In the middle of the night, the teen stumbled through the well-heeled Ottawa enclave of Rockcliffe Park with precious few details – he was looking for a house he’d been to once before, where the back door had been left unlocked for him. But he didn’t have an address.
So began his period of trial and error. He stumbled through other backyards before finding one with the back door unlocked. He walked inside, thinking it was his buddy’s home. It was not. He briefly considered stealing knives and electronics, police say, then thought better of it. He wrote a note and fled.
That was the extent, according to police, of the break-in at the home of Justin Trudeau – one that at first had officials worried and sparked Mr. Trudeau’s request for an RCMP threat assessment and raised questions about RCMP protection of the Liberal Leader.
In the end, however, it was not a question of national security, but instead one of a night gone awry for what police called a “very intoxicated” 19-year-old. Nothing was stolen, and no one was hurt.
Ottawa Police announced Tuesday they would not lay charges, in part because the teenaged intruder – whose name was not made public – had no “intent” to break in, a key pillar needed for a conviction. “This is an odd case, there’s no question,” Ottawa Police Staff Sergeant Kal Ghadban acknowledged Tuesday.
The intrusion unfolded in the early morning hours of Saturday, Aug. 16. Mr. Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau, and their three young children were home, while Mr. Trudeau was in Winnipeg.
The 19-year-old had taken a taxi to the tony neighbourhood – near the official residences of the Governor-General, Prime Minister and Official Opposition Leader – shortly after bars closed. Video footage later revealed parts of his stumbling path, with police concluding he was “very intoxicated.”
His search for his friend’s house brought him to the Trudeau home. Once inside, the teen gathered “knives that he believed were valuable” and a piece of electronic equipment “that he believed was valuable that he had also thought he would just walk out with,” Staff Sgt. Ghadban said. In the end, though, the thought of a haphazard heist was “very short-lived,” he said.
The teen instead left a note near the knives, warning the family to lock their doors. He left and found his friend’s home “very, very close” by, police said.
“He had no idea that he walked into the residence that he did, of a high-profile individual. He didn’t know he was even reported to police. He thought he was doing the right thing by leaving a note and apologizing. And he thought that would probably be the end of it,” Staff Sgt. Ghadban said.
It wasn’t. Mr. Trudeau called for a threat assessment and Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney pledged “all the help and support necessary” from the RCMP. Officials close to Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Blaney wouldn’t say Tuesday whether Mr. Trudeau is now under closer guard.
Last week, RCMP released surveillance footage related to the case. The 19-year-old turned himself in that day, co-operating and asking to write an apology to the Trudeaus, police said.
The case left police considering three options – criminal charges of break and enter or being unlawfully in a dwelling, or a provincial charge of trespassing. In the end, none were an option. “It was determined the case did not meet the threshold for criminal charges to be laid,” Staff Sgt. Ghadban said. A Liberal spokeswoman said Tuesday that Mr. Trudeau supported the police decision.
Carissima Mathen, a University of Ottawa law professor, said “intent” is required to prosecute a break-and-enter and that it could be argued the letter was more of a “hamfisted attempt at apologizing” than a threat.
“There’s always an element of discretion, both at the police level and the Crown-attorney level,” Prof. Mathen said. “I think they just determined the circumstances here were so odd – really a case of being in the wrong house under the wrong circumstances – that they determined it just wasn’t worth it to proceed.”