Kelly, who said a drunk Andy Rose had shown up at her trailer in Chetwynd in 1983 covered in blood, saying he had killed the Germans, Rose was convicted of murder in 1991.

"Did I get a shock … My knees turned to rubber," Rose said, describing his reaction to the verdict in the trial.

2nd trial like 'instant replay'

After an appeal, Rose was granted a new trial, although Kelly again was presented as the star witness, leading toward a second conviction, in 1994.

"They had her and that was all they had," Rose said.

"Same old thing. It was like an instant replay."

Serving time in prison, Rose received a break in 1997 when a California family reported a story about a man who had confessed to the murders before he committed suicide in 2005.

The story may have been full of holes, but it was enough to get Rose a third trial.

To gather more evidence, the RCMP launched what is called a Mr. Big sting — a controversial scenario that has been used to collect evidence on several occasions across the country. Recently, a Mr. Big sting was used to convict Nelson Hart, a Newfoundlander whom a jury found guilty in 2006 of drowning his twin three-year-old daughters.

Rose was offered work by supposed gang members, who were in truth undercover police officers. Rose was videotaped as they tried to get him to admit to the murders.

"Come clean with me, and I'll tell you how I'm going to help you," Rose was told at one point.

During the third trial, though, testing on the bloody jeans found near the crime site came back, showing the DNA of at least five different people. The only confirmed matches were of Goericke and Scherpf. A third person's DNA was prominent, but it did not match Rose's. It also did not match the suspect identified by the California family.

The Crown decided to drop the charge against Rose.

Eight years later, Rose works now in a warehouse in Edmonton, living from paycheque to paycheque.

He had worked on suing the RCMP and the federal government for false prosecution, but after eight years and several lawyers, that effort has not gone anywhere.

Rose said it never made sense that he was considered a murderer, even though he had had no previous history of violent crime.

"In order to do something like that, you've got to be robbing banks, a lot of gun-involved crimes and stuff like that" he said.

"You don't just one night decide you need some dollars [and] you're gonna kill two people."

Madonna Kelly, the key witness in the trial, now lives in Fort McMurray. She offered to tell her story for $30,000, but CBC News declined.