It has been almost eight years since former Ottawa police chief Vern White was confronted with a triple murder that soon stumped him and his force. Now a Conservative senator, Mr. White says he is pleased that charges have finally been laid in a case he described as a head-scratcher.
"Typically in policing, you seldom have a true whodunit. And this was a true whodunit," Mr. White, who stepped down as chief three years ago to become a senator, told The Globe and Mail Sunday. "And the officers, even though we had people assigned to it every day, I could see that they were feeling as I was."
Retired tax court judge Alban Garon, his wife, Raymonde, and a neighbour, Marie-Claire Beniskos, were found dead in the Garons' upscale condominium in June, 2007. The crime has been one of the capital's enduring mysteries, and investigators seemed no closer to a suspect when Mr. White left the force in 2012.
Last week, Ottawa police charged Ian Bush, 59, with three counts of homicide.
Police said a December attack on a 101-year-old war veteran bore a strong resemblance to the Garon crime scene, giving them a sudden break in the vexing 2007 triple murder.
Mr. White became Ottawa's police chief just one month before the murders took place, and counts the investigation as one of a few that have stayed with him from his decades-long career in policing.
On Sunday, Mr. White said he attributes the charges in the case to the tenacity of the officers who were involved in the investigation over more than seven years.
When he stepped down, Mr. White said a reporter asked him if he felt there was anything he'd "left undone" from his term as the city's police chief.
"I said, you know, not personally, but I do feel that [the Garon] investigation still hangs over us," he recalled. "It's not a regret because you can't control it – regrets are something you can control. But it is something that I left thinking, 'Jeez, it's a bit of unfinished business.'"
The 2007 murders occurred in a quiet condominium, and it was difficult to understand why the Garons or their neighbour had been targeted, Mr. White said. For a time, he said, people from the city's judicial community began asking if they should worry about their own safety because of Mr. Garon's past work as a judge.
"Where there really isn't any rationale around location or people, why they ended up being killed, there's always extra pressure," Mr. White said. "But that's life, it's understandable. You have families; you have communities … people who are asking questions, who are also wondering if they should be concerned."
Mr. White said some of the city's best investigators worked on the case over the years and were keenly aware of the victims' families throughout that time.
"An investigator can be taken off the file and move onto something else and spend his next seven or eight years working on really important and exciting work and he'll always have that file in the back of his mind," he said. "But really, when you look at the families, this is all that happened to them. All the other things matter so little. They need some level of closure to that day in June in 2007."
Mr. White said the Garon case is one of about half a dozen from his career in policing that have stuck out, along with investigations into the Giant Mine explosion in Yellowknife, residential school abuses in Inuvik and the murders of a number of sex workers in Ottawa.
"Those things always come back. They're there. When you live policing for 30 some years it makes up a lot of who you are, so as a result, you know, the connection never really does go away."