2 min

Ottawa police dragging feet on gaybashing cold case

Source of new information on death not interviewed months after coming forward

Police received information Dec 3 about a suspicious death in the Ottawa area but — more than three months later — they have yet to interview a key source.

The death in question is more than 10 years old and no one has ever been charged in connection with it. The victim may have been chosen because he was gay.

Police confirm the cold case is now an “active investigation.” Capital Xtra is declining to report on the details of the case at this time. And because Peter Smith (not his real name) may be putting himself in danger by coming forward, Capital Xtra won’t report on his personal details either.

Smith’s wife first made contact with Ottawa Police Services’ on Dec 3. She’s documented at least five subsequent calls to officers Pat Corbett and Mike Hudson. However, neither of them has contacted Smith directly.

She worries that her husband’s safety has been compromised by his offer to come forward and she’s frustrated that the police appear to be dragging their heels.

“It’s all right there for them. We’ve layed it down, and I don’t understand why they’re not picking it up,” she says.

A Capital Xtra investigation into the allegations corroborates many details of Smith’s account of the time period.

Jean-Paul Vincelette of the Ottawa Police confirms that an “active” investigation has been opened. However, he won’t comment on information received by police, he says.

“But, in general, any information from the past would be looked at,” Vincelette says.

Police refused to answer questions about Smith or about what’s a “normal” amount of lag time between a lead being presented to the police and the police following it up.

Smith’s circumstances mean he may have put himself in danger by contacting police. He lives in a small community where others would be familiar with the people involved. Between first contact with the police in December and now, no effort has been made to protect him or collect an affidavit.

Doug Janoff spent years following police investigations of homophobic murders. He’s the author of Pink Blood, an analysis of gaybashings in Canada.

He says that the homophobic aspects of a criminal case can sometimes slip under the radar of police.

“Without me knowing the details of a particular crime, it’s very fair to say that there were crimes committed against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans community that went unnoticed,” says Janoff.  “It was even more difficult at that time to determine the homophobic nature of the crime and less sensitivity or knowledge about LGBT community.”

But as for cold cases, Janoff is careful not to jump to any conclusions.

“Older cases are definitely a different process. There are other questions that are raised about what priorities police have in terms of their caseload, how quickly they’re able to investigate. I don’t think you can really generalize, because it depends on many factors,” says Janoff.

Calls by Capital Xtra to Corbett and Hudson have gone unanswered.