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Former 'Surrey Six' investigator names Canada's top Mountie in ongoing legal fight

David Attew adds RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki to list of defendants
A former RCMP officer involved in the “Surrey Six” murder investigation in 2007 is continuing his legal action against the Mounties. Richmond News file photo
A former RCMP officer involved in the “Surrey Six” murder investigation who was convicted of misconduct is continuing his legal fight against the Mounties and has added the force’s top cop, Brenda Lucki, to the list of defendants.

David Attew filed a civil claim Aug. 24 in B.C. Supreme Court and included Lucki’s name on the document. Others named are Supt. John Robin, former B.C. RCMP commanding officer Brenda Butterworth-Carr, the Attorney General of Canada and B.C.’s Minister of Justice.

The B.C. court registry indicates Attew filed an almost identical civil claim in 2019 against nine current and former RCMP senior officers, along with an RCMP lawyer, the Attorney General of Canada and B.C.’s Minister of Justice.

That claim was amended in 2020, but neither of those documents named Lucki as a defendant. Lucki was appointed RCMP commissioner in March 2018, almost 11 years after the slaying of six men in a Surrey highrise.

Attew’s allegations, which have not been tested in court, relate to his role as team leader of the investigation into the execution-style shootings of the men at the Balmoral Tower in October 2007.

Panic alarm

In his most recent claim, Attew said he “reached out” to Lucki on two occasions in 2019 and 2020 about concerns he had for his safety and that of his family.

In November 2019, he said, Lucki agreed “to have someone look into the matter,” which led to Surrey RCMP saying they could install a panic alarm.

“The plaintiff was very direct in letting them know that this was not protecting his family and requested further assistance in being put in witness protection,” Attew said in his claim.

In January 2020, he said, he contacted Lucki with an urgent request for help in protecting his family because of recent threats from one of the accused in the murder case.

He said he provided the commissioner with a document that highlighted safety concerns the police had with several of the accused in the case “and how they are still running things in a violent way” from jail.

“The document was very clear on the need to protect any witnesses, including [me],” said Attew, alleging that Lucki refused to provide protection other than the mention of a panic alarm.

Attew said he also provided a copy of RCMP-authored “threat assessments” of the accused that “set out the dangers each accused processes to [him].” He claimed the RCMP disclosed his personal information, including his address, to the accused.

“The plaintiff is aware of more than one occasion where the RCMP has provided personal and private information identifying names and address of people involved in the Surrey Six investigation — putting individuals at risk,” his claim said.

Conditional sentence

The long-serving officer, who began his career in April 1991, said in the document that he retired in 2011 after he was charged with misconduct relating to events of the investigation.

The charge under the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act led to Attew pleading guilty to kissing and touching a witness. He received a six-month conditional sentence to be served in the community.

His legal action against the Mounties is based on allegations that he was overworked and that his mental health had deteriorated while leading the Surrey Six investigation. Attew was also a member of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team at the time, and on-call for other homicide investigations in the Lower Mainland.

He said his supervisors were aware of health issues he suffered in a motor vehicle accident prior to the investigation, but still asked him to become the team leader “and that it was not up for discussion.”

“The plaintiff expressed to his supervisors on many different occasions that he was having an extremely difficult time coping with the requirements that the job entailed and had turned to using alcohol as a means to do so, but was told there was no room for failure — that the Surrey Six investigation was a matter of national priority and he was to do whatever was required of him to solve the terrible crime,” his claim said.

At one point, he claimed, he was promised protection for a witness in the investigation who was residing outside Canada, but that his supervisor at the time, Supt. John Robin, later informed him that would not be the case.

“As one could imagine, this caused [Attew] a great deal of stress and anxiety as the witness began punching the cement wall repeatedly, screaming that [Attew] was a dead man,” said the claim, noting Attew had flown “across the world to retrieve this witness” and accompany him back to Canada.

The former staff sergeant said in his claim that he likely would have been promoted to superintendent had he been permitted to continue working for the RCMP. Attew had served in Prince George, Richmond, Langley and Surrey.

In November 2019, the Department of Justice Canada filed a response to Attew’s initial civil claim, arguing most of the facts alleged by the former officer were denied or “outside the knowledge of the defendants.”

30 allegations

The response also pointed out Attew’s guilty plea to misconduct occurred after the Ontario Provincial Police code of conduct investigation substantiated 30 allegations of misconduct against Attew, including failure to report an inappropriate relationship between a fellow RCMP officer and witness in the Surrey Six case.

“The plaintiff’s suggestion that he only pleaded guilty ‘in order to avoid the financial burden of defending the charges would have caused him if taken to trial’ amounts to an impermissible collateral attack on his conviction,” the Department of Justice Canada’s response said.

“Even if the plaintiff was suffering from stress related to legal funding at the time, he was nevertheless represented by counsel when he pleaded guilty to those charges and had the benefit of legal advice.”

The slaying of six people at Surrey’s Balmoral Tower included innocent victims Christopher Mohan and Ed Schellenberg. Others killed were Corey Lal, his brother and two associates.

Two men — Cody Haevischer and Matthew Johnston — were convicted in 2014 in the murders. Gangster Jamie Bacon was sentenced to 18 years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit murder.

Sgt. Caroline Duval, a media relations officer with RCMP headquarters in Ottawa, said in an email Friday that it would be inappropriate for the force to comment on the case because it is before the courts.

Glacier Media contacted Attew Thursday via email for comment, but didn’t receive a response before this story was posted.

Attew appears to be acting on his own behalf in the case, with no lawyer’s name attached to any of the documents filed in court since 2019. A trial date by judge alone has been set for May 24, 2022, according to the B.C. court registry.

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