Last in a 3-part series
Monday may have been a day of reflection for a man who claims he witnessed the murder of Dana Bradley in 1981, and who shared his story with The Telegram in a series of articles that began Saturday.
And while Robert (not his real name) says a weight has been lifted from his shoulders by going public, the scales tipped the opposite way when he opened his mailbox Monday morning. In it he found a letter from the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP.
The letter contained the final report on his appeal into how the RCMP handled his information about the murder and about being allegedly sexually assaulted by the man he says committed the murder.
Robert had alleged the RCMP relied on false memory syndrome, which isn’t a medically recognized disorder, to make the decision to dismiss his complaint.
In the final report, the commission informed him that, after reviewing the police investigation, the commission found the disposition of Robert’s complaint was reasonably handled by the RCMP.
The document notes that during the 16-month investigation into Robert’s allegations, about 2,000 pages of material was compiled, along with a ground search, consultation with scientific experts regarding changes to topography, interviews with relevant individuals and DNA testing.
Robert said he provided samples for DNA tests.
In an interview with The Telegram last week, Sgt. Kent Osmond, lead investigator on the Bradley murder file, declined to comment specifically about Robert’s tip. He did say that all tips are investigated thoroughly.
Robert says he has been told by police that the investigation into his tip remains closed, but, in the past week or so, they have begun investigating new information related to it.
Commission interim chair Ian McPhail wrote in the final report that the forensic psychiatrist’s diagnosis of false memory syndrome didn’t play a role in the attention given to the investigation, and wasn’t the basis for the investigators’ dismissal of the tip.
“I emphasize that, given its place in the investigation, the psychiatric assessment was not conducted to determine whether (Robert) was lying about his memories, which would have impacted the investigation, but rather to determine what the appropriate degree of reliance on those memories would and could be. There is no suggestion in the available material that (Robert) was deceitful.”
Robert told The Telegram Monday he is surprised by what he said is a “sudden and unexpected de-emphasizing” by the police of forensic psychiatrist Peter Collins’ diagnosis.
“Dr. Collins applied for a temporary licence to practice in Newfoundland so he could deliver his false memory syndrome message, and the RCMP could close my tip that very same day,” Robert said. “He appeared to be very important to investigators at the time.
“Things could be much further along if only they had given me the benefit of the doubt.”
When asked how he feels about the lack of evidence turned up by the police in their investigation into his memories, Robert is quick to respond.
“I don’t think they looked hard enough,” he said. “I think there were a lot of investigational techniques not used. I think they focused on trying to discredit me, rather than try to find evidence. It was a shallow investigation.”
Robert’s claims detail very specifically the murder, sexual assault and placement of Dana Bradley’s body in a wooded area off Maddox Cove Road, where her remains were found four days after she went missing. He says he was in the back seat of the car that picked her up as a hitchhiker from the Topsail Road area, and saw her murderer sexually assault and kill her by hitting her on the head with a tire iron.
His memories, he says, were repressed until about two years ago when, after quitting alcohol after more than 20 years, they suddenly resurfaced. Memories of his own sexual abuse at the hands of the man came back to him first, and details of the murder followed a couple of months later. The man, whom Robert says was a family friend, served time in prison in the 1990s for the sexual abuse of other children.
Robert brought his memories to the RCMP, who investigated his information before informing him none of the avenues of investigation related to his tip had turned up any new evidence.
According to a police document Collins, an expert in forensic psychiatry, advised Robert he was not suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but was experiencing false memory syndrome, a term used to describe a condition in which a person is affected by memories that aren’t true, but which they strongly believe.
The Telegram asked local neuropsychiatrist Dr. Hugh Mirolo, an accredited expert in the courts in the area of neuropsychiatry, to meet with Robert and share his opinions. Mirolo believes Robert is genuine, and told The Telegram he believes the RCMP dismissed him too quickly and unfairly.
Robert suffered a flashback episode and panic attack during their meeting.
“This guy is the real deal,” Mirolo said. “It would be pretty damn difficult for a guy to make that up, and for me to buy it.”
Robert is insistent on the accuracy of his memories, but recognizes members of the public may be skeptical about them or feel they were influenced subconsciously by media reports of the murder. There are details in his memories that have never been disclosed in media reports, he countered.
He admitted there were times, in the beginning, when he questioned his own sanity, but, with the help of experts, has come to accept that his memories are, in fact, true.
“I’ve come to terms with the fact that I do have post-traumatic stress disorder and dissociative amnesia,” he said, adding he’s been working with doctors since his memories have surfaced. He says although Collins met with him, he didn’t assess him before diagnosing him.
“I’ve met with the former head of the behavioural science unit of the FBI, and other experts. I’ve relied on their medical expertise to assess and verify and validate my experience. They’ve all explained to me, in layman’s terms, that what I’m experiencing is authentic. I’m satisfied with that.”
Robert’s parents said the situation has caused a lot of concern in the family.
His mother admitted the situation is “no-win” for them: if Robert’s claims are true, they must come to terms with the fact that a man who had been a close friend of the family sexually abused their child and murdered a young girl in front of him. If his memories are false, they are faced with dealing with how the memories came about, and perhaps treatment for that.
Robert plans now to get back to his family and business life. He said he’s been able to sleep better this week than he has for two years, knowing he had done everything he can to bring closure to Dana’s family, and to his own past.
“There’s nothing left I can do. The information is out there now. If the public is comfortable with the RCMP’s (findings), nothing else can be done. If they think something else could be done, their questions should be directed to the RCMP. There is a person out there who committed this crime — and a lot of other crimes — and they’re still out there. I would like to see justice for Dana and her family.”
Dana’s family was contacted as part of this series and given the opportunity to participate, but declined to comment on the record.
Read Robert’s account of the murder of Dana Bradley, updates on the investigation into the case from police and information from experts, including Mirolo, at www.thetelegram.com.