Canada’s military police watchdog plans to probe how investigators handled the case of an Edmonton-based soldier who was found guilty earlier this year of trying to kill herself and her three children by setting her house on fire in 2015.
The Military Police Complaints Commission (MPCC), based in Ottawa, said Monday it will open a public interest investigation into the matter, which concluded before the courts in Edmonton last winter.
The fire took place at a residence on the military base in Edmonton. The former spouse of the 45-year-old woman, whose name is banned from publication, suggested to military police that the fire may have been deliberately set.
A possible suicide note, signed by the woman, was examined by military police but was deemed ambiguous; no charges were filed. That decision was supported by the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal’s Office of Professional Standards.
The case was later investigated by the RCMP, which laid attempted murder and arson charges. In February, she was convicted of three counts of attempted murder by arson and two counts of arson.
“The allegations in this complaint are serious,” said Tammy Tremblay, the chairperson of the MPCC. “If substantiated, they will amount to a failure to investigate a most serious criminal act, and one which had implications for the safety and the lives of young children.”
The woman at the centre of the case can’t be named because of a publication ban protecting her children’s identities.
The children — two boys and a girl — were 10, eight and seven years old at the time of the fire. All of them — including the woman — were rescued after bystanders heard shouts for help in the middle of the night on July 19, 2015.
“The seriousness of this case,” Tremblay said, “is aggravated by the alleged failure of the Military Police Office of Professional Standards to notice any deficiencies when they reviewed” the handling of the case.
During the trial at Edmonton’s Court of King’s Bench, the Crown prosecutor argued that the woman was bitter about losing primary custody of her children and preferred to die with them rather than see her ex-husband get primary custody.
It came out during the trial that in the days before the fire, the mother took her children on a shopping spree at West Edmonton Mall, where they stayed for two nights at the Fantasyland Hotel.
The apparent suicide note — written to a friend on Fantasyland Hotel stationery — said, “By the time you get this, I will be either in jail or dead … Please don’t feel bad or guilty thinking that there was anything you could have done.”
The letter was accompanied by $10,000 in cash, which the friend later returned.
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