Kathryn-Mary Herbert (left) and Monica Jack

Killer’s ‘Mr. Big’ confession in girl’s murder could have been fabricated, judge says

Garry Handlen’s statements inadmissible in 1975 killing of Kathryn-Mary Herbert of Abbotsford

A “Mr. Big” confession related to the 1975 murder of an Abbotsford girl was found inadmissible in court on the basis that the accused could have made up the story from media reports, two TV documentaries and police investigating the case.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Austin Cullen made the ruling last August in a voir dire during the trial of Garry Handlen, 71, who had been charged with the killing of Kathryn-Mary Herbert, 11, and the 1978 murder of Monica Jack, 12, of Merritt.

But the ruling was not made public until this week, following the conclusion of Handlen’s jury trial for Jack’s murder. He was convicted and sentenced on Jan. 27 to life in prison with no chance of parole for 15 years.

At the conclusion of the case, the Crown announced that it would not be proceeding with the Herbert case at that time, saying that key pieces of evidence had been found inadmissible.

The Crown has not yet announced whether it will be challenging that decision.

Cullen’s written ruling released on Tuesday details the Mr. Big operation – including Handlen’s confessions – that led to the murder charges against him in 2014.

Handlen had long been a suspect in both killings, but police had been unable to definitely link him to the crimes.

The documents indicate that the undercover operation began in November 2013 in Minden, Ont. – where he was living at the time – and ran for about a year.

“The accused was drawn into a relationship with various undercover officers posing as members of a criminal organization offering him employment, the prospect of increasing remuneration and becoming part of, and adopting, the ethos of the organization,” the documents state.

Handlen’s confessions occurred on Nov. 14, 2014, after he was informed that, following a “deep background check” on him, the “crime boss” (identified as “Agent A” in court documents) wanted to meet with him.

Garry Handlen as he would have appeared around the time of the murders.

During that meeting, Agent A first referred to something that had happened near Merritt and asked Handlen about him being on the police’s radar for a murder.

Handlen initially said he knew nothing about that, but Agent A informed him that a DNA sample that police had obtained from the remains in 1995 was a match with Handlen’s.

He then confessed to Jack’s killing, saying he had seen a girl, age 11 or 12, riding her bike along the highway in the Merritt area. He said he grabbed her, put her in his camper, raped and strangled her, and then threw her body behind a log and her bike into a lake.

(Jack’s remains were found in 1995 on Swakum Mountain in Merritt.)

The court documents indicate that Herbert’s killing was also brought up at Handlen’s meeting with Agent A on Nov. 14, 2014, although he initially denied having anything to do with it.

But Handlen then admitted to the killing, saying he had picked up Herbert on a road in Abbotsford, sexually assaulted her, strangled her, unintentionally backed over her body with his car, put her in some blackberry bushes and covered her with plywood on a First Nations burial ground.

He later told undercover officers that he had hit her over the head possibly with a tire iron, had run his vehicle back and forth over her body, and had taken her shoes and thrown them over a floating bridge in Mission.

The court documents state that Handlen was able to take the officers to within about 200 metres of where Herbert’s body had been found on Nov. 17, 1975 near Harris Road in an undeveloped area of the Matsqui First Nations.

But Cullen said in his ruling that several of the details that Handlen shared with the undercover officers did not match with the evidence. For example, a coroner testified that there was no evidence that Herbert had been run over with a vehicle or that she had been sexually assaulted and strangled.

Cullen referred to admissions by Handlen that, before the Mr. Big operation, he had viewed two documentaries on Herbert’s murder – A Garden of Tears and A Mother’s Resolve – both of which provided the same details that he had shared with undercover officers.

Few details on the Jack homicide were contained in those programs, Cullen said.

He also said Handlen could have gleaned details about the Herbert murder through numerous newspaper and online articles that he said he had read, as well as from details shared with him by officers who had questioned him.

Cullen said Handlen could have known where her body had been found because it was identified in the documentaries, and his dad pointed out the area one day when they were driving by.

Conversely, Handlen knew details about the Jack case that had not been publicly shared, Cullen said.

“The evidence suggests that the accused was prone to strong embellishments … I accordingly decline to admit the evidence of the accused’s confession to the Herbert homicide,” Cullen wrote.

READ THE ENTIRE JUDGMENT HERE

 

This sketch by artist Felicity Don shows Garry Handlen at his first court appearance after his arrest in December 2014.

Just Posted

Latest round of Columbia River Treaty talks wrap up in Cranbrook

Federal, provincial, U.S. and Indigenous representatives recently met for eight round of discussions

First Nations given max compensation for Ottawa’s child-welfare discrimination

2016 ruling said feds didn’t give same funding for on-reserve kids as was given to off-reserve kids

Active life is family affair for Castlegar mom-and-daughter athletes

Two generations taking part in 55+ Senior’s Games

People’s Party candidate in South Okanagan-West Kootenay steps forward

Taylor talks about PPC platforms on economics, immigration and climate change

South Okanagan-West Kootenay candidates ready for federal election campaign

Here are the candidates running in the South Okanagan-West Kootenay riding

‘It’s almost surreal’: B.C. fire chief, sidekick Sammy recap rescue mission in Bahamas

Chief Larry Watkinson and Sam the disaster dog spent 8 days assisting a search and rescue team

‘Time to take action:’ Children advocates call for national youth suicide strategy

Council wants Ottawa to make reporting of suicides and attempted suicides mandatory for data collection

Canadian inflation decelerates to 1.9% as gas prices weaken

August was the sixth straight month that price growth was 1.9 per cent or higher

Defense says burden of proof not met in double murder case against Victoria father

Closing statements begin in trial for man accused of killing daughters Christmas 2017

B.C. dog breeder banned again after 46 dogs seized

The SPCA seized the animals from Terry Baker, 66, in February 2018

Surrey mom allegedly paid $400,000 for son in U.S. college bribery scam

Xiaoning Sui, 48, was arrested in Spain on Monday night

B.C. population on pace to fall behind Alberta

Provincial population could reach almost seven million in 2043, but Alberta is growing faster

Three dogs found shot dead in Prince George ditch

The three adult dogs appeared to be well cared for before being found with gunshot wounds, BC SPCA says

B.C. party bus company to be monitored after 40 intoxicated teens found onboard

Police received tip teens and young adults were drinking on party buses and limousines in Surrey

Most Read