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Bridgewater murder trial halted

Victoria Brauns-Buckley and Jack Buckley
Victoria Brauns-Buckley and Jack Buckley - Contributed

BRIDGEWATER, N.S. — Instead of facing a first-degree murder trial over the death of his mother, Jack Buckley walked out of Bridgewater Supreme Court a free man on Monday.

“I’m not guilty and I’ve always said I’m not guilty,” said Buckley, who made a brief statement to reporters while flanked by a handful of supporters.

“The investigation was pathetic and botched. Investigators made a lot of mistakes and it needs to be looked into.”

The Crown told the court it would offer no new evidence in the case, which was then dismissed. Justice Josh Arnold dealt the prosecution’s case a huge blow on Friday, ruling Buckley’s confession to police could not be entered as evidence.

Police conducted a “Mr. Big” operation, in which officers befriended Buckley and subsequently gleaned information about his mother’s death.

The Mr. Big technique typically involves undercover officers who introduce the suspect to a fictitious criminal underworld, but at some point the suspect must cement their loyalty by sharing information about past misdeeds with a crime boss: Mr. Big.

Victoria Brauns-Buckley, 57, was found dead in 2012 in the home the pair shared in Chester Basin.

“I think most defence lawyers would agree that the Mr. Big technique, while often useful for the police and Crown, it does run the risk of being used in order to obtain false confessions or unreliable confessions,” said defence lawyer Patrick MacEwen.

“So while it is an allowable technique there should be certain checks and balances in place to ensure it’s being used properly.

That’s why we made the application we did and Justice Arnold agreed with us in these circumstances.”

This was the second time Buckley was unsuccessfully charged with murder in his mother’s death.

In 2012 police charged him with second-degree murder, but prosecutors dropped the case, citing lack of solid evidence. Four years later RCMP said it gathered new evidence and Buckley was charged with first-degree murder.

“He’s looking forward to getting his life back on track,” said MacEwan. “It’s been a long few years. This isn’t a happy day, he’s going to try to move on. He’s maintained his innocence throughout.”

The Crown has 25 days to appeal the decision. But Crown lawyer Leigh-Ann Bryson was tight-lipped about that prospect.

“(Our case) was contingent on the Mr. Big operation,” said Bryson. “Proceeding against Mr. Buckley has concluded at this point. Certainly we’re disappointed that the jury won’t be able to hear the case. We have the rulings of the court and we respect those rulings.”

With files from The Canadian Press

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