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Shannon Murrin's near fatal beating

Robert Holmes interview

RCMP Sgt. Gary Tidsbury

Sgt. Gary Tidsbury interviewed Robert Holmes on December the 29th, 1994 and in an unusual departure from standard RCMP practice advised Holmes that Shannon Murrin was the main suspect in Mindy Tran's death. Tidsbury told Holmes that the police had witnesses that saw Mindy knocking on Shannon's door just before she disappeared and that four witnesses had seen a man matching Shannon's description carrying the suitcase that probably contained Mindy's body.

When Holmes still wasn't convinced Tidsbury named two children who had been attacked in Edmonton while Shannon lived there. One had been murdered while the other survived after being left for dead. (Audio Taped Interview of Robert Holmes, Dec. 29, 1994, p.38.) Tidsbury hinted that although never convicted, Shannon had been involved in sexual offences. When Holmes protested that Shannon was a nice guy Tidsbury countered "so was Ted Bundy". Tidsbury then asked Holmes how he felt about someone who could go and kill a little girl like that.

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

The following exchange occurred:

Holmes: I would just as soon kill the bastard who did it, myself, I mean I got no problem with that. But I'd want to make sure it was the person who done it.

Tidsbury: Couldn't agree with you more. I couldn't agree with you more.
(Audio Taped Interview of Robert Holmes, Dec. 29, 1994, p.25)

Tidsbury referred to an outstanding charge against Holmes and asked him for his help. (Audio Taped Interview of Robert Holmes, Dec. 29, 1994, pp.2, 3, and 32.)

Following his interview with Holmes Sgt. Tidsbury, accompanied by Constable Webb, drove Holmes and his wife Ellie to Mission Creek Park and showed them where Mindy Tran's body had been found. In his evidence at Shannon's trial Holmes testified that by the end of his December 29th interview with Tidsbury, Tidsbury had convinced him that Shannon had murdered Mindy Tran. Holmes also stated this in a TV interview with VTV reporter, Margo Harper.

Rob Holmes told Tidsbury that he wanted to discuss the case against Shannon with Al Dunn and Ken MacDonald and on January the 5th, 1995, just before Shannon arrived back from Newfoundland, Sgt. Tidsbury conducted interviews with Al Dunn and Ken MacDonald. In another departure from standard RCMP practice Tidsbury told them both that Shannon Murrin was the prime suspect in Mindy's murder and repeated the reasons he had given Rob Holmes. (Audio Taped Interview of Patrick Dunn, Jan. 5, 19905, p.1) Tidsbury's Jan 5, 1995 collective interview with Holmes, Dunn, and MacDonald was not recorded: (Testimony of Tidsbury in R. v. MacDonald, Holmes and Dunn, June 18, 1996, p.38 - 39).

After the trio agreed to assist the investigation, they discussed taking Shannon to Mission Creek Park to observe his reaction there. Holmes testified that it was Tidsbury's suggestion that they take Shannon to Mission Creek Park. (Testimony of Holmes in R. v. Murrin, Sept 1, 1999, pp. 6 - 7; p.11) Holmes also testified that he believed he had carte blanche to deal with Shannon Murrin. Holmes said that during this collective meeting, Tidsbury was told that if Shannon confessed during the planned talk then Tidsbury had better bring a knife because he would have to cut Shannon down from the tree over Mindy's grave (Testimony of Robert Holmes in R. v. Murrin, Sept. 1, 1999, p. 24 - 25). MacDonald and Dunn both agreed.

Tidsbury, knew that MacDonald was on parole finishing off a lengthy sentence and was subject to a curfew. He arranged to have MacDonald's curfew extended to 10:30 PM so that MacDonald could accompany Holmes and Dunn to the park. (Testimony of Tidsbury in R. v. Murrin, Oct. 18, 1999, p.47) He also told all three that Mindy Tran had been sexually molested. (Taped Interview of Robert Holmes, p.35) At trial Tidsbury agreed that he was aware that Federal inmates are notoriously violent towards alleged sex offenders. (Testimony of Tidsbury in R. v. Murrin, Oct. 18, 1999, p.46) Tidsbury also testified that Jan. 5, 1995 was the first time he had met Dunn and MacDonald. (Testimony of Tidsbury in R. v. Murrin, Oct. 18, 1999, p.54 - 55).

On the evening of January 5, 1995 four members of the RCMP elite General Investigative Section: Sergeant Tidsbury, and Corporals Webb, Seversen and Johnson waited outside Mr. Murrin's residence. The undercover operator, Rick Demeester and Shannon entered Shannon's home. Tidsbury and Webb arrived shortly thereafter. At trial Tidsbury said that his objective was to set up an interview with Shannon the next day. This was the first time Tidsbury had met Shannon Murrin. Shannon agreed to the interview. Tidsbury testified that he and Webb had accomplished their objective and that they departed after receiving a pre-arranged signal from Robert Holmes that their agreed-upon scenario was about to commence. Chico left shortly afterwards, as did Seversen and Johnson.

According to Tidsbury's and Seversen's notes and evidence at trial Shannon had been under constant surveillance since November of 1994. So it was surprising to hear at trial that when the four officers left Shannon's home on Dec. 29, 1994 Tidsbury called off all surveillance by the undercover operators and his own men.

What could Tidsbury have been thinking when he called off the surveillance that night? He had convinced three men that Shannon was a serial child killer, encouraged them to take Shannon to Mindy's gravesite, and arranged with Holmes, Dunn, and MacDonald non-intervention for 45 minutes.

Corp. (Now Sgt.) Killaly, a G.I.S. member of the Kelowna RCMP detachment and the file coordinator of the Mindy Tran investigation, testified that on the afternoon of Jan. 5, 1995 she stopped by Tidsbury's office to ask about the plans for the evening. Tidsbury told her that Shannon Murrin was to be confronted by Holmes, Dunn, and MacDonald and if necessary taken to Mindy Tran's gravesite. Killaly inquired about surveillance and was informed there were no such plans. Tidsbury also informed her that they might find Shannon tied to a tree at the gravesite. Killaly was so disturbed by this news that she reported Tidsbury's plans to Staff Sergeant Darryl Graves but nothing was done (Testimony of Sgt. Killally in R. v. Murrin, Dec. 15, 1999, pp. 32 - 34).

Holmes, Dunn, and MacDonald confronted Shannon at home. Using baseball bats and a tire iron the trio beat Shannon. Achilles Chabot, who also lived in the duplex gave police a statement that he saw Shannon being carried unconscious or semi-conscious to Dunn's pickup and thrown into the back. Chabot called police. As they left Elwyn Rd. Holmes telephoned Tidsbury on his cell phone and told him they were taking Shannon to the Park and asked to be permitted 45 minutes with him before the police intervened (Testimony of Robert Holmes, in R. v. Murrin, Sept. 1, 1999, pp. 29 - 32).

Tidsbury agreed with Holmes (Testimony of Tidsbury in R. v. Murrin, Oct. 13, p.10). The call from Holmes to Tidsbury occurred at 9:45 PM (Testimony of Tidsbury in R. v. Murrin, Oct. 18, p.58) Shortly after Holmes told Tidsbury that Shannon was being taken to the Park two 911 calls were received by the Kelowna RCMP. At 9:44 PM there was Chabot's complaint of a fight in progress at 1170 Elwyn Rd and at 9:53 PM there was a complaint of a loud disturbance at Mission Creek Park. T (Jan. 5, 1995 Radio communications log, p.1,4).

At Mindy Tran's gravesite in Mission Creek Park and still using weapons the trio continued beating Shannon while they questioned him about Mindy's murder. Just before losing consciousness and in an effort to save his life Shannon told them that it was "all in a letter to Donnie and Marie Oliver in Newfoundland. (Preliminary hearing Regina vs. Holmes, Dunn, and MacDonald)

General Duty members of the Kelowna RCMP responded promptly to both 911 calls. G.I.S. members of the Kelowna RCMP were aware of the 911 calls. General Duty officer Rant attended both 911 calls. On the footbridge across Mission Creek Park he saw a significant amount of blood, and could hear screams coming from the wooded area of the park. As a result he and his partner called the RCMP dispatcher seeking more and a dog PDQ (Testimony of Cst. Rant, in R. v. Murrin, Dec. 15, 1999, pp. 5 - 8).

After the 911 calls were received other General Duty RCMP responded, as it was obvious to them that there was a crime in progress and that further assistance was requested. Cst. Mike Loerke attended. He could hear loud yelling coming from across the creek (Testimony of Cst. Loerke in R. v. Murrin, Dec. 13, 1999, p.31; Jan. 5, 1995 Radio communications log, p.15).

Cst. Janke and his partner Rant first went to Elwyn Rd then to the footbridge where blood was found. The dispatcher told him that someone was being hung over the side of the footbridge. His observations at the scene were consistent with blood found on the icy surface of the creek (Testimony of Cst. Janke in R. v. Murrin, Dec. 15, 1999, pp. 21 - 22).

Cst. Gorman, the dog handler responded to Rant's request for assistance at 10:03 PM (Jan. 5, 1995 Radio communications log, p.8; p.11). Cst. Guiltenane, a second dog handler, also responded at 10:08 PM (Jan 5, 1995 Radio communications log, p.12).

As the General Duty members assembled to deal with the assault Kelowna G.I.S. members gradually became involved. Cst. Webb, Tidsbury's partner, was one of them. After hearing the dispatch related to the Elwyn Rd. fight he realized that Holmes, Dunn, and MacDonald were at Shannon Murrin's residence and at 9:52 PM he called Tidsbury (Testimony of Webb in R. v. Murrin, Oct. 26, 1999, pp. 33 - 35). When Webb heard the second dispatch to Mission Creek Park, he realized that the Elwyn Rd. fight had moved. Again he called Tidsbury and reported that Holmes, Dunn, and MacDonald had taken things into their own hands and were at Mindy Tran's gravesite with Shannon Murrin (Testimony of Webb in R. v. Murrin, Oct. 26, 1999, p.49).

Corp. Seversen was monitoring radio transmissions in the G.I.S. office when he heard the 911 calls come. He also realized what was going on and in he called Tidsbury to advise him of that at 9:51 PM. Seversen realized after the second dispatch that Shannon was being beaten (Testimony of Corp. Seversen in Regina v. Murrin, Sept. 23, 1999, pp. 48 - 50).

Once the Kelowna G.I.S. members realized what was happening they intervened by taking the unusual step of assuming responsibility for the assault complaints. After a conversation with Tidsbury it was decided that Webb would tell officers Janke and Rant to remove themselves from the area and cancel the dog handler (Testimony of Webb in R. v. Murrin, Oct. 26, 1999, pp. 52 - 53). Cst Rant testified that Webb told him to take off when in Rant's view the scene was not secure (Testimony of Cst. Rant in R. v. Murrin, Dec. 15, 1999, pp. 8 - 9).

After speaking with Webb, Tidsbury told the watch commander of the Kelowna detachment at 10:11 PM that all general duty RCMP members attending mission creek were cancelled (Jan. 5, 1995 Radio communications log, p.15). Tidsbury was aware that although uniformed officers were at the scene G.I.S. members were not. He was also aware the crime scene was not secure (Testimony of Tidsbury in R. v. Murrin, Oct. 18, p.72).

At one point the Watch commander sent Corporal Murray Johns, a member with 23 years service, to Mission Creek Park to find out what was going on. Corp. Johns was approached by Cst. Webb who told him -- You weren't here, don't make notes. Johns said that in 23 years of police service no other police officer had ever said such things to him (Testimony of M.E. Johns in Regina v. Murrin, Dec. 15, 1999, pp. 48 - 49). Cst. Webb also told Janke that it was not going to be necessary to make any notes. Janke also thought that unusual, no similar suggestion had ever been made to him before (Testimony of Cst. Janke in R. v. Murrin, Dec. 15, 1999, pp. 27 - 28).

The elite team of investigators from Kelowna GIS until now numbered six. The four original investigators Tidsbury, Webb, Seversen, and Johnson had been joined by two more - Slade and Shaigec. Sergeant Tidsbury gave orders to Seversen and his partner, Johnson, to go near the scene but not to the scene. Slade and Shaigec joined them and the two unmarked vehicles parked at a shopping center nearby awaiting further instructions. (Testimony of Seversen in R. v Murrin)

Tidsbury and his partner Webb were parked in another location near the scene. Tidsbury gave orders for the rest of the team to meet him nearer the scene, just outside of Mission Creek Park. The six of them waited until McDonald, one of the brutal trio, was seen leaving the park. Not one of the six officers intervened to stop the beating. There is evidence that Tidsbury and Webb were actually in the park watching the beating in progress and listening for a confession.

Tidsbury's first question to McDonald was "is he still alive ?" (Testimony of Corp. Seversen in Regina v. Murrin, Sept. 23, 1999, pp. 28 - 32). At trial Seversen testified that he was aware that Shannon's life was in danger from his monitoring of the ongoing police radio communications and he was also aware that uniformed police officers were being sent away before G.I.S. members had the situation under control.

Holmes had testified that he had asked Tidsbury to give the trio at least forty-five minutes to get a confession. They were allowed almost an hour. By the time Kelowna G.I.S. members opened the gate on the footbridge over Mission Creek it was 10:35 PM. From that location it took them 5 minutes to reach Mindy Tran's gravesite where they found Shannon Murrin at 10:40 PM. G.I.S. investigators reached Shannon Murrin 55 minutes after Holmes' request to be permitted 45 minutes with Shannon before the police intervened (Testimony of Corp. Seversen in R. v. Murrin, Sept. 23, 1999, pp.60 - 61). Seversen's notes state that at 10.40 on January 5, 1995 he found Shannon Murrin lying at the gravesite naked and unconscious. The original call from Chabot came in at 9.44.

Despite the fact that MacDonald was in breach of his parole by committing an assault and being away from his half-way house past his curfew Tidsbury told MacDonald to go back to Holmes' residence and had told Callens that the need for an ambulance was not urgent (Proceedings at MacDonald, Holmes, Dunn Preliminary Inquiry, June 18, 1996, p.56). Tidsbury also specifically asked that the ambulance not use lights or sirens (Proceedings at MacDonald, Holmes, Dunn Preliminary Inquiry, June 19, 1996, p.49).

Seversen knew from his extensive police experience that Shannon was in urgent need of medical attention (Proceedings at Preliminary Inquiry, May 29, 1997, pp.44 - 46). Dr. Sheila Carlyle, the forensic pathologist called to testify for the Crown, reviewed Shannon's medical records and examined photographs of his injuries. He had sustained fractured ribs, a fractured cheekbone, head injuries, a brain injury, ongoing hearing difficulties, leg injuries, a fractured ankle, and shock and stress. Dr. Carlyle testified that given his injuries that night that there was a 40% risk of fatality even with treatment. She also said that Shannon's head injury and minus zero temperatures put him in need of urgent medical attention, and that - had he not been found promptly and taken to a hospital, the likely outcome would have been death (Testimony of Dr. Carlyle in R. v. Murrin, Aug. 13, 1999, pp. 6 - 9).

The treatment of Holmes, Dunn, and MacDonald after their brutal assault on Shannon Murrin was highly unusual:

  • None of them were arrested, booked, or fingerprinted
  • Before being interviewed they were all placed together in the soft interview room
  • They were served coffee and donuts
  • They were permitted to shower in the RCMP members private locker room as opposed to the cells
  • Although they were covered in Shannon Murrin's blood their appearance was not noted or photographed before they were allowed to shower
  • All three were interviewed by the same officer: Tidsbury
  • After each was interviewed he was put back with the others in the soft interview where all three were allowed time to consult before the next interview commenced

Corp. Seversen admitted that RCMP conduct was unusual to a remarkable degree and not in accord with any RCMP procedure that he had ever heard about (Testimony of Corp. Seversen, proceedings at Preliminary Inquiry, May 29, 1997, pp. 54 - 59).

Staff Sergeant Callens testified that several general duty RCMP members had told him that they were disturbed about what was happening at Mission Creek Park and that there was something drastically wrong. Sergeant Van de Walle and the general duty officers wanted the trio charged. Van de Walle said the charge should be attempted murder, not assault. Callens said it was not normal for G.I.S. members to take over the investigation of an assault (Proceedings at MacDonald, Holmes, Dunn Preliminary Inquiry, June 19, 1996, p.50).

Tidsbury, Webb and the trio met first at Rob Holmes place and then went to the station. Tidsbury's notes of the early morning of January 6, 1995 are as follows:

94-01-06
12:25 - am - commence tape-recorded interview with
Patrick Al Dunn (B: 67-08-23)
729 McClure Rd.
Kelowna, BC 764-8127
- Interview in entirety tape recorded
12:54 - "thought he killed Mindy Tran" - crying.
1:03 am - "going to bury"
- Death too good for him
- Write letter to Donnie and Marie Oliver
- "It's all in the letter".

1:17 am. - Terminate interview.
- Discuss search warrant for gun at Murrin's place with Seversen, Shaigec, Slade
1:47 am
- Commence taped recorded interview with Robert Patrick Holmes (B:60-03-22)
1170 Elwyn Rd. 861-3688

2:08 am - talking about Donnie and Marie Oliver - how Murrin said he gave them letter explaining why he killed Mindy Tran.
- Knows he has friends in Newfoundland named Oliver
- Has never met them.
2:12 - checked tape recorder
- Discovered twist in tape and not recording
- ??? On correct tape
- Start interview again with tape recorder working.

-Previous interview similar

2:35 am - talking again about Donnie & Marie Oliver
- Friends of Murrin
- Letter explaining everything
- Lives in St. John's area.
2:36 A.M. - terminate interview.

2:47 A.M. - commence interview with Kenneth Lawrence MacDonald (B: 61-09-29
1033 Harvey Ave
Kelowna BC, 763-7838
3:11 am - terminate interview.
3:20 am - take MacDonald home
3:30 - to office
- office work

5. Tidsbury looks after agents Holmes, Dunn, and MacDonald

While Shannon Murrin lay in Kelowna General Hospital in a coma, Tidsbury's first order of business the morning of January 6, 1995 was to look after the trio and look for the Confession Letter. His first call on that morning was to Ken MacDonald's parole officer, Ken Matheson. Over the next few weeks Tidsbury had several meetings with Ken MacDonald as well as discussions with Matheson and senior BC Parole Director, Brian Lang or Long. Tidsbury asked Matheson not to revoke MacDonald's parole because of the assault on Murrin. He took Matheson into his confidence and told him about Shannon's confession, the existence of a letter, and the need to keep Ken MacDonald free so that the Newfoundland investigation wouldn't be jeopardized. (Book 7 Tidsbury's notes)

Even after disclosing all the details of the previous evening and how helpful MacDonald had been Matheson still wanted to revoke MacDonald's parole. He suggested that Tidsbury talk to Brian Lang. He said that there had been problems like this in the past - such as when they had to "cover their asses over P.G." Matheson said he would have Lang call Tidsbury. Lang called Tidsbury and was also taken into Tidsbury's confidence and asked to intervene for Ken MacDonald. Lang told Tidsbury that the warrant was already executed but it was up to Tidsbury when MacDonald was arrested. He expressed concern that MacDonald had been a police informant for some time. He said he based this suspicion on the fact that charges against MacDonald for a B&E had been stayed and that his parole was not revoked when MacDonald tested positive for cocaine. (Book 7 Tidsbury's notes)

Rob Holmes called Tidsbury and requested that Tidsbury talk to a friend of his, Bruce Ord, who lived with Al Dunn's sister, Joan. Later that day in a conversation with Bruce Ord Bruce advised Tidsbury that there was something wrong with Al Dunn. He said it was something to do with Dunn's childhood. He said that Dunn was emotionally unstable and needed help. Tidsbury arranged for Al Dunn to see Victim Services, and called Michael Todd, Office Director at human resources to request emergency financial assistance for Dunn. Todd told Tidsbury to have Al Dunn drop around at 1PM. Dunn expressed concern for his safety and Tidsbury gave Dunn an FAC application. (Book 7 Tidsbury's notes)

In an interview with Rob Holmes Tidsbury records that Holmes now believes that his original alibi for Shannon is wrong and that he didn't see Shannon until almost 9PM. Tidsbury contacts Scott van Aseltine concerning the legality of agentizing Holmes. (Book 7 Tidsbury's notes) Meanwhile Seversen and Webb re-interviewed Ellie Holmes and Dorothy Shea who now also believe that they didn't see Shannon until much later. (Seversen's notes; Webb's notes)

Pedophile-Snitch Doug Martin

Convicted pedophile-turned-snitch Doug Martin dubbed 'Father Confessor' who Police used dozens of times including to convict Thomas Sophonow and Shannon Murrin

The warrant against MacDonald was finally executed a few days later. He voluntarily surrendered to Tidsbury and Tidsbury drove him to Ferndale. At trial Peter Wilson referred to this institution as Fundale in reference to a request by Douglas Martin that Tidsbury intervene to have him transferred there. After a phone call from a guy named Hartl telling Tidsbury that Ken MacDonald was talking too much Tidsbury takes Warden Wiebe into his confidence and asks him to keep Ken MacDonald under control. (Book 7 Tidsbury's Notes)

Although there was never any doubt that Holmes, Dunn, and MacDonald had inflicted the near fatal beating upon Shannon Murrin - all three admitted it -- they were not charged for six months. Achilles Chabot, who lived below Shannon, had given police a statement that he saw Shannon being carried out of the house unconscious or semi-conscious and thrown into the back of Al Dunn's brown pick-up truck. Another witness saw Shannon's body being thrown over the six-foot high footbridge at Mission Creek Park. MacDonald, who was seen by Tidsbury fleeing the scene, told Tidsbury he believed that Shannon's legs were broken.

Despite overwhelming evidence that a serious assault or an attempted murder had taken place the incident of Jan. 5, 1995 was never investigated. Instead RCMP investigated the trio's allegation that Shannon Murrin pointed a gun at his three assailants. Directly after his first interview the morning of January 6, 1994, the one with Al Dunn, Tidsbury's notes say "Discuss search warrant for gun at Murrin's place with Seversen, Shaigec, Slade". The search warrant was obtained and RCMP searched Shannon Murrin's residence. They seized the "unloaded gun" (Seversen's notes) and with the assistance of Rob Holmes gathered up several unfired shells that Holmes and Dunn said they had found inside and outside Shannon's residence. Shannon's bloody clothes were held as exhibits in the Mindy Tran murder investigation while the bloody clothes of his three assailants were returned to them.

The weapons used by the three assailants, a baseball bat, tire iron, and crowbar, were seized but never entered as exhibits in the assault against Shannon. The media heard about the assault through radio scanners but RCMP asked them not to report the assault. They were told that reporting the events of January 5, 1995 would jeopardise the Mindy Tran murder investigation.

On ? Seversen's notes show the following entry:

14:09 - Holmes and Dunn to Det. On B&E file 94-3991. I returned items
01 - Red pipe wrench
02 - TRS Baseball bat.
03 - Blue Crow bar

The trio was finally charged with assault six months later and the preliminary hearing for the trio took began in May 1996.

An internal investigation produced more incriminating statements from the trio. In an audio taped statement given to RCMP Sgt. Lunn on May 27, 1998, Holmes told Lunn that Tidsbury knew Shannon would be assaulted: (Audio Taped Interview of Robert Holmes, May 27, 1998 p.11 - 12). Dunn and MacDonald statements of January 29, 1999 confirmed Holmes' statement (Audio Taped Interview of Patrick Dunn, Jan. 29, 1999, pp. 6 - 8; Audio Taped Interview of Kenneth MacDonald, Oct. 19, 1998, p. 4).

Neither Tidsbury nor the trio were ever held accountable for their actions on January 5, 1995. In 1998 charges against the trio were stayed. The following headline appeared in the Kelowna Courier: CHARGES ARE STAYED IN BEATING OF TRAN ACCUSED. The reason given was that it took too long to get to court.

Charges on B&E file number 94-3991 R vs Holmes and MacDonald were also stayed (Seversen's notes). For MacDonald this would be the third time criminal charges were stayed and for Holmes the second time.