CBC In Depth
The Winnipeg 911 murders
CBC News Online | July 02, 2004

The Winnipeg home where the sisters were killed
On the night of February 16, 2000, two aboriginal sisters – Corrine McKeown, 52, and Doreen Leclair, 51 – were murdered. It was a big story, especially because they called police and 911 five times over eight hours to get help.

Police responded to the first call and to the last call, when they found the women had been stabbed to death inside Leclair's home in Winnipeg's North End, a predominantly working-class part of the city with a large aboriginal population.

Less than 24 hours later, William Dunlop, McKeown's former boyfriend, was arrested. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, and is serving a life sentence with no possibility of parole for 17 years.

In May 2001, a Manitoba judge released audio tapes of the women's calls to police, after broadcast media argued they should be heard by the public.

When the tapes were released, Winnipeg's police association said the public would realize how difficult the job of a 911 operator is. Instead, the release sparked an outcry. Aboriginal groups said if the calls had come from non-aboriginal women or from a wealthier part of town, police would have arrived promptly. Women's groups noted McKeown had a restraining order against Dunlop that was supposed to be backed up with "zero tolerance" police protection.

The tapes

The first call: The first time the women phone 911, the call is disconnected. When the operator phones back, one of the women says someone had been shot. Police are dispatched to the address, but Dunlop gives a fake name and McKeown makes no complaint.

The second call: The women are instructed to phone the police directly.

The third call: The women report McKeown has been stabbed by a man violating a restraining order. The operator tells them to solve the problem themselves, and says they are partly to blame.

The fourth call: It's harder to understand the sisters, although one can be heard saying "please help me." The operator promises to send police, but no car is dispatched.

The fifth and final call: When a 911 operator answers, faint sounds from one or both of the sisters are drowned out by barking dogs. The operator hangs up and dials the house. William Dunlop answers the phone and tries to convince the operator everything is fine. It is now believed that both women are dying, or dead, while he talks. The operator sends a car to the house, but the sisters succumb to their stab wounds before police arrive.

The inquest

Within hours of the murders, the police began an internal investigation.

However, information on what actually took place the night of the murders was not immediately forthcoming from the police, and advocacy groups supporting women and aboriginal people, as well as officials from various levels of government, began calling for an independent inquest.

Manitoba's provincial Justice Department ordered an independent review of the police's internal investigation. Norman Inkster, a retired RCMP commissioner, reported that the police investigation was conducted in a "thorough, objective and professional manner."

In May 2001, Manitoba's chief medical examiner called an inquest. That inquest began in December 2001.

Testimony at the inquest suggested Winnipeg 911 operators need more training to deal with domestic disputes and need to be monitored more closely.

Witnesses testified that there was a break down in communications between different 911 operators. The operator who answered the fourth call didn't know that anyone had been stabbed or that there had been a violation of a restraining order.

Judge Judith Webster released a 164-page report on the inquiry in October 2002. She made 62 recommendations, including a key recommendation on staffing levels and morale in police communications.

"There was an apparent perception that nothing was being done by middle management and the Winnipeg Police Service executive with respect to staffing levels," Webster said in her report.

"This obviously added to the angst of communications staff and potentially impacted on their performance."

Chronology Of 911 Murders

Feb. 16, 2000
Corrine McKeowen and Doreen Leclair are found dead in their Manitoba Avenue home after making numerous 911 calls over a period of several hours.

Feb. 17, 2000
William John Dunlop is arrested after a 5� hour standoff with police.

Feb. 18, 2000
Police Chief Jack Ewatski suspends five police workers; both the chief and Mayor Glen Murray apologize to families of the women for the 'failure of the system' to help the two sisters.

Apr. 4, 2000
A task force begins reviewing the 911 emergency system.

July 7, 2000
The task force's report recommends all police officers and 911 operators undergo compulsory refresher courses on domestic violence.

Nov. 16, 2000
Dunlop is ordered to stand trial.

Dec. 22, 2000
Manitoba Justice Department announces no charges will be laid against the 911 operators.

Jan. 19, 2001
New domestic abuse training begins in the Winnipeg Police Service.

Mar. 12, 2001
Dunlop pleads guilty to two counts of second-degree murder.

Apr. 24, 2001
Court orders Dunlop to serve life in prison with no possibility of parole for 17 years.

Dec. 3, 2001
The inquest begins into how 911 operators and police handled the calls from Leclair and McKeowen.

Oct. 29, 2002
Judge Judith Webster releases her report into the inquiry and recommends a complete review of police communications in Winnipeg and the hiring of more staff.


The first call

The second call

The third call

The fourth call

The fifth call

CBC TV's Rick Boguski reports on the release of the 911 tapes. (May 2, 2001)

CBC TV's Kaveri Bittira on police pressure to release 911 reports. (April 27, 2001)


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Total population of Canada: 31,414,000

Total people of aboriginal origin: 1,319,890


North American Indian:
More than one aboriginal origin:


People of aboriginal origin living on reserve: 285,625

People of aboriginal origin living off reserve: 1,034,260

People of non-aboriginal origin living on reserve: 36,230

(Source: 2001 Census, Statistics Canada)
*includes people of a single aboriginal origin and those of a mix of one aboriginal origin with non-aboriginal origins

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