Another view of Kathy's story from the Mindy Tran website stating:
"Her's is a well crafted tale transforming Shannon Murrin from a monstrous child killer into the lovable falsely accused rogue" - injusticebusters.org
Murrin's girlfriend Kathy MacDonald, contacted [injusticebusters] asking for [this page] to be removed from the website
On August 17, 1994 at approximately 7 PM eight-year old Mindy Tran disappeared. She had been riding her bike close to her home at 385 Taylor Road in Rutland, BC.
The time of Mindy's disappearance was based on the statements of Jessica and Ryan Campbell. Both saw Mindy riding her bike up and down Taylor Road around 6:45PM. Kelowna investigators never looked for two women who had been seen talking to Mindy minutes earlier. Jessica and Ryan also saw a white van driving slowly through the neighborhood. When they arrived at their friend Lisa Sterling's place Jessica went in her house and Ryan Campbell stayed outside. Ryan testified that he saw Mindy lay down her bike between two rocks at 350 Taylor Road and walk in the direction of 360 Taylor Road around 6:50PM. When Ryan, Jessica, and Lisa Sterling emerged from the house Mindy was no longer there but all three saw the white van.
The police interviewed all of Mindy's neighbors including Shannon Murrin, the Mugfords, and the people who shared their duplex, Dale Breit and Tammy Desjardins. The Mugfords and Shannon Murrin rented 360A Taylor Road. Brymer and Stephanie Mugford had an eight-year old daughter, Charmaine. Charmaine and Mindy were best friends and often played together at both girls' homes.
Police were especially interested in the duplex because Mindy's bike was found in front of 360B, Dale and Tammy's place. The Mugfords, Dale and Tammy, and Shannon were all asked to give an account of their whereabouts on the 17th and police took also took statements from all the neighbors.
Patrick Radke lived right next door to the duplex. He had seen Mindy talking to the two women and he also said that he saw a van pull out of the driveway around 6:45PM. Dale and Tammy were asked if they saw a vehicle in the driveway but were not asked if they went out at 6:45PM.
Corporal Seversen's first interview with Shannon Murrin was conducted at 1:40AM on August 18th, 1994. In his interview Shannon gave Constable Seversen an account of his whereabouts on the evening of the 17th of August. He said that he woke up from a nap sometime between 6 and 7PM, had a beer, walked up to McDonalds because CJ had told him to look for his stolen bike there, then went to Rob Holmes place. He told Seversen that he had seen several people there. When he and Rob became aware that Mindy was missing they went out searching for Mindy on Rob's motorcycle. Shannon suggested that Seversen check all of the people with whom he had been in contact and offered not to talk to these individuals again until the RCMP had interviewed them. Shannon also volunteered details of his criminal record to Corporal Seversen at this time.
Seversen confirmed that when the Mugfords left at 6PM Shannon was sleeping and he was able to confirm that Shannon had been looking for his stolen bike for a few weeks. Rob and Ellie Holmes lived in a duplex at 1172 Elwyn Road just minutes away from Mindy's house and where Shannon lived. They had two boarders Alfred Nelson and Charles Olivier. Olivier was known as CJ. All four were home that night and Ellie had three friends over for a jam session. Richard Billings, a friend of Rob's was also at the house at 7PM.
In their August 19, 1994 statements to police Rob Holmes, Ellie Holmes, Dorothy Shea, Charles Olivier, Alfred Nelson, and Richard Billings said that they saw Shannon around 7PM. One of the witnesses, Alfred Nelson, said he remembered the event because he was returning a call to the police station when he looked outside the open front door and saw Shannon standing in the carport. When police checked they found that Alfred Nelson had indeed made a call to police at 6:59PM. Rob said that when he first saw Shannon he was standing in the carport and CJ was filling his lighter with fluid. CJ remembered talking to Shannon around 7PM and Ellie looked outside and saw Shannon talking to CJ. These witnesses also recalled seeing Shannon throughout the evening. In his first statement, Richard Billings, who spent the evening searching for Mindy along with Shannon and Rob, said that Shannon was at Rob's and with Rob the whole evening. Rob Holmes confirmed that Shannon had spent the whole evening on the back of his motorcycle. Later on investigators retraced Shannon's route to McDonalds and back and were able to confirm that he could have easily walked the route and arrived at the Holmes residence at 7PM.
As a result of Seversen's inquiries Seversen believed that Shannon had been at the Holmes residence at about 7:00 PM on August 17th, 1994. Seversen testified he believed that Shannon was an unlikely suspect. Although Gary Tidsbury (right) had made contradictory statements about when Shannon became a suspect, in at the trial he said he was aware that Seversen had eliminated Shannon as a suspect.
Constable Wlodarcazk was the first officer to arrive on the scene after Mindy had been reported missing. He was just beginning his inquiries when he was called to act as the uniform backup for plain-clothes Constables Seversen, Hoffman and Slade.
Seversen became aware that Mindy Tran was missing about twenty minutes after Mimi Tran reported her missing. Constables Seversen, Hoffman, and Slade had gone to a house on Gaggin or Elwyn Road that they were interested in and had requested a uniform backup. Constable Wlodarczak's role was to sit in front of the house in his marked police car. A few minutes later Hoffman reported to the police operator "negative on that possible". Wlodarczak said that the house was in darkness and there was no answer at the door. The white vehicle was parked there. Corporal Miller suggested that they keep an eye on the place. When questioned by Peter Wilson about this event Constables Seversen, Wlodarcazk, and Johnstone evaded the question. Peter Wilson did not pursue it.
Forty-five minutes after Mindy disappeared police received an anonymous call about a man in a vehicle cruising around Mindy's neighborhood trying to entice children with candy. Unfortunately the license number was written down wrong and it wasn't until days later that police realized they had the wrong license number.
Ryan and Jessica Campbell weren't the only witnesses who saw the white van cruising the neighborhood. Several residents of the Taylor Road area reported a man in a white van driving slowly through Mindy's neighborhood prior to August 17th and on August 17th. But the white van tip wasn't pursued at the beginning of the investigation. On August 19th police received a tip that a girl matching Mindy's description was struggling with a man in a brown pickup truck. The brown pickup truck became the focus of the police investigation for the first few weeks.
When police realized there were at least three reports of a white van in Mindy's neighborhood close to the time she disappeared they changed their focus to the white van. The three witnesses, Jessica Campbell, Mrs. Cypes, and Mrs. Barber, were able to provide detailed descriptions of the van and the driver and police were able to come up with a composite of both. Even though none of the three witnesses described a scar in their description of the white van driver the composite included a scar and the driver became known as Scarface. Kelowna police received over 1000 white van tips and police focused on these tips until Mindy's body was found on October the 11th. The white van was never located. The brown pickup was never located.
At trial defense asked about whether the abandoned house at 1305 Gaggin Road had been searched. Fred Radke who lived at 380 Taylor Road had taken Seversen to the abandoned house the night of the 17th. Radke stated that he used to live in that house and was worried about whether the septic tank had a cover on it. Seversen testified that he searched the yard of the house that night but did not search the inside of the house.
While Shannon's trial was going on James Hubert Holmes, a convicted pedophile allegedly confessed to murdering Mindy in this abandoned house. In his alleged confession, which was aired by VTV after the trial, Holmes also said that when he abducted Mindy her bike was left in the middle of the road. Holmes allegedly said and that he moved it onto Shannon's lawn. And in yet another strange twist this same house was torn down ten days after Mindy disappeared.
After the trial a statement surfaced that had never reached the Defense's hands. The Trans and Child Find had hired an investigator to search for Mindy. Fred Maile, an ex RCMP officer, who was now an investigator with CanPro located Mrs. Hinners. He and Rhonda Morgan from Child Find took three statements from Mrs. Hinners.
Mrs. Hinners was on her way to a gourmet dinner party where each of the guests brings their culinary masterpieces. She was driving northbound on Taylor Road on her way to the Birke residence when she noticed a pink bike in the middle of the southbound lane and an "ugly brown van" half in the driveway of 360 Taylor Road and partly sticking out on the road. Mrs. Hinners was anxious to be home from her dinner party by 9PM so she was annoyed at having to take the extra time to swerve around Mindy's bike and the "ugly brown van". She arrived at the Birkes' residence, only to realize that she had left her contribution to the dinner, her puff pastry, at home. She drove home via Taylor Road again and again drove past Mindy's bike. It was still in the middle of the road. Arriving home she quickly grabbed her puff pastry, but this time as she drove past 360 Taylor Road she noticed that the pink bike was no longer on the road but on the lawn of 360 Taylor Road. A woman was shouting at a little girl to get away from the bike. Voices were calling out for Mindy. It was 7:25PM.
The Kelowna RCMP's explanation was that they never received these statements however documentation of the investigation shows TIP files opened for Mrs. Hinners, Fred Maile, and Child Find, and that Gary Tidsbury was in regular contact with Fred Maile and Child Find. Fred Maile is known for his work on the Clifford Olson case when he was still with the RCMP.
On October the 11th, 1994 volunteer searchers, Rex Fitz-Gerald and Gary Kam discovered the body of eight-year-old Mindy Tran. Mindy Tran's body was located in a shallow grave at the base of a large tree in Mission Creek Regional Park about a mile from where Mindy lived. On October 13th, 1994, an autopsy was conducted. The pathologist, Dr. Sheila Carlyle, determined that Mindy's death was a homicide. Her nose had been broken in a couple of places and she had been strangled. Her killer had used Mindy's shorts as a ligature. Mindy's body was in an advanced state of decomposition so there was no evidence of a sexual assault but because Mindy's body was naked from the waist down Dr. Carlyle concluded that Mindy had also been sexually assaulted.
In a departure from procedure and knowing that there was a stain on Mindy's T-shirt that had not yet been analyzed Corporal Johnson washed Mindy's T-shirt and shorts. He testified at the trial that he was sorry for his mistake.
The search for Mindy was one of the largest in Canadian history. Fitz-Gerald testified that on August 22nd, the official search was called off but that he kept searching for Mindy. A friend had sent him a divining rod and after a few weeks of practice Fitz-Gerald started using the rod to search for Mindy. Tidsbury notes that he gave Fitz-Gerald some strands of Mindy's hair to attach to the rod. Fitz-Gerald said that on October 11, 1994 he asked fellow searcher, Gary Kam, to accompany him on his search. Using the divining rod he found Mindy's body in Mission Creek Park, a location about a mile from where Mindy lived. Tidsbury withheld this detail from the media. This disclosure did not come about until the preliminary hearing, but a publication ban prevented publication of this detail. At Shannon's trial five year later the media reported how Mindy's body was discovered. No one has ever questioned this explanation.
There were some other strange things about the discovery of Mindy's body. First of all both Kam and Fitz-Gerald testified that there was a red cloth attached to a tree that attracted their attention. Secondly they both hiked out of the location to call the police. Mindy's body was left unattended for two hours while they waited for Tidsbury to arrive at the park entrance. Thirdly, after they all hiked into the location, Kam and Fitz-Gerald immediately left. This was unusual because Fitz-Gerald and Kam were expert searchers who could even tell the difference between the tracks left by experts and those left by volunteers.
One last thing that was unusual was the fact that there were at least a hundred baggies containing glue, and several tubes of glue found amongst the leaves and twigs used to bury Mindy. Although everyone who knew Shannon was asked if he sniffed glue the answer was always negative.
Sergeant Tidsbury testified that after Mindy's body was found less than a mile from home he concluded that Mindy's killer did not use a vehicle. He also testified that the file had grown enormous. There were a total of forty-four file boxes full of paper. RCMP headquarters in Vancouver sent the Review Team in to help.
Within two days of arriving in Kelowna the Review Team agreed with Tidsbury that no vehicle was used in Mindy's abduction and as a result Shannon Murrin became the prime suspect. The Review Team and Tidsbury also concluded that a suitcase was used to transport Mindy's body and began reviewing tips of people who had seen a man with a suitcase on August 17, 1994. They began interviewing suitcase witnesses and later put out a press release asking the public for assistance in locating the man with the suitcase. Coincidentally Tidsbury had notes about another investigation where police thought a suitcase had been used.
This conclusion was surprising given the fact that there was no new evidence since Seversen had eliminated Shannon Murrin as a suspect. At trial there was no evidence presented to indicate why police focus shifted to Shannon but both Tidsbury's and Seversen's notes indicate that the prime focus in October became Shannon Murrin. While the Review Team was out interviewing suitcase witnesses Sergeant Tidsbury organized an undercover sting operation against Shannon Murrin. Seversen argued that Shannon was not a suspect. During a mini voir dire at trial Tidsbury said that he had to reprimand the Review Team for ridiculing Seversen for his opinion that Shannon was not a suspect.
The undercover operation went ahead in November of 1994. In one part of the operation Shannon was offered $250,000 cash to kill a woman and her child. His refusal is documented in Tidsbury's notes. Tidsbury continued with the undercover operation and arranged for the undercover man, Rick Demeester, to offer Shannon a trip home to Newfoundland for Christmas so that he could talk to Shannon's friend Holmes. The Mugfords, whom Shannon had been living with in August, had returned to Newfoundland and Shannon now occupied the other side of Rob Holmes' duplex, 1170 Elwyn Road.
Tidsbury wanted Shannon out of the way. During Shannon's absence from Kelowna over the Christmas holidays Tidsbury made arrangements to re-interviewed Rob and Ellie Holmes.
There was no evidence at trial, nor is there any evidence in the files that indicates why Tidsbury chose the route he ended up taking. The principal undercover operator, Constable Demeester, stated in his testimony at the preliminary hearing that in his dealings with Shannon Murrin he received no information that assisted the investigation. He testified that by January 5th, 1995, his involvement as an undercover operator was winding down because no evidence had been obtained through the undercover operation.
At trial Corporal Seversen was cross-examined about whether the RCMP was happy with the way the investigation of Shannon Murrin had been going at the beginning of January 1995. Seversen said they weren't happy because the investigation hadn't been successful up to that point. He agreed that the undercover operation had not been successful either: Tab #9, Testimony of Corp. Seversen in Regina v. Murrin, Sept. 23, 1999, page 27.
From December 1994 and throughout the investigation Seversen and Tidsbury were in regular contact with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary. The officer who became Tidsbury's right hand man was Constable Jason Shepherd. Unfortunately for Shannon Jason Shepherd input would add fuel to the fire.
In Book 7 of Tidsbury's notes Shepherd advised Tidsbury that Shannon was a bad character and that Shannon had filed a complaint against the RCMP in Newfoundland.
Book 12 of the notes contains the following notes concerning a conversation with Jason Shepherd:
advised he was phoning to advise me he Murrin was prime suspect in double murder - Workman and female
Murrin also suspect in 4 or 5 children sexual assaults
The transcript of the Voir Dire for the trial of Holmes, Dunn, and MacDonald documents Tidsbury's testimony that what he told these three men about Shannon was public knowledge in Newfoundland. The three men used the information from Shepherd and Tidsbury lies described below as justification for beating Shannon nearly to death.
Up until Mindy Tran's murder Shannon had never been a suspect in a murder investigation or in a child sexual assault case. That all changed after Tidsbury and Shepherd met.
There was still no evidence against Shannon Murrin except the alleged Confession Letter. Shannon still had alibi from Alfred Nelson, Charles Olivier, and Richard Billings - but Tidsbury persevered. He contacted Cpl. Graham Hubbs of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary for assistance in locating the alleged Confession Letter. He told Hubbs that he would be willing to pay up to $1000 for the letter but Donnie Oliver had no knowledge of a letter and even after a search of his residence and the residence of Wayne Oliver, another friend of Shannon's, there still was no sign of a letter.
Tidsbury began visiting Shannon in the hospital on a regular basis. He vetoed a request by Joan Dunn, a friend of Shannon's, to visit him. At Tidsbury's urging Rob Holmes visited Shannon in the hospital. In Shannon's autobiography he talks about how Rob Holmes came into his hospital room and threatened to harm his parents if Shannon did not plead guilty to pointing a loaded firearm.
Over the next few days Tidsbury contacted the Kelowna General Hospital and arranged a meeting between T. Wayne Tucker, President and Chief Executive Officer at the Kelowna General, Dr. Phil White, chief of staff, and Dr. Charlie Lye to arrange for an undercover officer to be in Shannon's hospital room. Tidsbury took them all into his confidence. On January 10th Dr. Lye reported to Tidsbury that the hospital was ready for their undercover agent, Al Mitchell. After a conversation with a Dr. Kim Levere about Mitchell's medical card Tidsbury notes "no more problems with medical card". Mitchell was admitted to hospital the next day and placed in a bed next to Shannon.
During his eleven-day hospital stay Shannon's only visitors were Tidsbury, Rob Holmes, and Constable Demeester. The hospital never contacted Mr. and Mrs. Murrin. Shannon's medication was withheld, his safety was not looked after, and he received sub-standard care. Shannon's family was not told anything until RNC Constable Hubbs stopped by on January 13, 1995 (Seversen's notes). A few days later Tidsbury called Mr. Murrin and told him that his son had murdered Mindy Tran. (Book 8 Tidsbury's notes)
The hospital undercover operation was not successful and there was still no evidence against Shannon Murrin. On January 17, 1995, the day Shannon was released from hospital, he was interrogated for 12 hours and then arrested for pointing a loaded firearm. Tidsbury had provided Shannon with a lawyer by the name of Michael E Kennedy.
When Shannon appeared in court on the firearm charge and the next day the Kelowna Courier printed the whole transcript of Shannon's appearance in court. Shannon told the very-puzzled judge that he pled guilty and wanted the maximum sentence of two years so that he could return to Newfoundland to be closer to his family. The judge sentenced him to two years and recommended a return to Newfoundland. Unfortunately for Shannon, he would not see Newfoundland until the millennium.
The way the firearm incident was handled differed a great deal from another Kelowna incident. On January 7, 1995 a Kelowna man, Darwin David Demers, pumped three bullets into his neighbour, Stephen Lee. RCMP charged Demers with attempted murder but a few months later these charges were stayed
There are many references in Tidsbury notes to requests by Shannon to speak to his lawyer, but Shannon never heard from Michael E. Kennedy after his appearance in court. Shannon went through twenty-two long interrogations over the next few weeks. Tidsbury conducted most of the interviews but Constable Doody did a few of them. Constable Doody was the Investigator of the Year on the Terry Arnold case. Arnold was convicted of murdering a young girl in Kelowna but he was set free when the appeal was heard. Not one of the twenty-two interviews was introduced into evidence at trial. The jury heard only Shannon's taped statement of August 19, 1994.
There was still no evidence against Shannon so Tidsbury's response was to recruit the prison Chaplain as an informant. The Chaplain had agreed to pass on anything incriminating Shannon said but Pastor Randy didn't come up with anything.
Tidsbury was able to block Shannon's transfer requests even though there were many references in his notes of threats to Shannon's safety in prison.
* Warrants and Private Communications Intercepts - Grounds for Belief
Beginning on January 6, 1995 a whole slew of warrants and wire tap orders were issued. Tidsbury asked for Seversen's help in preparing the warrants. Appendix B of the warrants - grounds for belief contains the following information.
* Ryan Campbell saw Mindy lay her bike down in front of 360A Taylor Road and walk towards the door of Shannon Murrin's residence
* There were several inconsistencies in Shannon Murrin's statement
* Shannon refused to take a polygraph and refused to give DNA samples
* Several witnesses had seen a man matching Shannon's description carrying a suitcase that appeared to contain a body to Mission Creek Park
* RCMP had seized a suitcase from the Mugfords with four hairs in it
* Bob Holmes now said that Shannon didn't arrive at his house until 9PM on August 17, 1994
* Holmes' suggested that Tidsbury accompany him to Mission Creek Park on Dec. 29 to show him where Shannon was acting strange.
* Holmes Dunn & McDonald advised Tidsbury that they believed Shannon was responsible for Mindy's death
* Holmes, Dunn & McDonald told Tidsbury that Shannon Murrin confessed to killing Mindy Tran
* The following information was learned during the undercover operation (Tidsbury's warrant)
* That he is capable of killing a child
* That he has experience in killing people
* That he is willing to kill people for the organization
* That he was willing to kill a police officer for the organization
* Blood spatters were found at Shannon's home when they searched it on January 6, 1995 (Seversen's warrant)
Seversen's warrant omitted the fact that the blood was Shannon's blood from the assault by the Three Amigos.
The Crown theorized that Shannon Murrin transported Mindy's body from his home to Mission Creek Park in a suitcase. It was theorized that Shannon then carried the empty suitcase back from the park and disposed of it in an unknown location. In total there were thirteen suitcase witnesses whose evidence was introduced at trial but the TIP file shows numerous other suitcase sightings that did not fit the suitcase theory. For example, one of the other men with a suitcase was a pilot for Canadian Airlines.
The first person to come forward with information about a man carrying a suitcase on August 17, 1994 was Randall Red. In another bizarre twist to the story Randall Redl committed suicide in 1995.
Nine of the eleven suitcase witnesses who testified were not able to identify Shannon Murrin. All the witnesses gave different descriptions of the suitcase man and the suitcase. There were several problems with the two witnesses that did identify Mr. Murrin.
Richard Yakiwchuk and Phyllis Mintram, the two witnesses who identified Shannon Murrin as the man with the suitcase were empty suitcase witnesses. According to the Crown's theory the suitcase man had already buried Mindy and was heading back from the park with the empty suitcase. They testified that they saw Shannon with a light suitcase. None of the on-the-way-to-the-park witnesses identified Shannon.
August 17th was a warm, summer evening and many of the Taylor Road and Woods Rd witnesses were outdoors enjoying the warm evening yet there were no sitings of a man leaving through the front or back door of Shannon's residence, none who saw the suitcase man on Woods Road at the beginning of the theorized route, and none who saw the suitcase man at Mission Creek Park.
Both witnesses who identified Shannon as the suitcase man were shown two different identification ballots. The only thing in common on the two ballots was Shannon Murrin's picture. The first lineup was in color, as is dictated by standard practice. The second ballot was in black and white, a less used tool. Even more problematic was the fact that Shannon had been identified on the national news as the prime suspect in the Mindy Tran murder. Neither Yakiwchuk nor Mintram were able to positively identify Shannon from the ballot. They were only able to identify Shannon positively after he had appeared on TV and after more than one visit from Tidsbury.
The biggest problem however was that if you believed these two witnesses you would have to disbelieve several credible Crown witnesses who testified that Shannon was out searching with Rob Holmes all evening.
Tidsbury and Seversen didn't get around to re-interviewing the remaining alibi witnesses until October 1996. Like Rob Holmes, Ellie Holmes, and Dorothy Shea these witnesses now said that they did not see Shannon at 7PM. Seversen and Tidsbury's efforts to manipulate the witnesses were obvious. But even the new improved times did not help the Crown because if you believed these witnesses then you would have to disbelieve other, more credible Crown witnesses such as Brymer and Stephanie Mugfords and Beverly Eaton. Beverly Eaton owned the duplex at 360 Taylor Road and on the day Mindy went missing was staying in her motorhome parked in the driveway of 360 Taylor Road.
There were other reasons that the new evidence wouldn't work for the Crown. All of the alibi witnesses had given statements that they had seen Shannon more than once on the 17th of August. Even if you believed that all six alibi witnesses were mistaken about seeing Shannon at 7PM on August 17, 1994 the new improved times did not fit the Crown's suitcase theory. Even the Ambler report noted that the times presented by the Crown just didn't add up.
Two undercover operations and twenty-two interviews with Shannon Murrin had not produced a shred of evidence. Suitcases seized from the Mugfords and the Kelowna dump had no evidence linking Shannon to the crime. The duplex at 360A Taylor was searched half a dozen times using every conceivable forensic tool available but did not produce any results. The total contents of Shannon's home were seized and analyzed. Knives thought to be used in making Mindy's grave were seized and analyzed. None of the eighty-eight items seized by warrant produced any evidence.
Mindy's body was too badly decomposed for examiners to come up with any nuclear DNA. The only other source of DNA, Mindy's clothes, had been washed. The only physical evidence that could link Mindy's killer to Mindy was three hairs found in the soil scooped up with Mindy's panties. The conclusion of the RCMP forensic lab in Vancouver was that these hairs were not consistent with Shannon Murrin's hair.
The description of the hairs tested in the Vancouver forensic lab analysis were as follows:
* hair 11 Caucasian pubic hair with root
* hair 12 Caucasian/Mongolian pubic hair
* hair 13 Caucasian body hair
* Mitochondrial DNA
Convicted pedophile-turned-snitch Doug Martin dubbed 'Father Confessor' who Police used dozens of times including to convict Thomas Sophonow and Shannon Murrin
Shannon's trial had already been delayed several times as the Crown continued to look for evidence. They must have realized that the changed witness statements and Douglas Martin's (right) unrecorded alleged confessions didn't make a strong case. Josiah Wood had used the Sophonow case as a basis for using Douglas Martin. He may have been aware that Sophonow's case had come under scrutiny.
In 1998 Josiah Wood argued vehemently that MtDNA evidence be introduced at trial. When Judge Henderson allowed the evidence Shannon's trial had to be postponed another year to allow the Defense time to study MtDNA. On April 8, 1998 the Kelowna Courier headline read MURRIN DNA ON WAY TO ENGLAND. Tidsbury and all three members of the prosecution team personally delivered the DNA.
Shannon Murrin's jury was the first jury in Canada to be presented with Mitochondrial DNA (MtDNA). MtDNA is not at all like nuclear DNA. Nuclear DNA is inherited from both parents and is found in the nucleus of the cell. MtDNA is extracted from the mitochondria in a cell and it is thought that MtDNA is inherited from the mother. Even the Crown's scientific experts admitted that MtDNA could not be used as an identifier; it could only be used to eliminate a suspect.
Dr. Gillian Tully, Director of Forensic Sciences Services (FSS) in Britain, testified as an expert witness for the Crown on MtDNA and explained it to the jury. She admitted on cross-examination that scientists only began studying MtDNA in 1994 and that there is some scientific evidence to suggest that the DNA of the father might make a small contribution. Defense brought up three major problems with MtDNA: heteroplasme, databases, and contamination.
Dr. Tully defined heteroplasme as the existence of more than one MtDNA sequence in the body of a particular person and agreed that heteroplasme is now believed to be common place. That means that all contributors to the databases could have another MtDNA sequence that could differ from their original profile. If the people in the databases were re-tested the character of the databases would change.
Peter Wilson's cross-examination also determined that the FSS handles contamination by visually examining the amount of contamination present and then making a value judgment, whereas the FBI has a 10% rule. If the amount of contaminant in reagent blank is greater than 10% of the amount of DNA in the sample results the FBI discards the samples as invalid.
Dr. Tully admitted that the databases do not reflect heteroplasme and do not reflect the genetic makeup of the people represented in them. Defense expert, Dr. Peter D'Eustachio, testified that a reagent blank functions like miner's canary. If contamination is present the test stops and trouble shooting begins. He also said that the databases don't reflect genetic makeup of people in them and that the known databases are incomplete because of heteroplasme. Mark Wilson, Director of the FBI forensic unit didn't know if there were any Canadians or Newfoundlanders in his database.
The known databases consisted of the FSS database of 63 people, another database of 230 Europeans and 3 north Americans called the Miller Concordance, and the FBI's SWGDAM database of 1219 army personnel.
Even with all the problems associated with MtDNA John Bark, manager of specialized DNA unit at FSS laboratory in Birmingham, testified that hairs 11,12, and 13 matched Shannon Murrin's hair and only 24 out of 10,000 people would have the same MtDNA profile.
On cross-examination even more problems were revealed. Bark had reversed protocol by testing the known sample first thereby increasing the likelihood of contamination by Shannon's nuclear DNA. Bark explained that Shannon's nuclear DNA was analyzed first because of the urgency of the request. Contamination was present in all the tests and contamination greater than 10% was present in 2 of the 3 tests. There was only enough of hair 11 to produce one test instead of the usual two tests for confirmation purposes. And the nuclear DNA extracted from the root of hair 11 in Canada was a different DNA sequence from that of the shaft. Not only that but a different sequence was arrived at in each of the two tests on hair 11.
The way Bark's figures were arrived at was also strange. The jury was led to believe that Shannon Murrin's MtDNA was rare. The FSS database of 63 people was examined and produced a match. But then other databases were added to the original database to reach a conclusion. The Miller Concordance was examined and it produced another match. Then the results were sent to the FBI for comparison with the SWGDAM database. This database didn't produce a match and Bark concluded that only 24 in 10,000 people would have Shannon Murrin's MtDNA.
On cross-examination, Peter Wilson questioned Bark about the confusing conclusions on hair 11. Bark conceded that it was an impossibility to have one DNA result for the root of hair 11 and another for the shaft but he concluded that contamination was the culprit. Bark based his conclusion on the fact that each hair matched each other and Shannon's DNA.
How could hairs that didn't match each other in Vancouver match each other in England? Given the problems with Tidsbury's investigation why weren't the hairs photographed? Why was Tidsbury allowed to transport them himself? Why was the nuclear DNA extracted from the root of hair 11 in Vancouver different from the shaft? Is it possible that Shannon Murrin's hairs were sent to England instead of the original ones from the Vancouver lab?
Tidsbury had to find an informant quickly because Shannon was continually requesting transfers back east. From the time of Shannon's firearm charge in February of 1995 to January, 1997 when Shannon was finally charged with Mindy Tran's murder Tidsbury was able to find 9 informants. Seven of these informants testified at Shannon's preliminary hearing. Douglas Martin was the cream of the crop and the only one to testify at Shannon's trial.
Tidsbury's notes document these efforts. The notes, once itemized, will show the corrupt and insidious relationships that developed between Tidsbury, the B.C. parole board, prison officials, and Crown prosecutor Josiah Wood.
The list of documented favors to these individuals includes Tidsbury's intervention to have: charges stayed, victim services, transfers to prison of choice, shorter sentences, help with parole, relocation money, clothing and rent allowances, bills looked after, cash paid, and other special privileges. Besides giving Douglas Martin money Tidsbury had Douglas Martin's car fixed and put him up in a motel.
These relationships and the ongoing request for favors consume Tidsbury's time from 1995 to 1999 when he retired.
The media is supposed to form one of the checks and balances in our society. That didn't occur in the BC media coverage of Mindy Trans murder investigation. There's the court of law and the court of public opinion. A court of law had acquitted Shannon Murrin of the murder but the court of public opinion headed up by the media tried and convicted him before, during, and after his trial.
The media had a duty to report the facts so that the public could form their own opinion about Shannon Murrin's guilt or innocence. Instead they guided that opinion. Repeated incidents of describing Shannon Murrin as a transient, a drifter, and an alcoholic were only minor aspects of their biased reporting. How and why was this bias created?
The discovery of Mindy's body through the use of a divining rod was a detail of the investigation that RCMP withheld from the media. This fact was not reported until Shannon's trial in August 1999. Even though there were rumors of a persistent psychic the BC media never looked into it. To this day the media has never investigated this detail.
On January 6th, 1995, the day after Shannon's near fatal beating, Tidsbury asked the media not to report the details of the beating. He said that it would compromise the RCMP's investigation. It wasn't until February 1, 1995 when RCMP put out a media release confirming that RCMP had a suspect in the murder of Mindy Tran that the BC media finally reported. But what they reported was exactly what the RCMP told them. This long media release stated that Shannon Murrin became a suspect within the first 24 hours, that his alibi was initially corroborated but had since fallen apart, that after being questioned by the three acquaintances he had pointed a loaded firearm at them and had subsequently been taken to Mission Creek Park and beaten by the three of them.
When the BC media finally reported the beating they exonerated themselves and parroted the RCMP explanation. The Kelowna Courier headline read: RCMP REQUESTED MEDIA GAG, WHY WE LISTENED IN THE TRAN CASE, PROSECUTORS HAVE ONE SHOT AT CONVICTION, CONVICTED CRIMINAL WAS LIVING WITH THE FAMILY OF MINDY'S BEST FRIEND, AND SUSPECT'S ALIBI FELL APART. The Province headline read COPS SLAMMED: KELOWNA RCMP BUNGLED PROBE OF MINDY TRAN'S MURDER, NEIGHBORS SAY but parroted the RCMP's version of the events January 5, 1995.
The next day the British Columbia newspapers justified their decision to release Shannon Murrin's name to the public and another series of articles ensued. The Vancouver Sun wrote: MEDIA FACED DILEMMA OVER NOT NAMING SUSPECT IN MINDY TRAN CASE, ETHECIST SAY; and IS TRANSIENT, 44, MINDY'S KILLER? After this the BC media, especially the Vancouver Province, was especially vicious. This is when the Edmonton articles started.
According to the Tidsbury and Seversen notes, Constable Terry Alm had become Tidsbury's RCMP's right hand man in Alberta. There are notes from many discussions over a long period of time between Tidsbury and Alm and Seversen and Alm. Alm first became involved in the case because of the two Edmonton abductions, Tremblay and Gustafsen.
At least a dozen possible suspects in the Mindy Tran investigation had lived in Edmonton and Kelowna at the relevant times. The difference between Shannon and the other suspects was that Edmonton RCMP already had Shannon's hair and DNA samples on file in Edmonton.
On November 2, 1992 Shannon Murrin signed a consent form authorizing forensic analysis of the hair and blood samples donated by him. This event came about as a result of an appeal by RCMP to all federal parolees to donate their samples to help solve the attempted murder and murder of the Edmonton children. In both these cases Edmonton RCMP were able to collect the perpetrator's DNA from the crime scene. With the exception of a brief interview with Terry Alm in 1995 instigated by Tidsbury Shannon Murrin has never been questioned in these two murders. Yet reports of Shannon as a suspect in these two murders continued to surface in the newspapers before, during, and after Shannon's trial. Headlines such as INVESTIGATED IN ALBERTA KILLING (Kelowna Courier) and SUSPECT IN TRAN CASE INVESTIGATED FOR LINK TO EDMONTON SLAYING (Vancouver Sun) appeared in February 95. At least the Courier did some checking and on the next day printed an article entitled PUNKY LINK OVERBLOWN: ALTA POLICE. But media speculation about the Edmonton connection didn't end there.
On January 20, 2000, during the trial, and after the jury began deliberations yet another article concerning the alleged Edmonton connection appeared in The Province. Reporter Fabian Dawson's headline took up the whole front page of the newspaper and earned a contempt of court charge for the Province. It screamed: PLEASE TELL ME HE DIDN'T KILL MY DAUGHTER.
After the trial the BC media continued to explore the Edmonton connection but these new articles now speculated on what the jury would have done had they known about the Edmonton connection. On January 26, 2000 the day after the verdict, the Kelowna Capital News wrote about it in JUSTICE IS NOT SERVED BY EVERY COURT RULING. And fifteen months later, on August 27, 2001, after news of an alleged confession to the murder, and news of a missing witness statement that might have prevented a trial, Vancouver Province reporter Joey Thompson produced yet another full page article on the Edmonton connection. These headlines read HOW DO YOU BLINDFOLD A JURY? In this article Joey Thompson congratulates Fabian Dawson and her employer on beating the contempt of court charge. She said that "reporters and news editors did what has long been an established practice in the word-trafficking trade: inform their readers of relevant facts - most times damming and unknown to the jury."
The RCMP and the British Columbia media had convicted Shannon Murrin of the sexual assault and murder of Mindy Tran on January 5, 1995 - two years before Shannon was charged with the crime and five years before his trial. They weren't about to let go. The Province headline on Shannon's acquittal read: LAUGHING ALL THE WAY HOME: SHANNON MURRIN NOT GUILTY. But that day there was two other announcements. The Kelowna Capital News headline read: TIDSBURY WON'T BE CHARGED (see Tidsbury investigation); and at a press release the RCMP said they charged the right man.
The BC media were primed for any news that would cast guilt upon Shannon, and I unwittingly provided them with the loaded gun and enough ammunition for the next two years. My visit to Newfoundland to talk to Shannon about writing this book was the only event that the BC media investigated. On February 17, 2000 The Province headline read: MURRIN JUROR SENSATION: WOMAN WHO SAT ON SHANNON MURRIN'S MURDER TRIAL IS WITH HIM IN NEWFOUNDLAND.
The Vancouver Sun and The Province who had done no investigative reporting on Mindy's murder, her murder investigation, or on Shannon himself now were investigating me. The Vancouver Sun promptly informed the RCMP.
On February 26, 2000 the RCMP and Canadian Press announced POLICE LOOKING INTO MURRIN, JUROR LINK. The media went into frenzy. The worst of the articles was published by The Province and written by Dene Moore at Canadian Press. The headlines read WHAT IS IT WITH THESE GUYS? These guys, who are pictured in the full-page article, were Paul Bernardo, Shannon Murrin, Peter Gill, and Clifford Olson. It wasn't until December 8, 2000 nine and a half months later, and in a tiny headline, that RCMP announced that there would be no charges against Shannon or me for obstruction of justice.
On March 16, 2000 VTV reporter, Margo Harper, the only BC reporter to investigate the January 5, 1995 beating, came out with two startling pieces of information. A convicted pedophile had allegedly confessed to Mindy's murder. What made the news so important was the other piece of information. A witness had seen Mindy's bike in the middle of the road - twice. The bike was not originally left on the lawn of the duplex. Someone other than Mindy had put it there. But these new developments did not pique the interest of Pacific Press reporters and there was no follow up on the information. Not even news that Josiah Wood's star witness, Douglas Martin, also testified against the now-cleared Thomas Sophinow piqued the investigative spirit of BC newspapers.
On April 7, 2000 Chuck Poulson editor of the Kelowna Courier wrote about the attempted suicide of Corporal Seversen. Seversen had left a note and later confessed to Staff Sergeant Callens that he had committed criminal acts for Tidsbury. Staff Sergeant Callens told Victoria Police, who had been commissioned to investigate allegations made by defense in their request for a public enquiry. Seversen was invited back to work when he recovered. The Victoria report was never made available to the public.
Peter Wilson's request for a public enquiry did prompt two investigations into the handling of the Tran investigation. On April 14, 2000 the RCMP appointed two investigators from the Victoria Police Department's major crimes section to look into allegations of witness tampering and withholding of evidence. The RCMP also appointed four officers from Alberta, one a senior investigator, to conduct an administrative review of the handling of the case.
Wilson said that Douglas Martin had been coached and that the Hinners statement had been deliberately withheld from the defense. There is ample evidence of both allegations.
On October 31, 2000, after a five-month investigation, Victoria Police concluded that there was no basis for charges against any of the Kelowna RCMP officers. They said that Fred Maile, a private investigator and former RCMP officer, and the man who uncovered the information - did not submit the statements to RCMP. The allegation that Tidsbury coached Douglas Martin into fabricating evidence was also deemed groundless. No one has ever seen the report and all requests under the Freedom of Information Act have been denied.
The results of the Ambler investigation was announced after fifteen months of investigation by four senior Alberta RCMP officers. Keith Fraser at the Province reports SHAME ON RCMP, SAYS MURRIN MATE: POLICE SAY THEY GOT THE RIGHT MAN, BUT HE SAYS HE'LL SUE.
The 90-page Ambler report at least produced some paper. About one third of the report was made available to the public. What was made available was so critical of the investigation that the conclusion they reached was surprising. The report concluded that the RCMP had basis for charges against Shannon Murrin. All requests made by the media and the public to get the rest of the report have been unsuccessful.
In an article dated February 24, 2002 entitled TRUTH STILL HARD TO FIND, The Okanagan, formerly the Kelowna Courier, published an article by reporter Brennan Clarke. Clarke asks some tough questions but concludes, "Police steadfastly claim that Murrin was the right man, a conclusion Ambler supports. But Murrin, acquitted once, can never again be charged with Tran's murder."
Sgt. Lunn began an internal investigation into the conduct of Tidsbury in the near fatal beating of Shannon Murrin sometime in 1995. This was not the first time that Tidsbury had been accused of giving permission for the killing of the prime suspect in an investigation. In the trial of Frederick David Butcher, Defense lawyer for Earl Fisk accused of the 1993 first degree murder of Guy Maxwell Strong cross examined Tidsbury about allegations that police had authorized two men, Mark Chaston and Delbert Predy to kill Fisk.
But these allegations did not affect the Tran investigation. Staff Sergeant Darryl Graves allowed Tidsbury to continue on as the lead investigator on the Mindy Tran murder investigation and allowed him to take Shannon's DNA to England. Tidsbury went on to win Investigator of the Year for his work.
The internal investigation into Tidsbury's conduct was still going on during Shannon's trial. In a letter from Josiah Woods to Crown attorney Richard Peck dated August 2, 1999 Josiah informed Peck that he would give Tidsbury all the evidence against him, even though Peck had strongly opposed this move. Josiah Wood explained this unprecedented move by saying that Tidsbury needed to review the evidence so that he could properly testify at Shannon's trial. The results of the investigation into the January 5, 1995 incident were announced January 26, 2000. The RCMP chose the day of Shannon's acquittal to announce that there would be no charges against Tidsbury. There was "insufficient evidence to charge Tidsbury" and "no likelihood of a conviction if a charge was laid". Tidsbury had been exonerated.
On February 25, 2000 Canadian Press reported that Shannon Murrin's acquittal would not be appealed because they found no error in law at this trial. They went on to say that Murrin had been charged on the recommendations of prosecutor, Josiah Wood, who had been retained for a second opinion after Crown counsel recommended Murrin not be charged. The article said that the Crown spent 2.3 million on the case. According to Peter Wilson, Josiah Wood, who had been appointed special prosecutor to the case, was the sixth opinion. Five Crown prosecutors had turned the case down.
Paul McMurray, Shannon's other lawyer, estimated that Josiah Wood's law firm made close to a $1 million in legal fees. Neville McDougall, lawyer for Holmes, Dunn, and MacDonald said it was closer to $2 million.
McMurray and Wilson estimate the cost to taxpayers at around $10 million dollars. A month earlier the Kelowna Capital News had reported that BC Supreme Court Justice Alexander Henderson said during the trial that the case had cost taxpayers several million dollars.
Former Sergeant Tidsbury won the Investigator of the Year reward and retired in 1999. Constables Johnson and Seversen were promoted to Corporal and still work at Kelowna RCMP. Corporal Webb was promoted to Sergeant and works at the RCMP's North Vancouver office.