Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Catching killers work of Mr. Big

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DAUPHIN -- They had no forensics, no witnesses and no body. And if not for "Mr. Big," they would have had no case.

It's just the latest example of the RCMP sting operation paying off big in Manitoba.

Members of the historical homicide unit decided in 2010 to take another shot at solving the 2003 disappearance and suspected killing of Derek Kembel in Dauphin.

An undercover officer first approached the main suspect, Christopher Shewchuk, in a Dauphin bar, asking him to help track down a person who'd "wronged" the group. It was the start of a beautiful relationship, court heard Wednesday.

The operation lasted four months and included 58 different scenarios in which they gained Shewchuk's trust with the hopes of getting him to confess to Kembel's killing.

"Each scenario has an objective, many of which are to promote trust and enhance credibility of the organization," said Crown attorney Carla Dewar.

Shewchuk was initially asked to help with small jobs, such as picking up and delivering bags he believed contained illegal product such as drugs and weapons.

He was paid for his work and repeatedly asked for bigger and better challenges -- at one point saying he'd be happy to kill for the group if needed.

"I'll get the job done no matter what," Shewchuk told an undercover agent in another recording played in court Wednesday. Eventually, he came clean and confessed to the Shewchuk murder.

It was a similar operation to the one that solved the Erin Chorney case in Brandon.

Chorney was 18 when she disappeared in April 2002.

As time passed, it became apparent she was likely the victim of foul play. Brandon police focused on Michael Bridges, her ex-boyfriend. Over the course of several months, Bridges was lured into the same fictional world as Shewchuk.

The grand finale came in February 2004 when, as a hidden video camera rolled, Bridges calmly explained how he choked Chorney unconscious, then cut the cord off his mother's hair dryer and used it to strangle Chorney. When she didn't die, he submerged her head in his bathtub for nearly 20 minutes.

Bridges was convicted in June 2005 of first-degree murder following a jury trial.

-- Mike McIntyre

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 29, 2014 A6

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