'Eight years old, Mike ... that's pure evil'
LONDON, Ont. - At first, a curled up Michael Rafferty whimpers and complains. But then he stares into space, and defies and denies.
The police lean in close to talk soft and caring. But then they lean back in their chairs and taunt.
“We’re done,” Rafferty tells Det. Sgt. Jim Smyth well into a nearly four-hour interrogation May 20, 2009.
“Is that what you said to Tori before you killed her? ‘We’re done?’ ” Smyth shoots back.
“Funny man,” Rafferty says.
“Funny man. That’s what you think this is ... is funny man?” Smyth asks.
“I think you’re a funny man,” Rafferty says.
“I think you’re a cold-blooded killer,” Smyth replies.
“You can think whatever you want. I’ve already denied that,” Rafferty says.
Smyth is the police officer who obtained confessions from Briere, predator Col. Russell Williams, and the day before interviewing Rafferty, from his girlfriend Terri-Lynne McClintic.
He’s the officer who found Tori’s body July 19, 2009.
From 12:08 a.m. to 3:54 a.m. on May 20, 2009, at the Woodstock police station, Smyth and two other experienced police investigators tried, and failed, to persuade Rafferty to confess to the abduction and killing of eight-year-old Victoria (Tori) Stafford.
They played good cop/bad cop, tried appealing to Rafferty’s love of his mother, and a desire to avoid media scrutiny.
They waved the missing poster for Tori in his face. They took Terri-Lynne McClintic into the room and challenged Rafferty to tell her to her face she was lying when she confessed hours earlier about the abduction.
Many times Rafferty cried and by the end was so exhausted he tried to sleep.
But at no time did he admit involvement in the death or express sadness about what happened, no matter how hard police went at him.
“No remorse. No empathy. No nothing. You’re just hollow,” Smyth tells him.
“You know what a psychopath is, Mike?” Smyth says at another point.
“I have never met one,” Rafferty says.
“Well, I just met one tonight. It’s you.”
The video statement was not shown to the jury after a ruling from Superior Court Justice Thomas Heeney before the trial that Rafferty’s statements offered little value as evidence but could prejudice the jury.
It can be released to the media now because the jury has been sequestered to come to a verdict in Rafferty’s trial.
The video presents a fascinating look at police tactics and Rafferty’s mindset the night after he was arrested in Woodstock.
With Rafferty not taking the stand at his trial, the statement also provides some of the only words from the accused anyone might ever hear.
Through most of the interrogation, he stares at the floor, or the wall or into space, rarely at the officers.
Through it all, at least 20 times, Rafferty outright denies he had anything to do with Tori’s death.
“Eight years old, Mike. Eight years old, buddy. All she wanted to do was go home and have a little party for her friends because her mom just redecorated her room for her,” Smyth tells him at the end of the interview. “That’s pure evil, bud. And that’s all I’ve seen for the last three hours is pure evil from you.”
The interrogation begins with Staff Sgt. Chris Loam, manager of the criminal behavioural analysis section of the OPP’s behavioural sciences unit.
Rafferty is taken into a small room with a desk, two chairs.
Loam takes a gentle and conversational approach with Rafferty, making sure he has a blanket and food and offering to listen.
Nothing will surprise or offend him, Loam says.
For an hour and a half, (Staff Sgt. Chris) Loam tries several different approaches to guide Rafferty toward a confession:
-- Loam already knows what happened and needs to know why Rafferty did it to assess if he is a risk to harm others.
-- This is the best time for Rafferty to come clean, because later, when more evidence is found, no one will believe him.
-- Rafferty is no monster, and perhaps the Oxycontin addiction drove him to it.
-- Rafferty has a choice, to be seen as a cold-blooded killer or simply someone who made decisions under stress. He can be seen as a Michael Briere, the person who killed Holly Jones, a 10-year-old Toronto girl in May 2003, but confessed, apologized and publicly gave tips on how parents could better keep their children safe.
Or he could be someone else, someone everyone remembers.
“Am I sitting across from Paul Bernardo here?” Loam asks.
About an hour in, Loam asks Rafferty what his biggest fear is.
In an plaintive voice, Rafferty replies, “losing my life.”
What do you mean by that, Loam asks.
“It means not being able to have a life anymore. It means not taking care of my mom. It means not having to do the things that I do every day.”
If Loam thinks he had a chance here to crack Rafferty, he is wrong.
“What would your mother want you to do in this situation?” Loam asks.
“Get a lawyer,” Rafferty replies.
Eventually, Smyth bursts into the room with the missing persons flyer with two photos of a smiling Tori on it.
Smyth sits on the edge of the desk and tells Rafferty what McClintic said.
“She bawls her eyes out through two boxes of Kleenex. And I ask her four times, ‘Hey, you want to call a lawyer?’ She says, ‘I don’t need to call a lawyer. I feel so bad about what happened I just want to tell you all about it.’”
To that, Rafferty replies, “Terri-Lynne’s full of s---.”
Eventually, police try another approach, sending in Det. Const. Gord Johnson, the officer who helped interview Rafferty at his home four days earlier.
He reaches out, saying he wants to help.
That doesn’t work either, so they step it up: They bring in McClintic.
Only six hours earlier, she had told police Rafferty kidnapped Tori. Now she sits across the corner of the desk from him.
“This is your opportunity — Terri-Lynne’s sitting right here — to tell her she’s a liar. You’ve got no problem saying it with her out of the room,” Smyth says.
“Terri’s a liar,” Rafferty says.
“You’re not looking at her. You haven’t looked at anyone,” Johnson tells Rafferty.
“I don’t need to look at anyone. I know what happened,” Rafferty responds.
McClintic leaves with Johnson, leaving Rafferty alone with Smyth. For another hour, the two engage in an intense verbal battle.
He wastes little time before attacking, bringing up date rape allegation against Rafferty from January. He speaks about McClintic’s testimony again, about DNA, about the possibility a search will find parts of Rafferty’s back seat missing.
“I guess you’re going to find out,” Rafferty says.
He says it so often as Smyth presents evidence that later Smyth mimics him and both men laugh grimly.
Smyth tries to convince Rafferty that police can help keep the media frenzy away from his family.
“This is a huge story for them. That’s one of the most sensational things that has happened in this province since (Paul) Bernardo and Karla (Homolka). It’s going to be a frenzy.”
Police can tell the media Rafferty is a cold-blooded Bernardo or someone whose life was overtaken by drugs and made bad decisions, Smyth says.
“Nothing’s going to change what they say,” Rafferty replies.
If you tell the truth, Smyth says, police might not have to go so hard on his family.
Rafferty grows quiet and without arrogance, says, “You don’t need to interrogate my family.”
But the accused’s anger returns when Smyth says he’ll have to talk to family or someone else will take the case.
“Awesome,” Rafferty says at that prospect.
On and on, Smyth talks about the evidence to the point Rafferty suggests someone may fake a video at the Home Depot.
Rafferty offers a vague alibi as well.
Smyth buys none of it.
“You know what a psychopath is, Mike?”
“I have never met one,” Rafferty says.
“Well, I just met one tonight. It’s you.”
Without missing a beat, Rafferty retorts, “In the other room.”
Other women besides McClintic will come forward and talk about “how much of a slimeball you are,” Smyth says, aptly prophesying the parade of ex-girlfriends who showed up in court to testify.
“Just because I’m sleazy doesn’t make me guilty of being what I’m being accused of doing,” Rafferty says.
Rafferty tells Smyth repeatedly he’s done talking, yet continues to take the bait the combative officer dangles.
“Why can’t you stop yourself from talking?” Smyth asks.
“Why can’t you just go away?” is the answer.
“Because this is my job. This is what I do,” Smyth replies. “Five weeks of looking for you. I wanted to spend a little bit of time with you, Mike. This is gratifying to me.”
The interview has taken about the same amount of time it took for Tori to be kidnapped, raped and killed, Smyth tells him near the end.
Just before he gets up to leave, Smyth has one final thing to say:
“The nice thing about the place you’re going to be spending a good chunk of your life is they actually have glass cells so you and Bernardo can make googly eyes at each other all day, whatever you guys do in there. So it’s nice meeting you, Mikey. Enjoy the rest of your life. This is the kind of room you’re going to be spending it in.”
After he leaves, Rafferty takes a cookie in a bag that has until then sat untouched and he is escorted back to his cell.
Cop told accused lies in bid to get confession
This time, the interrogator was the one being interrogated.
And defence lawyer Dirk Derstine had no intentions of playing the good cop.
When you offered to lay off the family of Michael Rafferty if he confessed, “that was a lie?” he asked provincial police Det. Sgt. Jim Smyth.
“Yes, it could be interpreted as a lie,” Smyth said.
When you suggested the police could tell the media what kind of person Rafferty was, “that was another untruth?” Derstine asked Smyth.
“Yes, that exchange is a lie, yes.”
When you told Rafferty he was a psychopath, that was just a tactic?
“I also believed that to be true,” Smyth shot back.
The tactics interrogators used in a failed attempt to elicit a murder confession from Rafferty surfaced during a Feb. 7, 2012, pre-trial hearing about the voluntariness of his May 20, 2009, interview with police.
The Crown wanted to use the videotaped statement to refute Rafferty’s credibility if he testified at his trial in March, and argued police did not threaten or use “shocking” trickery in the interrogation. But Rafferty never testified so the jury didn’t see it.
Nor did they see the arguments in pre-trial that pitted Derstine and several experienced officers in a debate about how far police went.
Police started interviewing him at the Woodstock police station just after midnight the day after his arrest.
The first officer in, provincial police Staff Sgt. Christopher Loam, explained in the pre-trial hearing they found Rafferty lying in his cell, complaining of cold. Police got him a blanket and a tea and snack from Tim Hortons.
Loam testified at pre-trial his first plan was to pretend to be writing a report for court assessing Rafferty’s danger to the community.
That didn’t elicit information so he tried another theme, suggesting things couldn’t get worse if Rafferty confessed.
What he didn’t plan was to have Smyth burst in, Loam acknowledged.
Smyth explained his actions at the pre-trial. Rafferty appeared to be gaining confidence, challenging Loam on several issues, Smyth said.
Smyth burst in, waved the missing poster for Tori Stafford in Rafferty’s face and told him McClintic told them everything.
Then he left.
“I wanted him to take some time to let the details sink in.”
Meanwhile, another officer, Det. Const. Gord Johnson, arrived to try to gain Rafferty’s rapport.
Smyth was monitoring the interview and realized Johnson’s soft approach wasn’t working either.
“He saw through both these attempts,” he testified.
So Smyth returned with none other than McClintic herself in tow.
That “drove home the point she was in custody and actually speaking to us,” Smyth testified. “He (Rafferty) was still weighing whether or not we were being truthful with him.”
McClintic’s appearance did nothing to shake Rafferty. Smyth took over the interview and spent the next hour hammering at Rafferty’s confidence.
“I was fairly confident Mr. Rafferty was not going to confess.”
But, there was a chance he’d go back to his cell, shaken by the confrontation, and provide details to undercover officers there, Smyth said.
“I wanted to make sure he knew we weren’t falling for his act,” Smyth told Derstine when questioned about his tough approach.
Derstine and Smyth engaged in a testy debate about how far police can go during interrogating.
Why didn’t you stop asking questions when Rafferty said he wanted to stop talking? Derstine asked Smyth.
Because he kept talking, Smyth replied.
Was there any reason to go in for an hour and say the same things over and over? Derstine asked.
“I wanted to make sure the message was very clear,” Smyth replied.
Toward the end of the interview, Smyth ramped up his taunts.
“I wanted to get under his skin a little bit. I wanted him to leave the interview with the concern he was losing control,” Smyth explained.
“It was easy to say the things I did because I believed they were true.”
But he was lying, Smyth said, when he told Rafferty he was having a good time.