Nova Scotia RCMP say they don’t know the identity of the person who submitted false Crime Stoppers tips about Michel Vienneau, tips that led to his fatal shooting by Bathurst police more than five years ago.
Over several months, CBC News has asked the RCMP whether they investigated the source of the false tips after documents revealed police considered a public mischief investigation of the tips.
Until now, it wasn’t clear if such an investigation had taken place and whether police determined who submitted the tips.
“We do not know the identity of the tipster,” RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Jennifer Clarke said in an email last week.
Clarke said police would “not breach the integrity” of the Crime Stoppers program, which promises to keep legitimate tipsters anonymous.
Nova Scotia RCMP carried out the investigation of Vienneau’s Jan. 12, 2015 shooting death. He was shot by Bathurst Police Force Const. Mathieu Boudreau, one of six undercover officers waiting for Vienneau at the Bathurst train station, based on anonymous tips that he was trafficking drugs.
The 51-year-old Tracadie businessman was returning from a weekend trip to Montreal to watch a hockey game with his fiancée, Annick Basque.
RCMP determined Vienneau wasn’t trafficking drugs and found no evidence of criminal links.
The Bathurst tips were sealed by a 2016 court order. What’s known about the tips has emerged through testimony during court proceedings and a discipline hearing for two officers involved in the shooting.
Notes of meetings between RCMP investigators released to CBC last year said the force’s criminal operations unit “officers want us to investigate the Public Mischief.”
The notes state there was a discussion about the “privacy concerns of tipsters and Crime Stoppers program integrity.”
Public mischief is a charge under the Criminal Code for someone who intentionally misleads a police officer to start an investigation by making a false statement accusing someone of committing an offence, or causes some other person to be suspected of a crime they haven’t committed.
However, it was unclear if such an investigation had taken place.
RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Lisa Croteau last year said Crime Stoppers has mechanisms in place to keep the identity of tipsters anonymous.
“As a result, unless the tipster gives identifying information during the conversation, their identity stays anonymous,” Croteau said in a Dec. 10 email. “As such, there is no way to investigate a tipster who reports something through Crime Stoppers.”
But it wasn’t until Clarke’s subsequent email last week that the force confirmed it had not determined the identity of the tipster.
Tips can be submitted to Crime Stoppers by phone, text and through an online form. The civilian-run program takes the information, strips out any identifying information and then passes it along to the relevant police force.
The Crime Stoppers New Brunswick website states it doesn’t use caller ID and IP addresses are “not available to us.”
Vienneau’s family has offered a $10,000 reward for information that could lead to the arrest and conviction of people involved in the shooting, which could include the tipster.
Boudreau and his partner Const. Patrick Bulger were cleared of wrongdoing last year following an arbitration hearing. They had been suspended with pay pending the outcome of the hearing.
Both officers were expected to begin to resume their duties on Jan. 20, Bathurst officials had said.
The provincial government has ordered a coroner’s inquest into Vienneau’s death. No date has been set.
An inquest is a formal court proceeding that allows for public presentation of evidence relating to a death to help clarify the facts and circumstances.
The coroner does not assign responsibility or blame, but there may be recommendations on how to prevent similar deaths in the future.