The tinny hiss of a police recording filled a courtroom Tuesday as a rapt judge and jury listened to Garry Taylor Handlen tell an undercover officer he killed 12-year-old Monica Jack four decades ago.
The alleged confession marked the culmination of an elaborate RCMP sting in which Handlen was confronted by a man he believed to be the head of a criminal organization.
- In Depth
Trial begins for man accused of cold-case murder of 12-year-old Monica Jack
A “crime boss” — who was, in fact, an experienced police officer — told Handlen his contacts claimed DNA tests tied the Ontario man to Jack’s 1978 killing and police had him in their sights.
They could “clean” the situation up. But first, the so-called “boss” needed to know what happened.
“I remember picking up a broad one time. Havin’ sex. Then I just lost it for some reason,” Handlen told him.
“I think I strangled her. I’m not sure.”
‘All I know is she was Indian’
Prosecutors played the nearly 90-minute long videotape to the 10 men and four women charged with deciding Handlen’s fate.
Now in his early 70s, the accused has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.
He listened through headphones in a glass-enclosed prisoner’s box.
Directly behind him, Monica Jack’s sister sat in the front row of the B.C. Supreme Court public gallery, clutching the hand of a relative.
Tears ran down her cheeks as the video played, and the undercover officer posing as the boss asked Handlen to elaborate.
“Do you remember anything about her at all?” the officer asked.
“No. All I know is she was Indian,” Handlen said.
‘I just grabbed her’
Jack lived on the tiny Quilchena reserve outside of the town of Merritt, about 270 kilometres northeast of Vancouver. She was out riding a new bicycle a few weeks before her 13th birthday when she vanished.
The bicycle was found near a pullout by a lake the next day. According to the prosecution, a forestry worker discovered Jack’s remains in the dense brush nearby 17 years later.
“I just grabbed her,” Handlen told the officer.
“Just like that?” the officer asked.
“Yup. Threw her bike in the lake, grabbed her, took her in the camper and went up the hill.”
The officer later asked Handlen what happened when they got up the hill.
“We had sex up there,” Handlen said.
“And then what happened?”
“Then I, I think I strangled her.”
‘We all know the rules’
None of the officers involved in the undercover operation can be identified under the terms of a publication ban. The officer on the stand said he has participated in numerous “Mr. Big” stings.
He wore a Rolex and diamond-encrusted pinky ring as “props” to meet with Handlen.
He explained the process through which officers come up with situations designed to gain a target’s confidence in a fictitious organization where trust and loyalty are the only rules. And no one ever lies to the boss.
Prior to the meeting which resulted in the confrontation, the officer said they ran Handlen through one scenario in which an associate was “fired” for lying and another in which the “boss” made an underling’s problems disappear.
The court listened to an audio tape of the firing, which took place in a Quebec bar packed full of people Handlen was led to believe were gang associates, along with their girlfriends and wives.
The officer told the jury that — in reality — Handlen was the only person present who was not a police officer.
In the profanity-laced audio, the officer can be heard berating a man who allegedly lied about performing a task.
He orders the man to hand over his car keys and leave the bar. His associates are told to delete his number from their phones.
“We all know the rules. We don’t f–king lie to each other,” the “crime boss” says. “Let that be a lesson.”
‘Unless you’re taping me’
As the alleged confession continued, Handlen told the undercover officer he threw Jack in the bathroom of his camper after grabbing her off the road.
“I think I burned her clothes. I think I took all her clothes off and burned her clothes,” he said.
The officer asked what he did with the body.
“I think I just threw it behind a log,” Handlen said. “I didn’t bury it. Just put it, uh, a clearing there. There was a log there, and I just put it behind a log.”
At one point, the undercover officer told Handlen he was sure it was hard to talk about. Handlen replied that it was.
“A load off my chest, at least, (I) told somebody,” Handlen said.
The officer also asked Handlen if he had ever told anybody else.
“So no one else in the world except you and me knows about this,” the officer asked him.
“Nobody knows,” Handlen replied. “Unless you’re, you’re taping me.”