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Robert Mailman (blue jacket) and Walter Gillespie (white jacket) appear outside of the Saint John Law Courts on Jan. 4, 2024. Image: Brad Perry

N.B. police chief orders review into 1983 murder case

By Brad Perry Jan 12, 2024 | 12:10 PM

Saint John’s police chief has ordered an independent review into the force’s handling of a decades-old murder case which saw two men wrongfully convicted.

Robert Mailman and Walter Gillespie were convicted of second-degree murder in the 1983 death of George Leeman.

Leeman’s body was found by a jogger in a wooded area of the city’s Rockwood Park on Nov. 30, 1983.

But Mailman and Gillespie were officially exonerated last Thursday after the federal justice minister ordered a new trial.

Arif Virani said he determined there were reasonable grounds to conclude that a miscarriage of justice likely occurred after “new and significant information” called into question the overall fairness of the process.

After the Crown called no evidence, the judge said she had no choice but to find the pair not guilty of second-degree murder.

“Mr. Mailman and Mr. Gillespie entered this courtroom today innocent in the eyes of the law as a result of Minister Virani’s order,” said Tracey DeWare, chief justice of New Brunswick’s Court of King’s Bench.

“They may leave the court today with that presumption of innocence maintained and forever confirmed for the fact that they have been found not guilty as charged.”

RELATED: Two N.B. men exonerated in 1983 Saint John murder

On Friday, Saint John police Chief Robert Bruce said he is concerned about the outcome, particularly the role his force played in the original investigation and prosecution.

“Given the circumstances and out of a sense of duty and responsibility, I will conduct a comprehensive review of the involvement of the Saint John Police in this matter,” he said in a statement.

Bruce has commissioned retired senior RCMP officer Allen Farrah of Clear-Path Solutions, Inc. to conduct the review.

Farrah has extensive knowledge, diversity and experience in policing, according to the chief’s statement.

“In this regard, I have sent a letter to the [federal] Minister of Justice requesting their cooperation in providing a complete copy of their report regarding this occurrence,” he said.

Bruce declined to comment further pending the outcome of the review.