The Ontario Crown yesterday conceded that a London, Ont., labourer was wrongfully convicted of a 1987 knifepoint sex attack that was actually committed by serial killer Paul Bernardo.
In a written submission to the Ontario Court of Appeal, Crown counsel Howard Leibovich conceded that Anthony Hanemaayer, 40, was the victim of a witness misidentification.
"Fresh evidence demonstrates that Bernardo committed the offence, not the appellant," Mr. Leibovich said in a legal brief filed yesterday. "The fresh evidence points to only one conclusion - Paul Bernardo committed this attack."
His admission renders it a foregone conclusion that when Mr. Hanemaayer's appeal is heard tomorrow, he will be acquitted.
The Hanemaayer case is destined to occupy a prominent place in the annals of wrongful convictions and questionable police work.
Convicted based on a single piece of evidence - a lineup of 12 photos that was shown to the victim's mother - Mr. Hanemaayer became so intimidated after hearing the woman's forceful trial testimony that he hurriedly seized a plea offer from the Crown.
In return for pleading guilty to breaking and entering and assault, Mr. Hanemaayer was given a sentence of two years less a day - well under the six-year penitentiary term his lawyer had warned him would likely be in the offing.
There were no developments in the case until 2006, when Mr. Bernardo admitted breaking into the basement of the Scarborough home where the girl lived. He recounted straddling the girl on her waterbed shortly before dawn, when her mother arrived in the doorway to investigate a noise. The mother later testified that she and the assailant stared at one another for a full 45 seconds before he suddenly leapt up, "raised his arms up in the air and roared at me like a lion."
In a telling aside yesterday, Mr. Leibovich ended his account of the attack by stating: "The mother was not wearing her glasses that night."
Mr. Hanemaayer became the prime suspect within a week of the attack, when the victim's mother, acting on a hunch, approached a construction company that was doing work near her home. She gave a description of the attacker - young, brown hair, baby face, piercing eyes, small ears - to an office worker at the company.
The employee suggested that it might fit Mr. Hanemaayer.
The girl's mother forwarded the information to the police. After investigators had obtained a photograph of Mr. Hanemaayer, the mother selected it from a photo lineup.
Upon learning of the Bernardo confession earlier this year, lawyers for the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted took up Mr. Hanemaayer's cause.
Mr. Leibovich noted yesterday that Mr. Bernardo displayed detailed knowledge of the location and layout of the victim's home, her age and physical description, and his encounter with her mother.
The Crown lawyer also said that Mr. Bernardo returned to the home a year later to steal a personalized licence plate - a key item of evidence that went a long way toward corroborating his confession.
"There is absolutely no evidence of any collusion between the appellant and Bernardo that could otherwise describe the striking similarities in the offence that Bernardo stated that he committed and the attack that took place..." Mr. Leibovich said.