B.C. Supreme Court Justice Glen Parrett continued to take police to task Tuesday for a "less than ideal investigation" as he found Patrick Mathewsie not guilty of manslaughter in the July 2010 death of Sylvain Victor Roy.
Expanding on concerns he raised last week when lawyers were giving closing arguments, Parrett outlined several aspects he found troubling with the way RCMP approached the case, from poorly-handled evidence to leaving Roy's body overnight at the scene.
When police were called to the scene, a field at the corner of Winnipeg Street and 17th Avenue where the two homeless men had been camping, they found Mathewsie, then 44 years old, passed out and lying next to Roy, who was 48 years old, who in turn was found dead with a rope around his neck.
Roy's blood was found on Mathewsie's hands and arms but Parrett noted there was no conclusive evidence that Mathewsie's DNA was found on the rope and no swelling or abrasions on Mathewsie's knuckles consistent with the "obvious beating" that Roy also suffered.
Police testified they found Mathewsie in a "cuddling" or "spooning" position that led Parrett to suggest he had been comforting Roy, noting that other witness testimony characterized the two as the best of friends who did everything together.
As well, witness testimony from people who lived in the nearby apartment building, working at nearby St. Patrick Transition House for Alcoholics, and passing by the scene suggested there were at least two other people there prior to Roy's death.
Police were notified by an employee at St. Patrick who saw another man with blood on him passing by and muttering "I killed someone," but who had different clothing than Mathewsie was wearing and different coloured hair, Parrett said.
Parrett characterized the police investigation as falling short of "any episode of CSI and later suggested Mounties were afflicted with a "classic case of tunnel vision."
Despite witnesses suggesting there were at least two other people in the area at the time of the death, Parrett said not a single officer gave evidence that they searched the field beyond the 20-square-foot area where Mathewsie and Roy were found.
"I have no evidence at this trial whether there were 10 other people, 140 other people or two other people sleeping in that field," Parrett said. "I have no evidence before me that it was examined at all."
Parrett said the scene was altered when the arresting officer handcuffed Mathewsie's hands behind his back while still passed out, altering the scene before what had been found was recorded.
Parrett also noted earlier in his decision that the photos and testimony from the arresting officer indicate a T-shirt that had been spread over Roy's face was removed and then put back over his face over a series of photographs.
Mathewsie, who was later found to have had a blood-alcohol level of at least .345, was so intoxicated that paramedics had to use "pain stimulation" to revive him so he could be taken to hospital, Parrett said.
While at the hospital, the accompanying officer recorded Mathewsie's mutterings without arresting him or getting his authorization, and police then packed a sample of his blood in a manner that caused it to leak out of its vial and into the exhibit bag, Parrett said.
As a result, the lab analyst told the court the alcohol in the sample had been eliminated and so had to rely in part on a calculation from the urine sample to come up with the blood-alcohol reading.
Parrett also noted there was not a single close-up photo of the rope around Roy's neck nor was evidence given of how it was wrapped round his neck, "despite the attendance of a forensic identification specialist and the body being left at the scene overnight."
The specialist, who was based in Williams Lake, began recording video at 11:10 a.m. the next morning, Parrett said, and added no reason for the delay was offered. He also noted that other than entering the video as evidence, it was not referred to at the trial.
As he did last week, Parrett said he found the video "disturbing" but did not go into detail. Parrett also did not repeat his suggestion made last week that Crown look into whether a charge of indignity to a human body was warranted.
"I can see no basis whatsoever in the evidence I have heard for the decision made in this case to leave the body out overnight resulting in the video that was recorded," Parrett said Tuesday. "Perhaps, if they had taken more than six photographs the evening before, it wouldn't have been necessary."
He also found witnesses were interviewed in the presence of other witnesses and that fingernail clippings collected at the scene were not sent to the laboratory for analysis until 18 months after Mathewsie was arrested and as a result, he was forced to remain in custody for two years.
Upon learning the verdict, Mathewsie remained quiet but had a broad smile on his face as he was led away for processing and, unless he faces other charges, release.
Parrett's comments last week drew national and American media attention and Prince George RCMP Cpl. Craig Douglass was in the courtroom taking notes.
Douglass later said Prince George RCMP are reserving comment until they've reviewed Parrett's comments and how the investigation was carried out.