Nova Scotia

Analyst had copy of evidence he said RCMP destroyed in Assoun case, documents say

A former RCMP constable who accused his bosses of destroying physical evidence in a high-profile wrongful conviction case had a copy of the document in question when interviewed about his allegations, wrote a member of the force in a review obtained by CBC News through freedom of information laws.

Const. David Moore had vehicle registration information he believed was tied to a different suspect

Glen Assoun at Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax on March 1, 2019. (Robert Short/CBC)

A former RCMP constable who accused his bosses of destroying physical evidence in a high-profile wrongful conviction case had a copy of the document in question when interviewed about his allegations, wrote a member of the force in a review obtained by CBC News through freedom of information laws.

The evidence was in fact a copy of a vehicle registration Const. David Moore believed connected someone other than Glen Assoun to the 1995 murder of Brenda Way —  information later determined to be "moot," Insp. Larry Wilson said in his 2014 review into the missing evidence and files.

In 2019, the RCMP said documents in the Assoun case had been erased, but gave few details on what the evidence was or how it went missing.

From 2001 to 2004, Moore worked for the RCMP's Violent Crime Linkage Analysis System, or ViCLAS, which analyzes crime data to produce leads for unsolved cases. Moore has said many times his bosses at ViCLAS destroyed physical evidence he had pointing to Assoun's innocence. 

Assoun exonerated in 2019

Assoun was imprisoned for nearly 17 years and spent five more years under strict parole conditions before federal Justice Minister David Lametti ordered a new trial, saying the original conviction was likely a miscarriage of justice.

Provincial Crown prosecutors opted not to retry Assoun and he was finally exonerated in 2019. 

Wilson said in his review that destroying evidence illegally would breach the Criminal Code, so he took Moore's allegations seriously and placed "an urgent priority" on recovering the missing documents and electronic material.

Moore was an RCMP officer who thought Glen Assoun was innocent long before courts cleared his name. (Dave Moore/Twitter)

He investigated Moore's claims as Assoun's lawyers worked on an appeal for his conviction. Moore was interviewed twice during the investigation.

Wilson found the physical evidence was a "true copy" of a vehicle registration that Moore thought was connected to a possible suspect. The original investigation into Way's murder found several witnesses reported seeing her in or near a red SUV around the time she was killed.

Moore's ViCLAS analysis had produced three suspects who weren't Assoun, and the constable was trying to prove one of them had access to a red Chevy Blazer at that time, said Wilson. The Registry of Motor Vehicles provided Moore with a copy of the suspect's vehicle registration. 

"What Const. Moore did not disclose to Insp. Wilson during that interview was that he actually had photocopies of the documents that he was calling 'physical evidence' in his possession," Wilson wrote. 

SUV 'may be a moot point'

Wilson was also able to get his own copy of the registration. The document did not conclusively show when the suspect took possession of the vehicle, leaving in doubt if they had it on the night of the murder.

"Regardless, all of the issues surrounding whether or not [the suspect] had access to a red Blazer on the night of Brenda Way's homicide may be a moot point because there are witnesses who saw her alive after she was noted getting into a red vehicle that night," Wilson wrote.

Not only was the significance of the SUV in dispute, but Moore himself admitted to Wilson he had no information or evidence that proved Assoun's innocence, the inspector wrote in his review.

"Const. Moore claimed a number of times in different forums that he had evidence that Glen Assoun was an innocent man and his analysis supported it," Wilson said.

"During his interview with Insp. Wilson, Const. Moore conceded he had no evidence that Glen Assoun was innocent, beyond identifying three alternate suspects."

The report includes a copy of the 'physical evidence' Moore said was destroyed. CBC has removed the name of the person who owned the vehicle. (CBC)

Wilson wrote he examined 233 cases Moore had analyzed at ViCLAS and found 39 had no analysis worksheets attached to them, meaning "they had to have been removed by someone."

He found a further 95 of those records had been modified. Way's file was one of those dozens of modified or deleted worksheets. 

Search for missing documents

Wilson noted Moore initially said all of his analysis had been erased, but one of three worksheets was found still attached to the Way file in ViCLAS. Wilson also found inconsistencies in Moore's account of when he learned the files were missing.

His review also looked into Moore's claims that other items had disappeared from his ViCLAS office. Wilson found two of the items: a timeline chart and copies of a psychological report on Michael McGray, a serial killer Moore named as a suspect in Way's murder

Brenda Way was found stabbed to death outside a Dartmouth, N.S., apartment building in 1995. Assoun has always maintained his innocence in the crime.

Some of the other paperwork Moore said had gone missing was not found. 

"Given the passage of 10 years and the fact that his documents were not placed on the Brenda Way working file, it is plausible his documents were simply misplaced or destroyed as part of the office's ongoing efforts to get rid of what they may have believed was unnecessary paper," Wilson wrote. 

Concerns over work quality

Wilson found that shortly after Moore was moved off ViCLAS in March 2004, Sgt. Dick Hutchings asked his staff to review all of Moore's work over concerns about its quality.

Some of the analysts found issues with Moore's work and modified the original worksheets.

"There is evidence that one analyst in particular inappropriately deleted some of Const. Moore's worksheets during this process," Wilson wrote.

"Although there is no way to absolutely substantiate it because that analyst denies having deleted any worksheets, this may be what happened to the missing worksheets."

Wilson said Moore mistakenly thought only his bosses could delete the worksheets, when in fact anyone working in that ViCLAS office could have done so.

Moore responds to review

Asked about the review on Thursday, Moore reiterated his claim that the RCMP had illegally discredited his work.

He said in an email that Wilson "was covering up as any good old boy soldier RCMP should for the corruption of high-ranking officers."

At the time of his interviews with Moore, Wilson had worked with the RCMP for 32 years, including as a senior ViCLAS specialist. He created and taught a course teaching officers how to use the system. In 2013, he moved to Nova Scotia's Major Crimes Unit, which oversees ViCLAS. 

In 2014, ViCLAS contained about 400,000 cases, meaning analysts had to tighten their search criteria until they got fewer than 400 matches. The analysts could restrict the search to crimes committed by white men, say, or cases where the victim was a woman in her 20s. 

Wilson said ViCLAS is not like DNA or fingerprints, calling it "more of an art than a science." Some analysts might see linkage where others do not, even where none truly exists. 

Review questions Moore's judgment

The inspector said it's extremely important that analysts start their work with no preconceived ideas about who might be responsible for a crime. But Wilson said Moore had deliberately set up search criteria that would always return one of his three suspects in the Way murder.

He said Moore spoke to the superintendent of the building where Way's body was found, even though Wilson noted an analyst is supposed to hand his findings to an investigator for followup. 

"The minute the analyst crosses that line and takes on the investigator's role to follow up or verify their own leads, they lose their objectivity and can even develop tunnel vision," he wrote.

"Const. Moore appeared to have no hesitation about crossing that line."

The RCMP report into Moore's claims found he had crossed the line from analyst to investigator. (CBC)

Wilson concluded Moore had told many people he felt Assoun was innocent, but the review found no evidence that Moore ever presented any documented support of his feelings.

"Finally, although Const. Moore provided persons of interest, any one of whom may turn out as having committed the Brenda Way homicide, it is not possible for ViCLAS analysis to conclusively establish any of them committed the homicide, or that Mr. Assoun did not," he said. 

'That guy was screaming for help'

Wilson also learned that Moore had encountered Assoun one time before he started working on the case.

In the mid-1990s, Assoun was in court ahead of his murder trial. Moore happened to be in the same courtroom, escorting Freeman McNeil to a court appearance over his role in the Sydney River McDonald's murders.

"Glen Assoun let out a horrendous shriek. I didn't know who the guy was, that he didn't do this. My hair stood on the back of my neck when he screamed to that court that day," Moore told Wilson. 

"I said, 'Whoever that guy was sure let out a scream.' If there was ever a cry for help, that guy was screaming for help."

Assoun reached a compensation deal earlier this year with the federal and provincial governments.

British Columbia's police watchdog is investigating his wrongful murder conviction and appeal.