Fear of losing a job that offered multiple perks and a promising future with a well-connected crime group led a man to falsely confess to murdering a 12-year-old girl in British Columbia in 1978, a defence lawyer said in closing arguments.
Patrick Angly told B.C. Supreme Court on Monday that Garry Handlen also didn’t want to bring any “heat” on members of the close-knit organization that supported him through his common-law wife’s cancer treatment and accepted him as family.
Handlen’s alleged confession came after an undercover officer posing as the head of a fictitious group told him police had DNA evidence linking him to the crime but it could “disappear” if he provided enough details to pin the blame on someone else.
Angly said the boss had already told Handlen he was certain of his involvement in killing Monica Jack near Merritt, B.C., that there were witnesses and the case would be going to court.
“They’re coming for you,” the undercover officer told Handlen in November 2014, about nine months into a so-called Mr. Big sting in Minden, Ont.
“He has to agree with the boss,” Angley said. “He has to say he did it.”
Handlen says in the hidden-camera confession already presented in court and outlined by Angly Monday that he was in a drunken stupor and remembers picking up a girl, having sex and strangling her.
“I know she was native,” he says.
However, Angly said Handlen didn’t provide any new information, only what he’d already been told by the RCMP during an interview about a month after Jack disappeared, in May 1978.
“It would be wrong of you to draw inferences from the fact that Mr. Handlen was questioned in 1978,” he told jurors. “That would be wrong and unfair.”
Handlen has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of Jack. Her remains were found 17 years after she disappeared on a mountain where Handlen says later in the confession that he sexually assaulted her, murdered her and burned her clothes.
Angly said Handlen had already seen the crime boss firing someone else in a scenario the RCMP had concocted earlier and did not want to lose a lifestyle that offered him friends, food, hotels and the chance of a middle-management job with the organization that had paid him nearly $12,000 for jobs such as smuggling cigarettes, loan sharking and repossessing vehicles.
Angly said his client had told multiple lies, suggesting his confession was just one more, and not because he was boasting as the Crown has suggested but because “he is a liar.”
He said Handlen’s lies stretched from saying he had been a member of the British army’s Special Air Service to saying he smuggled goods across international lines as a scuba diver and studied for a pilot’s licence.
None of that was true but it was in his client’s best interest to carry on with his lies and even confess to murder as he felt his dreams as part of a close-knit organized crime group could be snatched away.
Camille Bains, The Canadian Press