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Crown wraps its case against Allan Potter

Allan Potter, 55, makes a Vikings Motorcycle Club salute as he awaits the judge at the start of his murder trial in St. John’s Friday morning. Potter is expected to testify on Tuesday.
Allan Potter, 55, makes a Vikings Motorcycle Club salute as he awaits the judge at the start of his murder trial in St. John’s Friday morning. Potter is expected to testify on Tuesday. - Tara Bradbury

Defence to call its first witness - Potter - Tuesday

In their last conversation as boss and hired help, the undercover RCMP officer and Allan Potter covered a number of topics: the dead body they had buried the previous night; Potter's desire to open his own debt collection/hired hitman-type business; the best way to go about a drive-by shooting.

It was all chatter, according to the officer, to pave the way for Potter to open up about the night Dale Porter was murdered, two years earlier.

This is what the officer told the court Friday, during his third and final day on the stand at Potter's murder trial.

Exactly what he and Potter had said during that 40-minute conversation outside a London, Ont., hotel on Sept. 26, 2016 is unknown, since the hidden recording devices the Mountie was wearing that day had failed. The men's body language was captured on video, however, by another undercover officer secretly filming from his car in the hotel parking lot.

In the video, the RCMP corporal is wearing jeans, a black shirt and a backwards ball cap; Potter is in a red shirt and black overalls. The pair walk slowly around the edge of the parking lot as they chat, pausing at various moments. The camera is shaky at times and sometimes the video is blurry. At least once, the camera appears to take a dive for the seat of the car as Potter seems to look in its direction.

The corporal was posing as the owner of a debt collection service, and had been introduced to Potter through a police agent, a member of the Vikings Motorcycle Club who had agreed to help police with their investigation into the murder of Dale Porter.

Porter, 39, died after having been stabbed almost 20 times in his North River, Conception Bay North, driveway in the early morning of June 29, 2014. Potter had been arrested, questioned and released in the days following Porter's death. He later went to Ontario, where the undercover investigator offered him a job collecting debts. The night preceding the conversation in the hotel parking lot was Potter's first night on the job, and it had been a busy one: he had helped the RCMP corporal and two other undercover officers move what they told him was the body of a murdered man - killed after failing to repay the money he owed - from a cornfield to a cemetery, burying it in a fresh grave. The "body" was actually a 200-pound pig, wrapped in blankets and stuffed in a hockey bag.

Once that job was done, Potter had spoken to his "boss" about having stabbed a man two years earlier, demonstrating the stabbing with his hands, the officer testified. That conversation had been recorded and was played for the jury on Thursday.

"I said I wanted to speak about this for the last time and never wanted to speak about it again, and he was very much in agreement with never wanting to speak about it again," the officer told the court Friday morning about his last conversation with Potter before Potter's arrest. "I needed to confirm that we were talking about the Porter homicide, and I brought up an internet article that we had referenced together previously. When I asked him if we were in fact speaking of that internet article, Mr. Potter nodded."

The officer said he asked Potter if he was confident the knife used in the stabbing had been disposed of, and Potter confirmed it had been thrown in the ocean, though he hadn't seen it happen.

"He then went into a bit of an explanation about how micro-organisms work in the ocean and how that would eat away the metal of the knife," the Mountie said.

He said Potter brought up one aspect of the murder that he felt might be a bit of a loose end: the taxi driver who had transported him and another man - who has also been charged with murder - the night Porter died, had quit his job the following day.

The taxi driver testified earlier in Potter's trial, saying he had indeed quit the day after Porter's death. He said he had picked up a woman he knew who was with two men he didn't recognize on the night Porter had died, taking them to the Coach House bar in Bay Roberts. He later went back to pick them up, and there was another man with them.

The taxi driver said he dropped the three men off at a residence in North River and set off to take the woman home, but turned around after the woman received a phone call asking them to return and pick the men up again. The cabbie said he turned his van around, but hadn't made it back to the house when two of the men he had driven earlier met him on the side of the road and got in. The driver said he dropped the men and the woman off at a garage in Cupids and called it a night.

Forensic testing on stains located inside the taxi revealed Porter's DNA mixed with the DNA of an unknown male.

"You can see in the video (Potter) actually rolls his sleeves over his hands, and that's when he describes to me how he was in the taxi and he made an effort to put his sleeves over his hands, thus minimizing anything he may have touched while he was in that taxi," the undercover officer told the jury about the video of his conversation with Potter.

The officer said he had also tried to get Potter to tell him whether or not a man Potter had previously described as his "brother" had been involved in the murder. Potter was very reluctant to give any information, the officer explained. After the officer named a man he had previously met during a visit to St. John's - when he and another Mountie had come to establish their cover story amongst Potter's contacts - he said Potter replied by saying, "Yes, that's my brother."

The corporal said he and Potter had ended their conversation by making plans to meet for supper. When Potter later came back outside the hotel, expecting his boss to pick him up, he was instead met by a team of RCMP officers who arrested him for murder.

Randy Piercey, one of Potter's defence lawyers, questioned the corporal on his training when it came to undercover operations, and the purpose of a major crime investigative technique, often referred to in the media as a "Mr. Big" operation.

"It's super important for people to understand that it's about getting the truth. It's not about what I believe the truth to be," the officer said.

"Is the point of introducing violence to scare people?" Piercey asked.

"Not at all. It's to establish credibility about who I and other people in the operation are," the officer replied, explaining the goal is to make the person comfortable that they aren't dealing with police. "In our training, it is very much stressed that we don't scare confessions out of people."

"Taking Mr. Potter to a dead body late at night. Was that intended to scare him?" Piercey asked.

"No," the corporal replied. "That was not the intention of the time of day we went to the cornfield."

Piercey asked the officer about comments Potter had made on an audio recording from inside the car as the pair were driving to the cemetery to dump the fake body. Potter was heard remarking that it was "less than 24 hours" after he had started working with the officer, that he was "not too f---ing talkative now," and that he wanted whiskey.

"Was Mr. Potter stressed?" Piercey asked.

"I can't say that Mr. Potter was stressed because he was making jokes and singing (an) Alice Cooper song," the officer replied.

The pair had passed a billboard for an Alice Cooper concert, the court heard earlier.

"All that was along the travels from the cornfield to the cemetery."

"OK, but you would agree that he did talk a lot less? That he did express some surprise that it was less than 24 hours, and that he wanted to go on the booze?"

"Yes," the officer answered.

On redirect questioning, prosecutor Sheldon Steeves asked the Mountie about the set-up of a major crime investigative technique.

"Were you a Mr. Big?" Steeves asked.

"I was just a gentleman with a business, but that's what was alluded to," the officer said.

The Crown has now closed its case against Potter, and the trial will be handed over to the defence when it resumes on Tuesday. Potter is expected to take the stand.

Twitter: @tara_bradbury

Related story:
Potter showed me how he stabbed murder victim, officer says

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