Dueck’s claims doubted
A group of Alberta social workers doubted the 1991 ritual child abuse allegations against more than a dozen adults, but the Saskatoon police officer leading the investigation “seemed very certain,” one social worker testified Thursday.
“I don’t know if excited is the right word, but enthusiastic about his case. He felt he was in the middle of a big investigation,” said child social worker Sheila Verwey of Saskatoon police Cpl. Brian Dueck.
The claims investigated by Dueck and made by foster children Michael, Michelle and Kathy Ross included the murder of babies, forcing children to perform sexual acts with animals, and massive orgies.
The claims of the children proved false, and a dozen adults originally charged in the case are now suing Dueck and other officials for more than $10 million.
The lawsuit began earlier this week at the Court of Queen’s Bench in Saskatoon, and has focused mainly on Dueck’s investigation.
Dueck and social worker Carol Bunko-Ruys had been investigating members of the Klassen family and others after the Ross children made the horrific claims.
Some of the Klassens had moved to Alberta for work by this time. Verwey, a provincial social services worker in Red Deer, Alta., testified her office got a call from a social worker in Saskatchewan in April of 1991.
That worker, who Verwey said she can’t name because of regulations, told the Red Deer office about the Saskatchewan investigation, and said the Klassens were also abusing their own birth children.
The worker said Verwey’s office would have to help apprehend the Klassens and their children.
A month passed, so Verwey’s colleague called the unnamed Saskatchewan social worker back. They were told there was a delay because “they were having difficulty finding a Crown prosecutor to take the case.”
Dueck came to Red Deer shortly after and presented the case to the Red Deer social services office, complete with documentation.
The Red Deer staff were “uncomfortable” about Dueck’s conclusions, Verwey testified.
Dueck “seemed very certain of what he was dealing with. We weren’t coming to the same conclusions,” she said.
“I’m not saying it was completely impossible, but the information provided about ritualistic sex abuse — it covered so many people in an organized way.”
Verwey admitted Dueck may have had other information to make his conclusions, but it wasn’t shared with them at the time.
Verwey will continue her testimony today.
Earlier in the day, three retired Saskatoon police officers testified, including Dueck’s supervisor at the time of the case.
Theodore Johnson supervised 12 officers, including Dueck, in the youth division.
Johnson said he knew “basically nothing” about the Klassen investigation because Dueck did not give him much information.
At one point, Johnson thinks he even asked Dueck to give him a written progress report on the case, but Dueck didn’t comply.
“He said he was working with the social workers and the prosecutors,” but didn’t give any specifics, Johnson said.
Another former officer, Marv Hansen, discussed the importance of written reports and of keeping Johnson informed. It ensured that officers “worked in a responsible manner.”
Under cross-examination by Dueck’s lawyer David Gerrand, Hansen said it was “incredibly difficult” to assess the credibility of child witnesses.
This was complicated by the fact the department was short-staffed at the time, and child abuse investigators had little training in the area, he said.
“We struggled to learn on the job,” he said.
Hansen said he eventually requested a transfer out of the unit because of the stress.
Officers didn’t want to charge innocent people with child abuse, but they also didn’t want to let real child abusers get away with it, Hansen said.
Hansen detailed certain interview techniques used on suspects in abuse cases. It was common to lie or at least mislead suspects in an effort to elicit a confession, he said.
If the suspect is convinced “the jig is up,” they may confess, Hansen said.
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