December 7, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Winnipeg police didn't immediately locate the bodies of two children after responding to a cryptic 911 call and searching the Gibson family home, the Free Press has learned.
It was the grandmother of the two victims -- as much as 30 minutes after police first arrived on scene -- who made the grim discovery.
And that has led to yet another in a long line of "what if" questions being asked in this tragic case: What if they had been found sooner? Could they have been saved?
"My feeling is nothing probably would have changed as far as the outcome in the end. But it's just horrible all around," said one of several police sources who have told the Free Press new details of the case. "A lot of people are really rattled."
Officially, Winnipeg police remain tight-lipped about all circumstances and declined to answer a series of specific questions Tuesday, citing both an ongoing investigation and the possibility of a future inquest. Police still won't officially deem this a double homicide-suicide, even though no other theories are being looked at.
-- police source
"We do not expect to make any such decision for a number of months as we have investigative matters that are pending and awaiting analysis," Det.-Sgt. Natalie Aitken told the Free Press. "Until investigators have this information, we are unable to make an official declaration, including a statement of criminal culpability. We do expect to have further information to release regarding this incident in the future."
However, a clearer picture is beginning to emerge through sources, three weeks after the incident which saw Anna, 2, and Nicholas, three months, both lifeless in their bathtub. Their mother, Lisa Gibson, then apparently took her own life, her body turning up three days later in the Red River.
Police went to the Coleridge Park Drive home after a woman, believed to be Lisa Gibson, called 911, stated the home address and said "send police" before hanging up.
The first cruiser car arrived on scene moments later. The specific times and timelines are not clear because Winnipeg police have refused requests to provide them.
Once at the home, the two officers got no response at the door and then entered after it was observed to be unlocked, sources say. There was a quick, cursory search inside the residence that didn't turn up anything unusual. Police refused Tuesday to provide any specifics on this issue.
Police then went outside and spoke with a neighbour, who suggested Lisa may have observed her typical morning routine of taking her children to a nearby park, according to sources.
A female officer, relatively new to the police service, was tasked with staying behind in the home while her partner went off to look in the neighbourhood, sources say.
Lisa's mother-in-law then showed up at the home -- sources say between 20 and 30 minutes later -- expecting to check on Lisa and the children as part of a plan arranged days earlier after Lisa was diagnosed with postpartum depression and given medication.
Instead, the woman arrived to the disturbing sight of a police officer inside the residence and an ongoing search for her daughter-in-law and grandchildren.
The mother-in-law then began walking through the home, clearly troubled by what was happening. She ended up in the bathroom, where she looked inside and saw the lifeless bodies in the tub, sources say.
Paramedics were called immediately and attempts were made to resuscitate the children. Those first responders were taken off duty for critical-incident counselling. The first police officers on scene have also been given therapy.
"The service does wish to reiterate this event is tragic and difficult for all involved, including the family, emergency services personnel and the community," Aitken said Tuesday.
Sources told the Free Press no suicide note was located and those involved in the investigation are still struggling to find answers. It's possible some of those could come if an inquest is eventually called by the Chief Medical Examiner's office. A decision on that isn't expected for several months. The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority has forwarded all information pertaining to Lisa Gibson to the medical examiner, but will not release it publicly, citing privacy concerns of the family.
Some additional details have emerged about the search for Lisa Gibson after the discovery of her children. Police made a public plea for help that led to dozens of tips pouring in. Most, if not all, proved baseless.
Officers received several reported sightings of Gibson at Deacon's Corner, where she was supposedly seen hitchhiking. Police also got calls from patrons at a Tim Hortons who swore they saw Gibson leaving the restaurant with a man.
Those types of leads exhausted police resources; each had to be pursued regardless of how silly they might have seemed. Police seized numerous video surveillance tapes from businesses to review, with no confirmed sightings reported.
It's believed Gibson took her own life in the immediate aftermath of her children's deaths. Her body surfaced some distance from her home, carried by the river's swift current.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 7, 2013 A3
Updated on Wednesday, August 7, 2013 at 6:12 AM CDT: