The confession and later statements of a British Columbia man leave no reasonable doubt he abducted, sexually assaulted and killed a 12-year-old girl in 1978, a Crown counsel told jurors Thursday in British Columbia Supreme Court.
Gordon Matei said in closing arguments that Garry Handlen’s detailed admission to an undercover RCMP officer in Minden, Ont., in November 2014 was not coerced and was motivated by his belief he would escape prosecution.
“He was relieved to divulge a secret that he had been carrying with him for 36 years,” Matei said.
In the videotaped confession shown in court, the supposed boss of an organized crime group tells Handlen police have DNA evidence against him as well as accounts from witnesses but an ailing man would take the blame if Handlen provided information about the crime.
Handlen, who had been the subject of an undercover operation for about nine months, says he grabbed Monica Jack at a pullout on a highway in Merritt, B.C., threw her bike into a lake and forced her into his pickup truck before choking the girl and leaving her body on a hill.
Jack’s skull and some bones were found there 17 years later.
Handlen also agreed to go to British Columbia’s Interior and show members of the crime group the spot where he said he’d snatched Jack.
The Crown presented a videotaped recording of Handlen in a vehicle with another undercover officer as the two drive along a highway and he is asked if he’d heard any media reports indicating where Jack may have last been seen.
“I’m the only one that knows that stuff, nobody else does,” Handlen says.
“You heard it,” Matei told jurors, adding: “That’s because he raped, he abducted and he killed Monica Jack.”
Handlen has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.
Matei said Handlen did not want to stop at the pullout or elsewhere in Merritt because he believed witnesses could identify him years later, even though the undercover officer had deceived him about having been seen on May 6, 1978, the day Jack disappeared.
“If he didn’t do anything what’s he concerned about?” he asked jurors.
He said Handlen wasn’t a ”yes man” who would have admitted to a “horrible crime” that he didn’t commit.
The fictitious crime group, for which Handlen did jobs like repossessing vehicles, did not provide inducements that would have had him confess to something he didn’t do, Matei said.
Handlen also had a partner of 30 years, lots of work, including as a handyman, that met his financial needs and had a wide circle of friends so wasn’t dependent on the connections he’d made with members of the group, Matei said.
“He was convinced that the police were going to get him and he knew he had done it.”
While Handlen told some “tall tales,” such as saying he’d played semi-professional lacrosse for a team in New Westminster, rappelled down a rope from a helicopter and went water skiing on one ski, his confession had a “ring of truth,” Matei said.
“He’s not on trial for boasting,” he said, adding Handlen’s lies were intended to make himself seem better.
“To confess to killing a 12-year-old girl is not going to make Mr. Handlen seem better than he was,” Matei told the jury.
“Don’t leave your common sense at the door when you go into the jury room.”
Camille Bains, The Canadian Press