STONY PLAIN — Two men jailed for their roles in the deaths of four Mounties near Mayerthorpe, won’t be allowed to take part in the fatality inquiry into the shootings, even though neither has ever testified in court about what they know concerning the buildup to the crime.
Judge Daniel Pahl ruled Thursday at a hearing to determine who will have standing at the inquiry that Shawn Hennessey and Dennis Cheeseman are unlikely to have anything useful to add.
“I do not see, in the circumstances, a direct and substantial interest,” Pahl told Shawn’s father Barry Hennessey, who asked the judge to allow the men to participate.
“Your son and the other gentleman clearly were involved, but peripherally.”
Hennessey and Cheeseman pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the March 3, 2005 deaths of constables Peter Schiemann, Brock Myrol, Leo Johnston and Anthony Gordon.
In an agreed statement of facts, the two men said they had supplied the killer with one of his weapons, given him a ride to a spot where he could begin stalking the officers, and had decided not to warn police in the hours before James Roszko unleashed his attack.
Pahl told Barry Hennessey that fatality inquiries are narrowly focused on the circumstances around the deaths and how to prevent similar tragedies in the future. He said the agreed statement of facts the two young men signed would be adequate.
Outside court Barry Hennessey said shutting his son out of the inquiry will prevent it from getting the whole story.
“We believe there’s evidence and information being withheld and we believe we have a right to ask questions,” Hennessey said.
“(The court) is going by an agreed statement of facts that we don’t really agree with. The inquiry’s not going to bring out the whole story without the boys being involved with it.”
Hennessey continues to maintain that his son was badgered into signing an agreed statement of facts that doesn’t reflect the truth of what happened. As a result, he feels his son lost his chance to testify and tell his side of the events to a court.
“They jumped into signing a bunch of paper and an agreed statement of facts that we all disagree with,” said Hennessey. “It was the biggest mistake of their life.
“They’ve never had a trial, they’ve never spoken to anybody. The boys have heads full of information on what happened that night and I believe it’s very important to the inquiry.”
Family members of all four of the murdered Mounties were also in court. They are automatically granted standing at the fatality inquiry.
Colleen Myrol, mother of Brock, said she would have been interested to hear any new information that Hennessey and Cheeseman might have brought forward, but she agreed with Pahl that the narrow focus of a fatality inquiry isn’t the place for it.
“I thought (the application) was strange. (Hennessey) may have some thoughts he wants to say, but maybe he can do that at his own press conference. I really don’t think this is place for it.”
She said her own questions will focus on police procedures.
“Was everything in place to the best of their ability when those four boys went out?” she asked. “Were all the ducks in a row? Should they have had more people at that time?”
Pahl said the hearing will begin Jan. 10 in Stony Plain court.
There have already been two examinations of RCMP decisions prior to the deaths.
In 2007, the force concluded in an internal investigation that Roszko’s actions could not have been foreseen. It said leaders at the Mayerthorpe detachment performed reasonably and professionally on the day of the shootings.
That same year, a workplace safety report from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada recommended that beefier body armour be issued to Alberta Mounties. It also suggested that officers working at night be equipped with night-vision goggles and better radio communications.
Cheeseman and Hennessey are serving 12- and 15-year sentences, respectively. They have appealed those sentences and the Alberta Court of Appeal is considering their arguments.