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Dunphy Inquiry: Bob Simmonds heaps scorn on RCMP investigation

Lawyer Bob Simmonds cross-examines RCMP Cpl. Steven Burke at the Dunphy Inquiry Thursday morning.
Lawyer Bob Simmonds cross-examines RCMP Cpl. Steven Burke at the Dunphy Inquiry Thursday morning.

St. John's, N.L—Lawyer Bob Simmonds grilled RCMP Cpl. Steven Burke Thursday morning in dramatic fashion, hammering him on a “terribly deficient” police investigation into the Donald Dunphy killing. Simmonds suggested the RCMP investigation was tunnel-vision focused on believing the account of RNC Const. Joe Smyth.

Through it all, Burke was defensive and combative, giving short answers that often didn’t address the questions he was asked.

This pattern continued throughout the day as various lawyers at the Dunphy inquiry questioned Burke. The result was Simmonds and other lawyers essentially presenting arguments, suppositions and possible scenarios to Burke, and often getting very little back in terms of answers.

Simmonds, who represents the family of Donald Dunphy, complained that the RCMP prematurely released the scene, which destroyed any continuity of evidence and rendered certain questions essentially useless.

For example, Dunphy’s glasses were later found smashed and unwearable at the scene by his daughter, Meghan Dunphy, and she also found a .22-calibre bullet, but the police were reluctant to investigate either of those issues because they had lost continuity of the evidence, so it would be inadmissible in court.

“The glasses had no value in our investigation,” Burke said.

[Editorial: If you didn’t have questions about the shooting death of Donald Dunphy before Tuesday, you probably should now.]

It has been suggested the glasses may be evidence of some sort of violent struggle between Dunphy and Smyth, contrary to Smyth’s account of events, but Burke didn’t accept that.

Even though they didn’t think the glasses had any value, the RCMP looked into it, pulling security camera footage and interviewing people to see if Dunphy had been wearing the glasses earlier in the day.

Burke acknowledged the police basically didn’t believe there was any investigative value in it; the only purpose was to convince Meghan Dunphy they were conducting a fair and impartial investigation.

Donald Dunphy was shot and killed in his Mitchell’s Brook home by Smyth on Easter Sunday in 2015. Smyth has said he was assessing a potential threat against then-premier Paul Davis based on messages posted by Dunphy on Twitter.

Smyth said Dunphy invited him into the house, but then Dunphy became agitated and pointed a rifle at him. At that point, Smyth shot and killed Dunphy in self-defence.

The inquiry is examining all of the circumstances surrounding the shooting, and most of this week has focused on Burke, who was the lead investigator with the RCMP major crimes unit tasked with investigating the homicide.

Lawyers for Smyth and the RNC offered much more favourable interpretations of why the RCMP made certain investigative choices, and whether they acted responsibly.

Thomas Williams, who is representing Davis, asked a rapid-fire series of questions to establish that Davis had no involvement with the RCMP investigation.

Jerome Kennedy, who is representing Smyth, pointedly suggested that while the police didn’t aggressively pursue any of the alternate theories of what may have happened between Smyth and Dunphy, the fact is that there is essentially no evidence that contradicts Smyth’s account.

But it was Simmonds who offered the most aggressive and dramatic questioning.

In addition to them releasing the scene of the shooting too early, Simmonds also heaped scorn on the RCMP because they never took photographs of the scene from the point of view of where Smyth said he was standing when Dunphy pulled a gun on him.

Burke said that because Smyth’s account was only an “estimate,” such photos wouldn’t have any particular value.

[Wakeham: As Barry himself noted the other day: “Investigation of the boys, by the boys, that doesn’t work.”]

The RCMP also didn’t seize Smyth’s cellphone until nearly three weeks after the shooting, and they didn’t see a series of BlackBerry messages that were deleted from Smyth’s phone at some point.

Those BlackBerry messages indicate Smyth was contemplating arresting Dunphy, and in those messages Smyth said Dunphy was a “lunatic threatening the premier.”

With a dramatic flourish, Simmonds concluded his questioning by saying it was very odd that the police didn’t see those messages.

The sum total of Simmonds’ questioning was a suggestion that the RCMP heard Smyth’s account of what happened in the house, and immediately accepted it as the truth.

The police didn’t try to lift fingerprints off any objects from Dunphy’s house except the rifle, which Dunphy is said to have pointed at Smyth. Simmonds suggested that if Smyth’s fingerprints were found on the bullet sitting on the coffee table, or any number of other objects, it would have suggested Smyth moved things around and staged the scene after the shooting.

Meghan Dunphy has suggested she believes that is what happened.

Updated story

David Riche likened himself
to ‘Columbo’ in Dunphy investigation

By James McLeod
The Telegram

Retired justice David Riche apparently likened himself to TV detective “Columbo,” according to documents filed as evidence at the Dunphy Inquiry.

The involvement of Riche in the Dunphy homicide investigation has come up a fair bit this week as lawyers question Cpl. Steven Burke, the lead RCMP investigator on the case.

Dunphy was shot and killed by RNC Const. Joe Smyth at Dunphy’s Mitchell’s Brook home in April 2015. The RCMP took charge of the ensuing homicide investigation, and ultimately concluded Smyth acted in self-defence and no criminal charges were warranted.

The RCMP retained Riche as an independent observer who was supposed to ensure everything happened above-board, but it’s clear the cops became frustrated with and concerned about Riche’s behaviour.

The retired judge began pushing theories about how Dunphy was killed which the RCMP felt were not supported by the evidence.

The RCMP also didn’t like the fact that Riche went beyond his mandate, and then later gave a number of media interviews in which he specifically appears to have violated the terms of his employment.

The RCMP official log of the Dunphy investigation records a phone call between Burke and Riche in September 2016, when the police told Riche that they would not publicly release his report.

According to the log notes, Riche told Burke, “the RCMP did not want him to investigate or act as ‘Columbo’” and Riche said he would not change one thing in his report.

Burke said the investigative reports weren’t being released.

“Justice RICHE responded that the person responsible will have to answer to his actions,” the RCMP log says.

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