Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Trio of Missing Witness Statements Contradict OPP Case against Afghan Vet

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Trio of Missing Witness Statements Contradict OPP Case against Afghan Vet

Article excerpt

Witnesses contradict OPP in veteran's case


OTTAWA - Collin Fitzgerald, one of the country's most highly decorated Afghan war veterans, is facing criminal proceedings, even though justice officials have witness statements and recordings that contradict the case against him.

The former master corporal is charged with breaching bail conditions.

The statements were provided by three former neighbours who photographed a July 2014 fire that destroyed the ex-soldier's house in Iroquois, Ont., south of Ottawa.

The Ontario Provincial Police used the photos and the claims of a fourth neighbour to charge Fitzgerald with being at the scene of the blaze, something that would constitute a breach of his bail conditions in a previous case.

But Mary-Ellen Dillabough, whose son took the pictures, says they told police the person in the images was definitely not the troubled former soldier, who has a history of run-ins with the law related to his post-traumatic stress disorder.

Dillabough, her spouse Derek Vanveld, and son -- Anthony Merkey -- each signed statements to that effect the day after the fire.

Even more troubling, she said she doesn't know what became of those statements, if police took them into consideration, whether the Crown is aware of them, or even why Fitzgerald was charged in the first place.

"They asked us if we thought it was Collin -- or could it be a possibility -- and we said: 'No'," Dillabough said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

"They can do what they want, (but) I know it's not Collin," she said, noting the person in the photo had a different build than the lean ex-soldier. "I have a statement, Derek has a statement, Anthony has a statement. They've all been submitted to the police. And it was a recording too. Why are our statements not there?"

Fitzgerald says the statements and recordings were not part of the disclosure package given to his lawyer and he also wonders if they have gone "missing."

The Crown office has directed all questions to the Attorney General's department and spokesman Brendan Crawley was asked if prosecutors had seen the material.

"As this matter is currently before the courts, it would be inappropriate to comment," Crawley wrote in an email. …

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