LONDON – Almost six years have passed since the alleged gang rape accused of five players from the 2018 edition of Junior Team Canada. London police apologize but do not explain the reason.
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Many questions, few answers. Without going into detail, London police chief Thai Truong agreed that the investigation had taken far too long.
“The police are not happy that it took six years,” he said Monday in London during a widely watched news conference at the Ontario city's convention center. I'm confident it won't happen again.
For the three-year period between the discontinuation of the investigation at the beginning of 2019 and the resumption of the investigation in July 2022, neither an explanation nor a person responsible could be identified.
“There will be a time for this,” Mr. Truong reiterated, but stressed that he did not want to interfere in the legal process.
“I can’t talk about the past, but I can talk about the future,” he added, immediately praising the work of Detective Sergeant Katherine Dann.
The latter mentioned in her speech at the podium that it was “additional evidence” and “new information” that led to the reopening of the investigation in July 2022. The criminal sergeant was initially not involved as the file appeared to be closed without charges filed in February 2019.
Accused of sexual assault
At the opening of the press conference, the police chief confirmed that Michael McLeod was charged with two separate counts of sexual assault, one for his own involvement in the alleged acts and the other, as stated by the detective, for allegedly “inciting” someone who commits the crime”. Carter Hart, Dillon Dube, Cal Foote and Alex Formenton each face one count of sexual assault.
As Mr. Truong apologized for the length of the investigation, he directed his words to the alleged victim, identified by the initials EM
“I would like to sincerely apologize to the victim and his family for the time taken to get to this point,” he said, paying tribute to the courage of the young girl who cooperated from the beginning. The investigation was initiated in 2018. That should be the case, it won't take that long. Victims shouldn’t have to wait this long.”
Recall that the actions in question allegedly took place on June 18, 2018 in a hotel room in downtown London, on the sidelines of a gala organized by Hockey Canada and attended by several ECJ skaters.
A lawsuit against Hockey Canada involved eight players from the 2018 Canadian Junior Team and the Canadian Hockey League. Detective Sergeant Katherine Dann could not determine Monday whether new charges are possible, but she remains open to seeking information from the public.
“Still, I can’t answer that question,” she often hinted during the press conference. We have brought charges against all those who we believe are justified.
“There is an incident and a victim,” she confirmed.
In court April 30
Ms. Dann recalled the chronology of events, specifying that the victim was met at Jack's Bar after the Hockey Canada event and that the alleged gang rape then took place at the Delta Armories Hotel.
For his part, Mr. Truong recalled that he was not the London police chief when the investigation gained momentum, but that he welcomed the decision of his now-retired predecessor, Steve Williams, to order a review of the investigation.
In the morning, the lawyers for the five affected players appeared virtually for the first time. The documents will also be sent to lawyers by the Crown as the case returns to court on April 30. It should be noted that an order was issued not to release the identities of the alleged victim and two witnesses.
Some excerpts from the press conference
“I cannot discuss the information presented to the court now. […] Now our organization is focused on support [présumée] victims and to ensure the credibility of the ongoing process.” – Thai Truong, London Police Chief
“I want to highlight the courage and incredible strength [présumée] Victim.” – Thai Truong, London Police Chief
“I understand that today’s announcement may hurt victims of sexual assault or bring trauma to the surface.” – Katherine Dann, Detective Sergeant, London Police Sexual Assault Unit
Regarding the additional accusation against McLeod: According to Katherine Dann, he is said to have “helped someone commit the crime”.
As for the cooperation of the other members of Junior Team Canada 2018 in the police investigation: According to Ms. Dann, it was at “varying levels.”
“On behalf of London Police, I would like to sincerely apologize to the victim and his family for the time it has taken to get to this point.” – Mr Truong.
As for the possibility of filing a complaint later: “We have brought charges against everyone that we believe are justified.” –Katherine Dann
“I'm not a hockey player, I don't know anything about hockey.” – Mr. Truong claims this is an investigation into a sexual assault and not a specific situation in hockey culture
“I haven’t spoken to anyone from the NHL side in the last few months.” – Ms. Dann