Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Police silence on Gibson case helping no one

Murder-suicide finally confirmed after 71 days

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Winnipeg police can trot out all the reasons they want about a delay in releasing information about the Gibson family tragedy.

But there is absolutely no rational explanation for waiting 71 days to finally confirm Thursday what everyone already knew -- Lisa Gibson murdered her two children by drowning them, then took her own life by jumping into the river.

Officially, police are blaming what they call "in-depth investigating work surrounding forensics" and "time-consuming lab results" for their silence.

"We're not going to release information until we're absolutely certain," Const. Jason Michalyshen told a jam-packed news conference at the Public Safety Building. "It may have been very apparent to the public and the media what took place, but that's not good enough for us."

Well, that explanation shouldn't be good enough for the general public, who have a right to know exactly happened on July 24 on Coleridge Park Drive. Especially when there is still so much about this case police absolutely refuse to give any information about despite the fact they are clearly armed with the information.

In fact, loyal readers of the Free Press already knew much, much more about this case from our stories over the past few months than the brief news release police finally put out to the public on Thursday.

One of the observers in the crowd was veteran Winnipeg homicide officer James Jewell, who retired last year. He believes his former employers have actually made this situation worse in how it's been handled.

"They may have inadvertently added to the stigma attached to mental illnesses like postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis," said Jewell. "In truth, there was never any doubt the deaths of the Gibson children would be classified as homicides. The police could have confirmed these facts on the very first day of the investigation. Their hesitation to do so remains perplexing."

'In truth, there was never any doubt the deaths of the Gibson children would be classified as homicides. The police could have confirmed these facts on the very first day of the investigation. Their hesitation to do so remains perplexing'

-- retired Winnipeg homicide officer James Jewell

It's worth noting there have been five more homicides since July 24 that were quickly confirmed by police, usually within a few hours of occurring. And there was never the belief Lisa Gibson and her children drowned by accident. Or that there was some crazed, unidentified killer on the loose.

So why the hesitation?

Police said Thursday their criminal investigation is now officially closed. They confirmed there is not going to be any type of trial. And they say they are not impacted at all by the possibility of an inquest being called.

If that's the case, what exactly is stopping them from coming clean? Do they think the public can't handle the full story behind this tragedy? Are they hoping people simply move on and forget? Are they being overly sensitive to the mental-health situation likely at the centre of this all?

Or are they hiding something they don't want you to know?

Police refused Thursday to address an earlier Free Press story that revealed the first officers who arrived at the Gibson home somehow missed finding Anna, 2, and Nicholas, three months, in the tub. It was the grandmother, approximately 30 minutes later, who arrived at the home and made the tragic discovery, according to sources.

News police didn't find the children right away 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?

Michalyshen wouldn't address any specifics, only saying Thursday there is now an ongoing review of the response by emergency personnel to meet their goal of being a "learning organization."

Of course, the results of that probe will never see the light of day. Michalyshen confirmed all findings would remain private but will help police determine if "we could do things better."

"We're not really going to go into any further detail," he said.

Many other questions remain unanswered as well, including whether it was Lisa Gibson who placed the initial call for help from inside the home. Sources have told the Free Press a woman called saying "send police" before hanging up.

"I don't have those details. I can't say for sure who that would be," Michalyshen said Thursday when asked specifically who was on the other end of the phone that morning.

Again, this doesn't make sense. Either police know or they don't.

Police are also refusing to release an all-important timeline of when they got the call, when they arrived on scene, when the children were found and when medical officials believe they died.

They also won't say when Gibson is believed to have drowned herself, as her body didn't turn up until three days after she killed her kids. Surely some of that in-depth forensic work and time-consuming lab results would provide these answers. Yet police, as has been routine in this case, won't say a word.

So did she immediately go and end her life after killing her children? Did she hide out somewhere for a few hours, or even days, before doing herself in?

Police also won't say if any of the reported sightings of Gibson -- some thought they saw a woman matching her description pushing a stroller in the neighbourhood -- were found to be legitimate. I'm sure folks who called in those sightings would love to know if they were imagining things or not.

The only saving grace here is it's possible further answers could eventually come if an inquest is called by the chief medical examiner's office. A decision on that isn't expected until later this year. 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.

Sources have told the Free Press Gibson had been diagnosed with a postpartum illness shortly after the birth of Nicholas and was struggling with her mental health in the weeks leading up to the killings.

Once again, police said Thursday they would have no comment on what they've learned about Gibson and her state of mind.

"We're absolutely sensitive to that," Michalyshen said, calling the case an "incredibly unfortunate circumstance."

In more ways than one.

www.mikeoncrime.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 4, 2013 A3

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Updated on Friday, October 4, 2013 at 6:53 AM CDT: Replaces photo, adds video

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