Man claims he witnessed 1981 murder of Newfoundland teenager
ST. JOHN'S — Dana Bradley’s body was arranged in burial fashion by her killer in an area of alder bushes and trees off an old dirt road, away from the eyes of the city on a cold and quiet December evening many years ago.
One of the killer’s last acts at the scene was to tuck her school books carefully under her arm, as in some bizarre act of kindness when, sometime earlier, the monster in him had raged and he had brutally beat her about the head and robbed her of her life.
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She was not to arrive home to a birthday celebration for her mother that night. Her homework would never get done.
Dana Nicole Bradley had only been on this Earth for 14 years. A friendly, pretty girl full of joy and energy, she had merely tried to hitch a lift home — not an uncommon thing to do in 1981 St. John’s.
The total of her years alive are less than half the time her killer has been free from punishment for his crime.
The air was cold and crisp that night, the season’s snow had not yet set in. The brush in the hidden area off the rugged dirt road near Maddox Cove crunched and rustled under his feet as he walked away, he and his devil ugliness, free now for more than 32 years and going.
“He had no remorse,” Robert (a pseudonym being used to protect the man’s identity), told The Telegram.
“The reason she was left that way was somebody was there who cared about her. Another human being. An innocent child who didn’t understand this stuff.”
Robert says he was that child.
He said he saw the savageness in the killer that evening, claims he witnessed the horrific murder and the events following it that night.
As a child, he had known the man well. Suffering from his own type of hell with him, Robert says his memories from that day and night were long repressed, along with many other terrible memories from those years.
More than two-and-a-half years ago, after he decided to part ways with booze and take his chances without it, he says his mind healed and the memories surfaced — first of being sexually abused at the hands of the man, then of the murder.
“I started drinking at a young age, but I managed to get to my 30s before it caught up to me,” said Robert, who now has a successful business career.
“The alcohol was helping me cope, but it turned on me. When I took it out of the equation, I found myself, but I had no idea what was coming to the surface.
“And believe me, I’ve laid in bed and (asked myself), did that really happen? I tried to think it away, that maybe it didn’t. But I can’t. It’s in me.”
Robert says he and another child were in the backseat of the car that late afternoon when the man stopped to pick up Dana, who was hitchhiking east on Topsail Road in St. John’s. It led to a frightening and horrifying night, he said.
He took his story to the RCMP in December 2011, since the site of the murder was in their jurisdiction at the time. An investigation ensued around the anniversary of the murder, a time when the RCMP commonly receives new tips.
Robert says the RCMP first met with him on Dec. 14, 2011 — the 30th anniversary of Dana’s murder.
According to an RCMP document, the investigation into Robert’s tip continued for 16 months.
The RCMP subsequently informed Robert that none of the avenues related to his tip provided any new evidence to support criminal charges.
In March 2013, the RCMP asked Robert to meet with Dr. Peter Collins, an expert in the field of forensic psychiatry.
“Subsequent to that meeting, you were advised by Dr. Collins that you were not suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and recovered memories, but rather that you were experiencing false memory syndrome,” the document notes.
Robert complained to the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP about the way investigators handled his information. He alleged the RCMP relied on false memory syndrome to make the decision to dismiss his complaint. He also pointed out that false memory syndrome is not recognized in the medical community.
On Monday, The Telegram talks to a neuropsychiatrist who offers his observations on the notion that Robert has false memory syndrome.
At the same time, the RCMP informed Robert the investigation into his complaint about being sexually abused by the man in the early 1980s had concluded without corroborating evidence to support charges.
Many tips received
Sgt. Kent Osmond of the RCMP’s major crime unit is the lead investigator on the Dana Bradley murder file.
While he could not discuss any specific tip, he said his team receives information from the public regularly, almost on a biweekly basis. The number of tips pick up each year around the anniversary of the murder.
“Any tip that we investigate on the file is thoroughly investigated based on every resource we have, every methodology we have,” Osmond said.
“And should information come to light after the fact, we are not closed-minded enough to say we would never reopen a tip. We approach this file with an open mind, with every intention of solving it, and we would never allow tunnel vision or closed-mindedness to get in the way of that.”
He said a lot of the information police receive through tips is information they’ve seen or heard before. Tips with a lot of information, he admitted, are rare.
“We get new things, but the problem is sometimes trying to separate what might be out in the media versus what’s coming pure from someone’s mouth or memory. That’s very difficult because there’s a lot out there,” Osmond said.
He also noted that any psychiatric or other evidence gathered while investigating a tip is used in its totality to determine where the investigation into that tip goes.
“I would never take a diagnosis and hang my jacket on that diagnosis,” he said.
“I would have to be very, very comfortable with my own knowledge of the file and the specific knowledge of the facts before me being brought forward by any kind of witness.”