Amanda Oliver of St. John’s says she was woken up early in the day on March 7 by a series of text messages from friends asking her what trouble she had gotten herself into.
Oliver, 29 and a mom of one, says she had no clue what they were talking about until they sent her web links to media articles. Under headlines like “RNC seek suspects in break and entry,” Oliver saw her own photo, captured by CCTV footage as she exited a St. John’s store and distributed to media outlets by police in an effort to identify her.
“I was very, very shocked and worried about my family and my child seeing these things posted all over the media and TV and Facebook,” Oliver said. “Facebook isn’t only St. John’s, it’s the world, so you have everyone and their own expectations of what’s going on; their judgment.”
The RNC, in a regular appeal to the public, was asking for help in finding two people investigators believed were involved in a break-in at Elaine’s Convenience Store on Portugal Cove Road a month earlier. Sometime before 5 a.m. on Feb. 7, thieves broke into the store and made off with alcohol and pull-tab lottery tickets.
Police obtained surveillance footage taken at a different store later that same day, showing what they said was a man and a woman cashing in pull-tab lottery tickets from the batches stolen from Elaine’s Convenience. Asking anyone who could identify the suspects to contact them, the RNC released the still shots from the footage to the media for publication.
“I called (them) myself right away and went to speak with them and let them know that I had no involvement,” Oliver said.
“Clearly, I was there in the (second) store, but I did not know the gentleman that was next to me … I did not know him and I didn’t engage in a great conversation with this person. I was just there purchasing my own tickets, which were scratch tickets and had nothing involved with the robbery.”
Oliver said she had gone into the Griffin’s Smoke Shop location next to Sobeys on Torbay Road and Elizabeth Avenue, and chatted in the store with a man who had held the door open for her. She purchased her scratch tickets, she said, and then left, not thinking anything else of it until her photo was released publicly.
Cleared by investigators
After Oliver spoke to investigators, she was cleared as a suspect. The man, however, was also identified and later charged with possessing stolen property and breaching court orders. His case is making its way through the courts.
“Based on initial evidence, officers had reason to believe both parties were involved,” RNC Const. Geoff Higdon told The Telegram Friday.
“Once we identified both the man and the woman, investigators followed up and continued their investigation, which included new interviews. The investigator determined the female was not involved, and no charges were ever laid against her. Her name was never released and her photo was removed from our website.”
Media outlets also removed the photo, but according to Oliver, the damage to her reputation had already been done. She said acquaintances continue to ask her about her involvement in the break-in and she has had strangers tell her they recognize her from the news.
“My family was one thing I had to deal with, but the public is something else,” Oliver said, adding she feels awkward going into convenience stores where she feels people might recognize her.
Oliver said she consulted a lawyer who told her she had a legal case, but it would cost thousands of dollars to take it to court.
Oliver, who said she has no criminal record, just wants to clear her name.
“I would like (the RNC) to put out to the media that I had no involvement, so people who know me, in the past or in the future, don’t think I’m involved,” she said.