Retired Cop on Verge of Tears

By Trevor Pritchard

November 14, 2008

A retired Ontario Provincial Police officer urged the commissioner of the Cornwall Public Inquiry to not judge his 1994 extortion investigation of David Silmser by "today's standards."

Det. Insp. Fred Hamelink could barely maintain his composure as he told commissioner Normand Glaude how the passage of time had clouded his memory of that 14-year-old case.

"I knew I would find it difficult to respond when that criticism is largely based on words and documents that were recorded in 1994, long after memory of the details and the contents have since faded," said Hamelink, on the verge of tears.

"I ask you not to judge my 1994 investigation, or any of the historical investigations which are subject to this inquiry, by today's standards."

Hamelink served with the OPP from 1969 until 2001. Yesterday was his first day on the stand at the inquiry, which is exploring how institutions like the OPP responded to allegations of historical sexual abuse.

In February 1994, Hamelink was assigned to probe whether Cornwall probation officer Ken Seguin was being blackmailed by Silmser, one of his former probationers.

Silmser had told city police in 1993 he'd been sexually abused as a boy by Seguin and Rev. Charles MacDonald, a local priest.

On Nov. 25, 1993, Seguin committed suicide. He was never charged with any crimes involving children.

In February 1994, Hamelink began investigating allegations that Silmser had called Seguin 10 days before his death and demanded money in exchange for not telling his story to the Ministry of Correctional Services.

At the same time Hamelink's team was looking at extortion charges, another OPP officer, Det. Insp. Tim Smith, had reopened the Cornwall force's investigation into Silmser's allegations against MacDonald.

MacDonald would eventually be charged with abusing young boys in 1996.

Those charges were stayed six years later, and the now-retired priest has always maintained his innocence.

The two officers co-operated on parts of their investigations, said Hamelink. When Smith's team interviewed Silmser, Hamelink watched behind a one-way mirror.

However, Hamelink said they never hammered out formal procedures on how the two investigations would co-exist.

"Our paths crossed continuously, especially in this region," he explained.

"He was involved. I was involved. There was never any schedule as to when we were going to contact each other."

The initial idea was the two officers would go to the regional Crown attorney, Peter Griffiths, with their findings at the same time.

That didn't happen, Hamelink readily admitted.

"I went ahead of (Smith)," he said. "There's really no explanation as to why I did. I was finished."

A 2001 e-mail sent by Pat Hall, who oversaw the OPP's Project Truth investigation into rumours a pedophile ring existed in Cornwall, said Hamelink and Smith had a "big blowup" over the issue.

Hamelink said that simply isn't true. "I do not have any recall whatsoever of

any blowup at any time with Tim Smith," he said.

Griffiths decided in October 1994 there was insufficient evidence to lay extortion charges against Silmser.

With detective inspectors handling up to 20 cases at any one time, Hamelink asked Glaude to consider recommending that a firm cap be placed on an OPP investigator's caseload.

"It is unreasonable to expect one person to case manage this many major cases," said Hamelink, "and also have an expectation that those investigations will be able to bear the scrutiny of an inquiry, such as this, some 10, 15, and 20 years from now."

The inquiry resumes this morning.


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