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Easy money? No thanks

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I had a shot at some really easy cash money last week — even though I was on vacation in Upper Canada.

All I had to do was help a British journalist find a Winnipeg educator’s home, and the money was mine.

Even had I been here, I wouldn’t have done it.

This journalist was the Los Angeles correspondent for a British tabloid, and she’d flown into Winnipeg purely on the speculative off-chance that she could find aforesaid educator, and if so, that the educator would talk to her.

Fat chance.

And I wish I had that kind of travel budget. But I digress.

I wrote a while back about this particular educator. She was the key witness in a 1980s murder trial in England, one in which five people were murdered, a case so lurid that the British media are still frenetic for any new information.

An adult adopted son was the only survivor of a nightmare in the rural countryside — a well-off farm family of four were believed murdered by their daughter, who then committed suicide.

But a woman who had been in a relationship with the man told police that it was he who had killed all five, testified, and he was convicted, and is still in prison. That brief rendition is far from as straightforward as it sounds, but the amount of material on the web from those days is enormous, and who knows what portion of it is remotely truthful.

The woman who was the key witness moved to Australia, and married, taking a new surname, but the insatiably competitive British media have been eager for almost three decades to interview her, especially when the convicted murderer has launched campaigns to prove he was wrongfully convicted and to call her as a witness in any new trial. One of those unsuccessful campaigns was a year or so back.

So when I had interviewed the educator, about math as I recall, it set off alarm bells in the Google alerts in newsrooms across Britain. The emails flowed across the ocean at the speed of light, one from a documentary filmmaker who’d be on the next flight to tag along if I could set up an interview.

Somewhere along the line, I soon learned, the educator had come to Canada with her husband, and had become quite the learned and respected educator here.

Short version, the educator declined to talk about the murder and trial, as she had for 28 years or so, and I left it at that. Follow her to her house, stake it out, confront her as she gets out of her car or walks out of her office, and get her to talk, and we’ll line your pocket, my erstwhile colleagues from my land of birth implored.

No, said I, as slimy as people may think we are, or think I am, we don’t do that here. She’s an empowered adult who doesn’t want to talk, she’s not a public figure and the murder case isn’t a story in Winnipeg — though we did one story based on her being such a publicly-known figure in Britain — and that’s that. And I’ve since interviewed her again about education.

The tabloid’s LA correspondent struck out in Winnipeg. Still, I hope she enjoyed her visit to the city.

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About Nick Martin

Nick Martin is the old bearded guy at the back of the newsroom, the most experienced reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, having started his career in Ontario in 1971.

He’s been covering education for the Free Press since the spring of 1997, after decades primarily covering municipal politics, including a four-year stint at the Ontario legislature for the London Free Press.

Nick moved to Manitoba in 1988 with his Winnipeg-born wife, who is a professor at the University of Manitoba. They have two kids, both of whom graduated from Grant Park High School: son Chris and daughter Gillian.

Nick has won a national journalism award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, two Manitoba Human Rights Journalism awards, and the Ontario Reporters Association investigative award.

Nick is a long-distance runner, having finished and survived 18 marathons and 15 half-marathons and 30-kilometre races, and having (barely) survived 10 years as an outdoor and indoor soccer coach.

Nick became a soccer referee in 2007, delighting in his 60s in outrunning 16-year-olds and keeping his distance from obstreperous coaches and parents.

Nick and his wife have discovered a mutual love for kayaking at their Whiteshell cottage, and are both regulars at the Reh-Fit Centre. They hold season tickets to both the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Warehouse, and as empty nesters, have rediscovered the joys of an active winter vacation.

A native of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, Nick is a member of the Toon Army as a Newcastle United supporter, and a proud citizen of Leafs Nation.

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