Toronto
2 min

Vancouver police bungle beating report

License plate lead in murder investigation goes missing

LOST IN THE SHUFFLE. "Nobody told us this report was in the system." Credit: Xtra files

Vancouver police sat on a license plate number for more than a week that not only could break the Aaron Webster murder case but might have saved his life.



About three weeks before Webster was brutally beaten to death in Stanley Park Nov 17, another man was attacked by four males who confronted him, pushed him down, beat him with a baseball bat and called him a pervert.



Edward Smith was walking around the gay cruising area in Stanley Park at about 1am when he ran into his attackers.



Smith, a construction contractor who is not gay, says he often walks around the park at night. He says he managed to escape his attackers and call 911.



About a week later, on Nov 7, he filed a police report detailing the attack – including the license plate number of his attackers’ dark green Jeep Cherokee. But the report got lost in the shuffle and nobody followed up on it.



Homicide Det Rob Faoro, who is working on the Webster murder case, told Xtra West he only got Smith’s report on Dec 11, more than three weeks after Webster was killed on Nov 17. The report only came to light then, he says, because Edward Smith came back and brought it to his attention.



“There are so many policemen out there gathering reports,” Faoro says. “Nobody told us this report was in the system.”



Faoro is not surprised the report “went into the big hole” at the Vancouver Police Department (VPD).



“The constables probably ran the plate, it didn’t come up to anything and they didn’t take it a step further because they’re young and they’re not trained to be investigators.”



Insp David Jones admits that the constables who took Smith’s report should have either followed it up more themselves or brought it to their supervisor’s attention.



Had the police followed up on Smith’s Nov 7 report, could Aaron Webster still be alive today?



“I would not lay Aaron Webster’s death at their [the young constables] door,” he says. “I would think that the persons who killed Aaron Webster are responsible for his death.



“We’re not perfect,” Jones says. “Most of the time we get it right but sometimes we don’t.”



Last week police offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the murder or murderers.



Smith moved to Calgary shortly after filing the police report and only returned to Vancouver on Dec 8, when he says the memorial to Webster in the park. He immediately went to the police.



It wasn’t the first time those men had attacked Smith, either. He says he ran into at least two of them a year earlier in the Second Beach parking lot when they jumped out of their Jeep and went at him with baseball bats.



Webster was murdered in the parking lot between Second Beach and the Bridle Path. Police say he was probably beaten to death by three of four young men wielding baseball bats or pool cues.



Smith says he regrets not having filed a report after he first encountered his attackers in Nov 2000. He only called 911 and filed his report after the men attacked him a fourth time. That was 10 days before Webster was killed.