Witness intimidation accusation mires misconduct hearing for Ottawa cop who probed child deaths
Witness intimidation accusation mires misconduct hearing for Ottawa cop who probed child deaths

Perjury, witness intimidation and obstruction of justice are among allegations the defence team for detective Helen Grus levelled at senior Ottawa Police Service personnel during week three of her disciplinary hearing, which adjourned on Thursday afternoon in Stittsville, Ont. but could stretch well into the year.

“Provided there’s not a mistrial for intimidation of a witness,” remarked Grus’ co-counsel Blair Ector, who had just filed a criminal incident report with Ottawa police against a senior Professional Standards Unit inspector for alleged witness intimidation.

Just as Grus was to testify in her own defence Wednesday afternoon, Ector announced to the tribunal that his client had received a suspect communication earlier in the day. 

“It’s come to my attention today that Inspector Hugh O’Toole sent an email to my client stating that she cannot rely on any (Ottawa Police Service) documents,” said Ector, noting O’Toole had a law degree.

“That is witness tampering. That is intimidation. That is obstruction. This tribunal should be outraged. I am outraged.”

Exasperated that tribunal officer Chris Renwick denied his attempts to speak about O’Toole’s offending email, table it as evidence or even allow a brief statement on the matter, Ector, co-counsel Bath-Sheba van den Berg, and Grus stood together and faced Renwick.

“I am a witness of a crime and I’m filing a police report right now,” said Ector before the trio turned and exited the hearing room, conveniently located at the Ottawa police’s Huntmar Dr. detachment.

Grus stands accused of discreditable conduct, which hinges on alleged Ottawa Police Service policy violations she committed in her probe of a possible link between COVID shots and sudden infant deaths in the region.

Related activities have been described by prosecutors as an “unsanctioned…quality control project,” including allegations that she interfered in ongoing investigations by seeking the COVID vaccination status of the related mothers.

Throughout 14 hearing days to date, Renwick has ruled more often in favour of Stewart and the Ottawa police, in so doing suppressing seemingly key pieces of evidence like related autopsy reports and a notebook containing Grus’ last entry before she was suspended in February 2022 – items her lawyers argue could prove exculpatory.

This pattern of denying evidentiary disclosure reached new levels this week as Stewart insisted that Grus cannot use generic Ottawa police policy documents and job descriptions for her defence without express permission. In the coming weeks, Renwick must decide whether Grus can access such documents; he must also rule on a separate defence motion to have Stewart removed from the case for alleged prosecutorial misconduct.

Buckling under the weight of these legal maneuvers, at points Renwick admitted that he was overwhelmed by adjudicating this administrative law matter now rife with constitutional implications. Renwick also lost his cool when the defence accused a police witness of committing perjury during his testimony, and ordered Grus’ lawyers to refrain from such accusations.

On Tuesday, Renwick threw in the towel on proceedings 30 minutes early stating he had to “end it here for today…I’m suffering from fatigue and I’m challenged in giving direction in running this hearing.”

Remarks like these from Renwick prompted van den Berg to remind the retired police superintendent that he had the opportunity to hire independent legal counsel to assist in managing the tribunal, but declined.

“I have a vast amount of experience in policing, but I’m not a lawyer. You as trained counsel have much more experience in these matters,” Renwick explained to participants during one legal impasse. “I feel like more of a referee function.”

Prior to the tribunal’s resumption on Monday Jan. 8, Renwick ruled in Nov. 2023 to deny all of Grus’ proposed expert witnesses, including three medical doctors whose statements indicate Grus’ concern about vaccines billed as safe and effective by public health officials was reasonable.

Family physician Gregory Chan noted in a questionnaire provided by the defence that COVID vaccines were not sufficiently tested, that a patient of his suffered a “chronological” stillbirth two months after receiving a COVID shot and the overall “lack of safety information generates questions/concerns.”

Pediatric neurology specialist Dr. Eric Payne’s expert statement also notes the dearth of safety data, particularly for pregnant women and babies.

“Pregnant women and babies less than six months of age have been excluded from all of the clinical trials. We also know that the spike protein product of these genetic vaccines can circulate widely throughout one’s body, including the reproductive organs, brain and heart (and)… has been found to distribute through breastmilk,” he wrote. He also indicated Grus was “astute” in her questioning and that there was “solid scientific and medical support for her inquiries.”

Though Renwick also denied retired Ottawa police Staff Sgt. Major Peter Danyluk the opportunity to appear as an expert witness for the defence, in a rare victory for Grus, Renwick allowed Danyluk to appear as a lay witness. He testified this week.

Danyluk, a retired member of both the Canadian Armed Forces and more recently the Ottawa Police Service, testified that he co-wrote the force’s ethics manual and in his expert statement indicated that he did not agree with the charge against detective Grus. He also testified that Grus had told him about her vaccine inquiries. He described her actions as “fact-finding” in nature and didn’t see anything amiss.

“She wasn’t asking my permission, she was just bouncing ideas off me like ‘I’ve seen the statistical anomaly.’ I think she said it was double the amount of SIDS (year-over-year 2020-21),” recalled Danyluk of their conversation.

“It’s so basic, it didn’t raise any red flags for me.”

In other testimony, Danyluk described Grus as “rational” and “articulate” and said that others who spoke about the detective, then part of the sex assault and child abuse unit, “had nothing but extraordinary things to say about her, her work ethic, her integrity, her honour.”

Before Renwick adjourned proceedings on Thursday afternoon, he agreed with Stewart’s motion to impose 14-day timelines for introducing new motions to the tribunal as well as a seven-day period for lawyers to respond.

Van den Berg described these new rules, introduced late in the proceedings, as financially onerous for Grus and would likely delay the disciplinary tribunal even further. It’s been almost 18 months since Grus was charged with discreditable conduct. While she was originally suspended with pay, the Ottawa Police Service has since brought her back as a detective in the robbery unit.

If Grus is found guilty, she could face demotion or termination.

Correction: This article originally said Grus was suspended without pay when she had been suspended with pay. It has been updated.

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