Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

RCMP officer accused of threatening colleague, wife

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A Manitoba RCMP officer is accused of threatening a fellow Mountie who dated -- and eventually married -- his former girlfriend.

The alleged victim and his new bride say they've been forced to flee the province because of safety concerns and a judicial system that is in no rush to bring the case to justice. He said he's considering a civil lawsuit.

"It's so frustrating. You try to do stuff the right way but this is what happens," RCMP Const. Landon Durston said Tuesday in a phone interview from Red Deer, Alta.

The Free Press has uncovered details of the case through court documents, including a hearing last week in which the trial was adjourned until next year.

The RCMP issued a news release in October 2011, revealing an unnamed officer had been charged with two counts of uttering death threats. There was no indication the alleged victim was also a police officer.

Const. David Obirek, 43, has been suspended with pay for the past 25 months. The allegations have not been proven and he is presumed innocent.

Obirek is accused of sending several text messages to his ex-wife in August 2011 in which he spoke of wanting Durston dead. He was allegedly angry because Durston had started dating his ex-girlfriend, a civilian member of the RCMP.

Durston would later marry the woman, who moved west with him last summer. Durston told the Free Press Tuesday he was stunned when Obirek's ex-wife contacted him to convey the messages she had received.

"There was talk about having me followed, about taking me out and having me killed," said Durston, who worked in special operations at the RCMP D Division headquarters at the time.

He went to Winnipeg police, who charged Obirek following a brief investigation. Durston said he was also told by his supervising officers to take extra safety precautions. He got permission to take his service firearm home.

Eventually, the RCMP agreed to his request for an out-of-province transfer because he and his wife continued to live in fear. The woman obtained a protection order against Obirek in October 2010 -- nearly a year before the texts surfaced. That three-year order expired last month.

Obirek was supposed to begin his three-day trial last week. Durston was flown in from Alberta, expecting to testify, but Obirek's lawyers requested an adjournment on the grounds they wanted time to pursue further evidence.

Defence lawyer Bruce Bonney told court there is no dispute the texts his client is accused of sending appear ugly on the surface.

"They include words like 'kill.' On the face of them, they are threats," said Bonney. But he said there are other texts that were deleted by Obirek's ex-wife that paint them in a different light.

Bonney says Winnipeg police now have the technology to recover these deleted BlackBerry messages.

"These recovered texts will allow us to show the context with which this all took place. The context is absolutely relevant and necessary," said Bonney, who described his client as "upset and blowing off steam" when he sent the texts.

"This is highly relevant information we can probably get back verbatim. In the interests of justice, for this man to be able to defend himself, he needs this adjournment," said Bonney.

Special Crown prosecutor Danny Gunn was opposed, saying the trial should proceed. Provincial court Judge Anne Krahn "reluctantly" agreed to delay the trial until Feb. 27.

Durston said it's ridiculous 28 months will have passed between arrest and trial. He said he's exploring a lawsuit against Obirek and justice officials for the delay.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 6, 2013 A3

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