Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Philippines killer may have B.C. tie

Ex-co-workers recall John Pope

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PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. -- Former colleagues believe the Canadian man who killed two people in a courtroom in the Philippines before being gunned down by police worked at a northern British Columbia newspaper three decades ago.

John Pope was facing charges of illegal possession of firearms when he was shot by police Tuesday in Cebu City. He was described in local reports as a journalist.

A spokeswoman for Canada's Foreign Affairs Department was unable to provide personal details about Pope due to privacy concerns, but a man named John Pope who bears a striking resemblance to the man in photos from the Philippines was a staff reporter for the Prince George Citizen in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Media in the Philippines previously reported Pope was an ex-Manitoban who once worked as a speechwriter and researcher for the Progressive Conservative government of former premier Gary Filmon. The PC caucus couldn't confirm this week Pope had worked for the party.

According to former Prince George Citizen employees, Pope was living in the Philippines for the last 10 to 15 years. The newspaper received a package from John Pope in the fall originating from the Philippines.

Former colleagues at the Citizen had recollections of the man some described as a "gun nut."

"It was black or white, right or wrong with him; there was no middle ground," photographer Brock Gable said. "You were either his friend or you didn't exist."

Former features editor Doug Martin remembered Pope as a big, physical man who would work out at the boxing club, but he said Pope had a dark side.

"He was a very unhappy guy, a troubled guy," Martin said. "He was kind of a crazy man."

One night, Martin said he got a phone call from Pope, who sounded agitated.

"He said, 'I'll come to your house. It's a matter of life or death,' " Martin recalled. "That didn't sound like a good idea to me. I didn't want him around my house."

Martin agreed to meet with Pope on the street and said the reporter had a wild look in his eyes.

"He's all upset and he said, 'I've got to kill Doug Weller,' a photographer," Martin said. "I managed to talk him out of it."

Martin reported the incident to the managing editor at the time, but he doesn't recall any physical confrontations between Pope and any of his colleagues.

According to reports from the Philippines, Pope shot and killed a lawyer and the man who made the firearms complaint against him, then wounded a prosecutor before he was shot by police.

Former Citizen reporter Bernice Trick remembered Pope as a good reporter who was always on top of his beat. Trick worked with Pope in the early 1980s and the pair kept in touch sporadically over the years.

She received emails from him from the Philippines during the 1990s. In their email correspondence, Pope would often speak proudly of his two children he had with a common-law partner in the Philippines.

Trick said he was a bit odd, but not any more so than the other colourful personalities in the business.

"He wouldn't be someone you would fear," she said.

Martin said he and some other former colleagues felt differently.

"He seemed like a prime candidate to pull out a gun and shoot us all," Martin said. "We laughed about it. Maybe we shouldn't have."

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 24, 2013 A10

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