Saskatoon

Murder trial hears secret audio of 2-day bush search for body of Sheree Fertuck

Accused killer Greg Fertuck insisted to undercover police in 2019 that he dumped his dead wife's body in a stand of poplars north of a gravel pit, even though he spent two days leading them on a fruitless search for her remains through rain, mud and thick bush.

5th undercover officer involved in Mr. Big sting delivers testimony at Greg Fertuck's 1st-degree murder trial

In June 2019, Greg Fertuck led undercover police on a search for the body of his estranged wife, Sheree, in the area north of the gravel pit she was heading to when she was last seen, court has heard. (Greg Fertuck/Facebook)

Accused killer Greg Fertuck insisted to undercover police in 2019 that he dumped his dead wife's body in a stand of poplars north of a gravel pit, even though he spent two days leading them on a fruitless search for her remains through rain, mud and thick bush, a Saskatoon court heard Thursday.

The secretly recorded exchanges between Fertuck and the undercover police officers posing as criminals were played in court at Fertuck's first-degree murder trial. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge in connection with the death of his estranged wife, Sheree, who was last seen on Dec. 7, 2015.

In June 2019, Fertuck led undercover police on a search for her body in the area north of the gravel pit she was heading to when she was last seen. He had been tricked 24 hours earlier into disclosing that he murdered Sheree and was leading the men he believed to be hardened criminals to her body so that it could be disposed of.

The audio captured Greg and the men crisscrossing grid roads and fields 85 kilometres southeast of Saskatoon, looking for the stand of trees where Fertuck claimed he dumped his wife's body after shooting her.

In the recordings, the men are heard discussing the practical challenges presented by insects, the weather and the terrain. The conversation also took unexpected turns, like the discussion of an Al Pacino movie.

RCMP have provided details of the areas where police have searched for Sheree Fertuck since 2015. Her body has never been found. (CBC)

They also chatted about small town hotels, and whether it's a better bet to have a basic cable package over signing up for a specialty service.

And then, abruptly, the conversation turned dark.

"Is she a big woman or a small woman?" one officer is heard asking Fertuck in the recording.

"A big woman," Fertuck replies.

"It's not going to f--king matter. There's gonna be nothing left of her."

Testimony from undercover officers

Fertuck's trial heard Thursday from a fifth and final undercover officer who was part of a team involved in a so-called "Mr. Big" sting, in which police posed as criminals to draw a confession out of Fertuck.

None of the officers involved in the operation can be named because of a court-ordered publication ban.

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Richard Danyliuk, who is presiding over the judge-alone trial, has yet to determine whether any of the evidence from the sting is admissible.

The Crown had already called four undercover officers — the officer who designed the sting, another who acted as Greg's "supervisor" in the fake gang, one who played the role of Greg's best friend in the gang, and the officer who played "Mr. Big," the head of the organization.

On Wednesday, the Crown called the fifth undercover officer, who had pretended to work as a killer for the gang and purported to specialize in cleaning evidence from crime scenes.

That officer continued his testimony Thursday, offering a slightly different perspective on specific "scenarios" — interactions between the undercover officers and Fertuck — that have already by been presented by the Crown and scrutinized closely by the defence.

At one point in the recording played Thursday, the officer asks Fertuck about where he got the rifle that he claimed to have used to shoot Sheree — a Ruger 10/22 semi-automatic.

Fertuck had already said that he had a gun collection that had been seized by police. He pleaded guilty in 2010 to uttering death threats and possessing a prohibited weapon.

"It was unregistered — I paid in cash," Fertuck says in the recording.

"I bought it from a guy south of Unity."

Showed suspicions

He also said that he loaded a 25-shot banana clip for the rifle before heading out to the gravel pit the day that Sheree disappeared. He said that he disposed of the rifle, but kept the magazine in his garage along with the boots and gloves that he wore that day.

The officer testified that they tried to keep the pressure on Fertuck by continually referring to satellite images that the RCMP were supposedly to get from the National Security Agency in the U.S.

The high-resolution images — which did not exist — would presumably show Fertuck killing his wife and lead RCMP to where he hid the body.

An officer who testified Thursday confirmed that after two and a half days searching, undercover police accompanying Greg Fertuck did not find Sheree, the black plastic tarp she was supposedly wrapped in or the alleged murder weapon. (Submitted by Johanna Branigan)

It was during these exchanges that Fertuck first showed suspicions about the elaborate charade built for his benefit.

He asked why, if the technology existed when Sheree disappeared, the RCMP didn't access the pictures then. Fertuck knew that he was a suspect in Sheree's disappearance from almost the first day that she vanished.

The officer said he was unfamiliar with how the technology worked and quickly changed the subject.

During his cross-examination of the officer, defence lawyer Morris Bodnar noted how Fertuck lied significantly to the officer when they first met in Langley, B.C., claiming to have gotten into a fight the previous night and killed a man. Langley police investigated and found no evidence to support the claim.

The officer replied that Greg's lie seemed half-hearted and that he qualified it by saying he didn't really remember what happened.

The officer also confirmed that, after two and a half days searching, they did not find Sheree, the black plastic tarp she was supposedly wrapped in or the alleged murder weapon.

On Friday, the Crown expects to call RCMP Staff Sgt. Charles Lerat, the officer who conducted an interview with Fertuck after he was arrested in June 2019.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dan Zakreski is a reporter for CBC Saskatoon.

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