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Undercover officer who 'hired' Potter testifies at murder trial

Accused murderer Allan Potter arrives in the courtroom for Day 4 of his trial Monday in St. John’s.
Allan Potter. - Tara Bradbury file photo/The Telegram

Court hears audio recordings of conversations between the accused and undercover officer regarding debt collection job

At one point they were like friends, expressing their mutual trust, sharing jokes and making plans for jobs they'd work on together.

Driving down an Ontario highway, Allan Potter repeatedly told his new buddy how happy he was to have been offered a job with him. He invited him to come visit Newfoundland, specifically Notre Dame Bay, touting the icebergs and sunsets and secluded coves as being well worth a visit.

"I'd hate to work for you a couple times and not see you again," Potter told his business associate, who responded by saying he didn't really operate that way.

That was Sept. 25, 2016, hours after Potter was released from an Ontario prison after serving a sentence for an assault charge. He had been introduced to his new friend by an old one about six weeks earlier, and was told the man ran a debt collection service and wanted to hire Potter for some jobs.

On Wednesday, Potter and his associate met again, this time in a St. John's courtroom. Potter sat in the prisoner dock as the other man took the witness stand, telling the court he was an RCMP officer and had played the "Mr. Big" role in an elaborate sting to get information from Potter about the 2014 death of Dale Porter.

When the officer was asked by the Crown to identify Potter in the courtroom, he looked and gestured to the prisoner dock. Potter gave him a wave.

Porter, a 39-year-old fisherman and father of two from North River, Conception Bay North, died after he was stabbed about 20 times in his own driveway. Potter and another man, who cannot be named at this point, have been charged with first-degree murder in connection with Porter's death.

Dale Porter.
Dale Porter.

The RCMP corporal explained he and a team of undercover officers from this province and Ontario had laid the foundation of the sting weeks earlier. Working with a member of the Vikings motorcycle club who had agreed to be a paid agent, police created a story. The biker told his friends — including Potter — that he had been doing some easy and profitable work for two new business associates who ran a debt collection service. To solidify the scenario, the corporal and another undercover officer visited St. John's, hanging out at a bar owned by the Vikings and other places club members were known to frequent.

The biker-turned-agent took the corporal to meet Potter in jail in Ontario, and the officer returned alone a couple weeks later. The goal at that point, the police officer testified, was to further establish his credibility with Potter and confirm plans to meet when Potter was released.

"The cover story was essentially that we were debt collectors in a literal sense, but also in a more figurative sense in the world of organized crime," the officer explained.

The plan was to meet Potter once he was released and to start work on a short job right away: two brothers from London, Ont., who owed a large amount of cash had bailed on their payments and needed to be located.

The officer said Potter had asked him during the second visit if there would be any violence involved in his new job, to which he replied it wasn't the goal, but it wasn't off the table. He said

Potter then asked him if he could get him a gun, saying he'd feel safer sleeping with one under his pillow.

"I said it was something we could look into," the corporal testified.

On Wednesday, audio of cellphone calls between the officer and Potter, recorded by the officer's hidden recording device and hidden-camera video footage from inside the vehicle as the two men drove from Minden, Ont., to London, was played for the court.

"Are you out of jail yet?" the officer is heard asking Potter in the first phone recording.

"Yes I am, sir," a joyful-sounding Potter replies. "I'm breathing air, floating on top of the world."

Once the men met, Potter was recorded telling his new friend he had stopped at Canadian Tire after leaving prison and had "grabbed one of these things," which he had asked someone to hold on to for him. He also bought dog spray, he said.

"When he said he 'grabbed one of these things,' what was your understanding of what he was talking about?" prosecutor Sheldon Steeves asked the RCMP officer.

"A knife. He made a gesture like a stabbing motion," the officer replied.

Potter is also heard on the recordings chuckling as he tells his friend, "I was just sitting over there on that wooden thing over there looking over the river and saying to myself, holy f--- Al, what the f--- are you getting yourself into?"

The undercover officer tells Potter "very few people have the f---ing stomach for what we're doing."

Potter speaks a number of times of his physical strength and his imposing appearance, telling the officer he'll shave his head in order to look "as mean as possible" and laughs when saying that "one look at me should be enough."

Accused murderer Allan Potter speaks with his lawyers, Randy Piercey and Jon Noonan, after his trial is adjourned for the day Tuesday.
Accused murderer Allan Potter speaks with his lawyers, Randy Piercey and Jon Noonan, after his trial is adjourned for the day Tuesday.

He expresses some concerns about the line of work he's been hired to do, saying sometimes it can get "pretty sticky," especially when children are involved.

"Depends what's there … who's involved and you see people with wives and kids and stuff, and if you've gotta evict them from their apartment, and … to renovate their apartment or something, you know, that's when it gets sticky, when you got kids involved and they're crying and all that shit," he is heard saying.

"Business is business for me," the police officer responds, telling Potter he'd do well to look at it from a business point of view. "It's easy to have a colder heart."

"To be truthful with you … like, I don't really even know what we're doing, but I'm in your hands," Potter says at another point on the recording. "Once again, I want to tell you, I appreciate you taking me on for work, I really do. I appreciate the job."

At another moment, Potter tells the undercover officer, "I need to let you know, I did get arrested for murder three years ago, not formally charged." He tells the officer he was questioned but "lawyered up" and was released. "They still got my clothes for DNA. It's an unsolved thing," Potter says in the recording.

That was the extent of Potter's comments about the murder of Dale Porter in the audio played for the court Wednesday, and the undercover officer explained he didn't press him for more, preferring to build a stronger bond between them first.

Potter appeared to spend a significant amount of time telling his business associate about the Vikings and his desire to start two new branches of the club in central Newfoundland, which he hoped to "patch over" to the Hells Angels eventually. He told the officer he had been in biker clubs for more than 25 years.

"Our vests are exactly the same as Hells Angels, but they say Vikings instead of Hells Angels," Potter explains in the recording. "Even that bottom rocker (patch), it's all red and white, everybody knows who we are. … So now, St. John's belongs to the Vikings, instead of the Bacchus (motorcycle club), right? And now it's time to open another chapter.

"It's going to be like the top-notch guys, select few, the best chapter, you know what I mean? Not a bunch of f---ing yahoos who can't pay their $30 a month in f---ing dues, riding Honda 250s."

Potter assures his friend, however, that all that is on the back burner for now.

"This job with you is paramount," he's heard saying on the recording. "Got all my attention."

Potter's trial will continue Thursday morning with more audio and video recordings captured later that evening, when Potter allegedly agreed to help his new business associates dispose of what appeared to be a dead body, but was actually a dead pig in a hockey bag.

Twitter: @tara_bradbury


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