Winnipeg police admit they paid $1,500 to accused serial killer Shawn Lamb in a desperate bid to get information about missing and murdered Manitoba women.
Vague revelations of a payoff were first disclosed on Thursday at Lamb’s sentencing hearing by defence lawyer Martin Glazer, who said police had crossed the line and essentially bought a confession from his client which likely would have been thrown out at trial.
Full details of the move were revealed at a Friday morning news conference. Supt. Danny Smyth of the Criminal Investigations Unit said it was an extremely rare decision aimed at bringing closure to as many grieving families as possible.
"The Winnipeg Police Service is sensitive to the fact there are many missing and murdered women in Manitoba and in Canada. These investigations are a priority for us. In this case, the investigators explored all available options in the interest of justice and public safety," said Smyth. "I would say this is very unusual. In my time this is the first time I can recall us going to that kind of a measure."
Lamb, 54, struck a plea bargain with the Crown to plead guilty Thursday to two counts of manslaughter and receive a 20-year sentence, with no chance of parole for at least 10 years. The Crown dropped more serious murder charges and the mandatory life sentence they carry.
"This was a difficult and challenging case. We accept this fact and respect the authority by which this decision was made," said Smyth.
Money paid into 'canteen fund'
Police outlined in detail how their contact and payment to Lamb came about. Lamb was initially arrested on a sexual assault charge nearly two years ago unrelated to any homicide. While being processed, "Mr. Lamb indicated he knew where a body was. This statement triggered a homicide investigation," said Smyth.
Police were then led to the body of Carolyn Sinclair, 25. Her remains were found March 31, 2012, wrapped in plastic inside a duffle bag near a garbage can on Notre Dame Avenue.
Lamb refused to co-operate further and did not give a formal statement. He was not charged with Sinclair’s killing and the investigation remained ongoing.
Lamb then broke his silence several months later when he contacted police, looking to broker a deal.
"He indicated he had more information to relate about the homicide and other crimes he committed," said Smyth.
Police consulted with the Crown about how to proceed and set up a special "canteen fund" at the Remand Centre for Lamb. An initial $600 was deposited, which Lamb could use to buy cigarettes, snacks and other items in custody.
Police then sat down with Lamb, who upheld his end of the deal by not only confessing to killing Sinclair, but also Lorna Blacksmith. At the time, Blacksmith was still listed as a missing person. Lamb led investigators to her body, just as he’d done with Sinclair.
Paid $1,500 total for information
Lamb was charged with two counts of second-degree murder, but told police he wanted to keep talking – for a price.
"He continued to contact investigators, indicating he would provide more information about other homicides he was involved in," said Smyth.
Police met with Lamb on two further occasions, depositing another $600 and then $300 into his account. But never proved to be fruitful.
"Neither provided investigators with any additional evidence," said Smyth.
He said police were put in a difficult position here, knowing there would be no case without the co-operation of Lamb.
"This brought closure to the families of Carolyn Sinclair and Lorna Blacksmith," said Smyth. "It was hoped subsequent information would be forthcoming to bring closure to the families of other victims that Mr. Lamb may have been involved in."
And while they may come under criticism – especially from Lamb’s lawyer – police say this is a tactic they felt they had to utilize.
"This is an extraordinary measure that we considered. Put into the context of missing and murdered women and the sensitivityy around that and trying to get to the bottom of some of those things," said Smyth. "I think every case would be weighed individually. This wouldn’t be something we’d do routinely."