Nova Scotia

New information in Clayton Miller case 'not reliable,' SIRT finds

The parents of Clayton Miller are unwilling to accept the conclusion of Nova Scotia's Serious Incident Response Team, but the agency's director says there is no evidence the teen was killed by police.

Agency says there's no evidence of a search the day before the Cape Breton teen's body was found

Clayton Miller, 17, died in May 1990 following a police raid on a teenage drinking party in the woods. (Submitted by the Miller family)

Nova Scotia's Serious Incident Response Team is disputing a claim there was a search for Clayton Miller the day before police found his body in a Cape Breton stream, and is concluding there is no reason to reopen the investigation into the teen's death.

On May 6, 1990, police found the 17-year-old dead in an area known as the Nest in New Waterford.

His parents, Maureen and Gervase Miller, have always contended police had something to do with their son's death. Miller did not return home on the night of May 4, the same night police raided a drinking party at the Nest. His body was found May 6.

This summer, the Millers' lawyer, Ray Wagner, released a videotaped interview with Bryan MacDonald, who said he led a ground search and rescue effort, beginning at 4:30 p.m. on May 5, 1990.

MacDonald said they searched the stream and Miller's body was not there, leading Wagner to suggest someone later moved Miller to that location.

Bryan MacDonald speaks with lawyer Ray Wagner. (Wagners Law)

SIRT, which is tasked with investigating all serious incidents involving police in Nova Scotia, has previously investigated the death and concluded two years ago that Miller died from hypothermia and had not been beaten or killed by anyone.

It decided, however, to review the information from MacDonald to see if it justified reopening the case.

The conclusion, SIRT said Thursday, is that the new information is "not reliable." SIRT director Ron MacDonald said investigators did not interview Bryan MacDonald because he is not well, but the agency did examine previous testimony from the fatality inquiry in 1990 and records.

The issue, Ron MacDonald said, is that the Millers themselves testified at the fatality inquiry, held just a few months after the death, that they didn't know where their son was until the day his body was found. As such, they couldn't have told police the day before where a search should be conducted.

"It's incompatible with the known facts to believe that anybody went out to search," MacDonald said.

Ron MacDonald is director of the Nova Scotia Serious Incident Response Team. (CBC)

​Miller's parents did call the police station May 5, but only to ask that officers keep an eye out for their son.

"The first official recorded call was after 6 p.m.," MacDonald said. "So they couldn't have called out a search team that started their work at 4:30 in the afternoon. Simple point is, that evidence is not credible."

Further, the Nova Scotia Emergency Measures Organization, which keeps records of search and rescue operations, has no record of a search on May 5, 1990, MacDonald said.

As well, none of the witnesses spoken to at the time, including the Millers, ever mentioned seeing such a search.

Millers unmoved

Clayton Miller's mother Maureen is not surprised by SIRT's conclusion.

"I expected it from Ron MacDonald," she said, "because he's not going to want to admit that he's misleading the public with what he is saying."

She said she and her husband called police several times in the hours after the police raid, contrary to the records, and are firm in their stance that the search commenced at 4:30 p.m. on May 5.

Bryan MacDonald has indicated a willingness to speak to authorities, she said, and she does not accept SIRT's explantion for why it didn't interview him.

'Obvious facts'

Ron MacDonald is not surprised by the Miller's unwillingness to accept SIRT's findings.

"We've already sent a very strong message that their son was not killed by anyone," he said. "We've already sent a very strong message based on objective, known facts that he couldn't have died from any injury because he didn't have any injury.

"We sent a strong message that he died from hypothermia. In spite of those obvious facts, and they're obvious when you review the evidence, the family and their supporters insisted that he was killed by police. I can't do anything about their beliefs."

MacDonald said SIRT, as a third-party, objective agency, has looked at the Miller case and can assure the public he didn't suffer violence.

"Unfortunately, he died from passing out, outside, from the cold," he said.