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Explosive: The Mikolajewski Report exposes the shoddy work done on this case and how Jack Ewatski helped block a proper re-investigation to protect a retired inspector and the secrets a warranted search of his premises would reveal.

Thomas Sophonow's Snitch

Fifth Estate probes Sophonow snitch

Pedophile-Snitch Doug Martin

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

A jailhouse rat who claimed Thomas Sophonow confessed to the 1981 murder of Winnipeg teenager Barbara Stoppel has made a career of testifying in murder trials, according to CBC's The Fifth Estate.

Tonight's story on the newsmagazine, presented by Diana Swain on Ch. 2 at 8 p.m., looks at the case of B.C. resident Douglas Martin, who's testified in at least nine murder cases despite having more than 100 convictions for crimes including fraud and perjury.

"It's the sort of story I've always enjoyed, where you can really get into something. We've been immersed in this story for two months," Swain said from Toronto yesterday.

She says Martin, who is not in prison now, had already testified in eight cases since the '70s when he popped up last fall as the only material witness in the case against Newfoundlander Shannon Murrin, who was acquitted of the 1994 murder of eight-year-old Mindy Tran in Kelowna, B.C.

Nota Bene: Mindy Tran's website states "Murrin is a monstrous child killer" and not a "lovable falsely accused rogue"

Cecil Rosner, acting senior producer on The Fifth Estate, says it's rare for anyone other than a series host to have the lead story. But Swain, who won a Gemini Award last month for Best Anchor for her role in 1999 provincial election coverage, has an increasingly prominent national profile. She'll be one of three sub-anchors joining The National's Peter Mansbridge on Parliament Hill for federal election night coverage Monday.

An inquiry is considering what compensation Sophonow should receive for his wrongful conviction. Sophonow, who was tried three times, spent four years in prison for the Dec. 23, 1981 murder. He was freed in 1985 on appeal, but was only recently fully exonerated of suspicion.

At least three jailhouse rats testified against Sophonow, a factor that prompted the provincial Department of Justice to announce in July it had set new guidelines for using informants to prosecute cases.

Swain says what happened in the Sophonow case could happen to anyone, and Martin's story raises the question of why B.C. prosecutors were willing to use Martin's testimony despite his record.


Thomas Sophonow 1981: Waitress Barbara Stoppel, 16, is found strangled in a washroom at a St. Boniface, Manitoba doughnut shop. 1982-85: Sophonow is arrested, tried three times and convicted twice before being freed by the Manitoba Court of Appeal on grounds of legal errors in the third trial.