As a serving Police Officer I often felt annoyed by the media and their incessant requests for information regarding breaking stories.
It’s only in retirement that I’ve come to appreciate the important role the media plays in keeping the public informed, especially when it comes to issues that relate to crime, punishment and public safety. I’ve also come to appreciate and understand the obligation the Police Service has to release timely and accurate information to the citizenry.
I recently attended a hastily called Police press conference at the Public Safety Building in the wake of the maelstrom created by serial killer Shawn Lambs defense lawyer, Hurricane Martin Glazer, after he made outrageous allegations the Police bought and paid for Lambs confession.
Superintendent Danny Smyth addressed the throngs of journalists assembled in the media room and proceeded to read from a prepared statement in his attempt to calm the stormy waters and set the record straight.
“While being processed for the sexual assault Mr Lamb indicated he knew where a body was. This statement triggered a Homicide investigation. The body of Carolyn Sinclair was discovered, however Mr Lamb was not cooperative with Police and did not provide a formal statement to Police at that time. After being remanded into custody at the PRC investigators were contacted by Mr Lamb, he indicated that he had more information to relate about the Homicide and other crimes that he had committed. He was willing to cooperate but he requested Police assist him with canteen privileges before he agreed to being interviewed.”
As I sat in the media gallery I was struck by what seemed to be a glaring piece of inaccurate information. It was my understanding Lamb led the Police to the body of Lorna Blacksmith not Carolyn Sinclair.
An understanding I came to by intently listening to Senior Crown Prosecutor Sheila Leinburd relate the intimate details of the case to Court of Queens Bench Justice Rick Saull the previous day.
I immediately started to question my understanding of the case. How did I get this so wrong I thought to myself. I’d spent an hour that morning with Charles Adler on CJOB defending the Police investigation and sharing my apparently “flawed” understanding of the case. The discrepancy made me realize I had some homework to do.
After reviewing my notes I was confident I had the story straight and it was the Police Service who had confused the information.
The next day I read a story in the Winnipeg Free Press written by crime reporter Mike McIntyre called, “Cash Payment Clinched the Case.” It was a story examining the chronology of events pertaining to Shawn Lamb and the Police investigation. The story quoted significant portions of Superintendent Smyth’s prepared statement to the press. A statement I believed contained a major piece of inaccurate information.
That inaccurate information was central to McIntyre’s story in which he wrote, “He not only confessed to killing Sinclair, but also slaying Lorna Blacksmith. At the time, Blacksmith was still listed as a missing person. Lamb led investigators to her body, just as he’d done with Sinclair.”
After reading the article I realized McIntyre’s story had the potential to call the entire integrity of the Police investigation into question. If Lamb led Police to the bodies of both Carolyn Sinclair and Lorna Blacksmith then something was terribly wrong. Police could never treat Lamb as anything but a murder suspect if he led them to the bodies of two women who were killed and deposed of in remarkably similar ways.
This information put the $600 canteen deposit and subsequent interview in an entirely different light. It also created fertile ground for conspiracy theories and deep suspicions regarding the conduct of the Police Service and Homicide Unit Investigators.
Police Insider readers asked me to set the record straight.
After sending an official request for clarification to WPS Information Officer Constable Eric Hofley, I was relieved when he informed me, “I have been advised that Carolyn Sinclair was located by police long before Lamb came into the picture. Lamb directed police to the second victim. (Lorna Blacksmith) I hope this clears things up.”
This story was written purely for clarification purposes and not to point fingers or cause embarrassment to anyone.
Unfortunate as it is, mistakes happen.