by Keith Fraser
The Crown has urged a jury to accept a confession by Garry Taylor Handlen to the murder of Monica Jack as evidence he committed the heinous crime.
In final submissions, Crown counsel Mark Sheardown told the jury on Wednesday that the trial of the accused, who has pleaded not guilty to one count of first-degree murder, boiled down to a “fairly simple” question.
“Was Mr. Handlen telling the truth when he confessed to abducting, raping and killing Monica Jack?” said Sheardown.
“If you accept that he was being truthful about the essential elements of the offence he is charged with beyond a reasonable doubt, I expect you will find him guilty as charged.”
Jack was 12 years old when she disappeared in May 1978 while riding her bike near Merritt.
When she failed to return to her Quilchena home, her family reported her missing to police. The police and her family did not know what had happened to her and her partial remains were not discovered until 17 years later, when a human skull was discovered on a remote mountain north of Merritt.
In 2014, RCMP launched an elaborate undercover operation targeting Handlen, who by this time was living in Ontario.
At the end of the undercover operation, Handlen confessed to abducting Monica from a pullout in the road along Nicola Lake and then taking her up a hill before strangling her. A videotape of the confession was played for the jury earlier in the trial, which began in October.
“Of course, people do not readily admit to crimes as serious as the abduction, rape and murder of a young girl,” Sheardown told the jury.
“That is not something that people would ordinarily brag about. Thus it was necessary that Mr. Handlen would feel comfortable talking about something that was highly incriminating.”
Sheardown argued that the confession was reliable and the jury should accept it as proof that the accused committed the crime.
“The confession contains various markers of reliability including a high level of detail, mundane details of the crime that Mr. Handlen would not likely have known had he not committed it.”
The prosecutor said the details in the confession, generally speaking, lined up with the actual circumstances as set out in other evidence heard at the trial.
“Further, there is no evidence that Mr. Handlen obtained the details that he was able to provide the undercover operators through other sources such as media accounts or contact with police,” said Sheardown.
“Therefore the Crown submits that you should find Mr. Handlen’s statements to the undercover operators to be truthful and reliable. Mr. Handlen’s confession to the murder of Monica Jack indicates that he had the intent required for murder.”
The confession also indicated that Handlen murdered the girl while committing one or more of the offences of forcible confinement, kidnapping or rape, said the prosecutor.
“Accordingly, you should conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Handlen is guilty as charged of first-degree murder.”
Crown counsel Gordon Matei also addressed the jury Wednesday, taking them through the undercover scenarios that resulted in Handlen’s confession.
Closing arguments resumed on Friday. B.C. Supreme Court Justice Austin Cullen, the trial judge, is expected to begin his charge to the jury on Monday, after which the jury will begin their deliberations.