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Bob Wakeham: No closure for families

For the relatives of murder victims Chrissy Predham Newman and Courtney Lake, the events of recent days have to have turned their anger, sorrow and horror into the kind of living nightmare no one should ever have to endure. 

And the latest circumstances have also perpetuated the never ending doubt that clouds society's ability to defend women from the most horrific kind of abuse, and its ability to ensure that justice is done, that the mourning of loved ones can be placated, that they can take some solace, even if slight, in the knowledge that someone has been arrested, convicted and made to pay dearly for their crimes and forced to lose their freedom forever.

The case of Predham-Newman is one that has astounded, and continues to astound, right-thinking people throughout the province.

Predham-Newman was found dead in her home in January 2007, her throat slit, and her estranged husband, Ray Newman, was charged with murder.

But in a shocking development, in mid-trial, the charges against Newman were withdrawn when the judge in the case ruled that evidence invaluable to the Crown's case was inadmissible because the accused murderer’s Charter Rights had been violated, that he had not been cautioned until 30 minutes into an interview by police about those rights. (Newman had, at that point, admitted to the cops that he had been in his wife's living room on the day of her murder.)

And that was it. Newman walked out of court a free man.

The police subsequently said there were no other “persons of interest” in the case. There was no ambiguity in their assessment. The cops felt, in definitive terms, that the killer had been found. The Crown prosecutors obviously agreed. People in Newfoundland drew the only conclusion they could.

Much of the legal community, defence attorneys in particular, rejoiced over the judge’s verdict. A victory for the rights of the accused.

But that was of little consolation to the relatives of Predham-Newman.

When an appeals court ultimately agreed with the decision by the judge to throw out the charges, Mike King, Newman’s lawyer, said his client could now “pick up the pieces and try to put them back together  and try to go on living his life.”

The irony of those remarks had to have stung Predham-Newman’s family in the worst possible way.  There was no such relief for them. Their frustration with the legal system and with the colossal blunder made by the cops would be never-ending, knowing, as they did, that the case was officially closed and would not be re-opened.

But Ray Newman, it turns out, would not be a stranger to the courts. He was there within the last couple of weeks.

And the charges he faces must have provoked cold shivers for Predham-Newman’s loved ones: Newman is charged with assault, and of attempting to “choke, strangle or suffocate” a woman.                       

If there is a conviction, the consequences, the repercussions of the withdrawal of charges in the Predham-Newman case will be undoubtedly noted. This latest twist is almost diabolical in nature.  

Watching these developments, I’m sure, with no sense of detachment are the relatives of Courtney Lake whose disappearance three months ago has turned into a murder investigation. The police have yet to make an arrest, but Lake’s ex-boy friend, Philip Smith, was seen picking her up in his truck the day she vanished, within hours after he had been convicted of charges involving Lake, and had been ordered by the courts not to have any contact with her.

And, in the latest development, just last week, Lake’s mother was seeking a peace bond against Smith.

Chrissy Predham-Newman and Courtney Lake. Two tragedies. Two families left to pick up the pieces.

And last weekend, both families couldn’t help but notice another domestic tragedy in Newfoundland: 18-year old Ryanna Grywacheski was murdered in Marystown by her 37-year-old boyfriend, Jeff Kilfoy who then committed suicide.

There was a certain amount of closure, that most euphemistic of terms, for the relatives of Grywacheski.

But not so for those who loved Chrissy Predham-Newman and Courtney Lake. 

Their trauma continues.

Seemingly unabated.                          


Bob Wakeham has spent more than 40 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at


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