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Calls for probe into failed Baltovich prosecution grow louder; McGuinty mulling

TORONTO - A public inquiry into an 18-year legal odyssey that ultimately saw Robert Baltovich acquitted of murdering his girlfriend could elicit details of a crime still shrouded in mystery - including the possible role of sex killer Paul Bernardo, supporters of Baltovich said Wednesday.


TORONTO - A public inquiry into an 18-year legal odyssey that ultimately saw Robert Baltovich acquitted of murdering his girlfriend could elicit details of a crime still shrouded in mystery - including the possible role of sex killer Paul Bernardo, supporters of Baltovich said Wednesday.

With calls for an inquiry gaining a sympathetic ear from Ontario's premier and no plans to reopen the police investigation, those who worked to clear Baltovich's name said the public should be demanding answers.

"I'm delighted for Rob and the fact that he's now been cleared (but) I'm also somewhat angry that it's taken 18 years," said private investigator Brian King.

King, who began looking into the case at the request of the Baltovich family in 1990, said he spent several "lonely years" trying to persuade others that Baltovich didn't kill Bain.

"Something has to be done to see what went wrong with this," he said.

Baltovich, 42, who spent eight years in jail for Bain's 1990 murder, was acquitted minutes into his second trial Tuesday when the Crown said it had no evidence to support a conviction.

"Why did Ontario taxpayers spend what's probably millions of dollars over the last 10 or 12 years to pursue this case, when (the prosecution) didn't have a prayer, they didn't have the evidence?" asked Derek Finkle, who wrote a book on the case in 1998 that concluded a miscarriage of justice had occurred.

"They finally had the guts to admit it. (But) why are we so reluctant to admit we made a mistake?"

Bain, 22, vanished from the east-end University of Toronto campus in June 1990. Her bloodstained car was found nearby three days later. Her body has never been found.

Police suspected Baltovich almost immediately. The Crown contended at his trial in 1992 that he killed her because she planned to break up with him.

"When I hear this story and learn a little bit more about it, I think it affects all of us, and we ask ourselves, well, how did we go wrong?" Premier Dalton McGuinty said.

"How could this have happened (and) what do we need to do to make sure it doesn't happen again?"

Along with Baltovich and his lawyers, those close to the case said the Crown and the officers who charged Baltovich still have much to answer for.

Other issues include what appears to have been a consistent lack of disclosure of important evidence that might have exonerated Baltovich, and an unwillingness to consider Bernardo as a viable suspect.

"I never came across a scrap of paper or evidence to suggest they ever thought anyone else could be the person," Finkle said.

Bain's still-grieving parents remain convinced Baltovich killed their daughter despite the overwhelming lack of evidence.

Bain's father Ricardo told CBC News that he would like to see an inquiry - not into Baltovich's ordeal, but into the justice system that he said failed his daughter.

"Elizabeth will not have justice in this world," he said. "I'd like to make sure this doesn't happen again to somebody else."

Baltovich's lawyer Joanne McLean said nothing short of a full-scale judicial inquiry is warranted, adding it might provide some resolution for the Bains.

A probe could reveal information that has remained hidden, including what role Bernardo might have played, she said.

"Answers can come," McLean said.

Baltovich's lawyers have long pointed the finger at Bernardo, who is serving a life sentence of at least 25 years for the first-degree murders of two teenagers, but he has denied involvement in Bain's death.

At the time of Bain's disappearance, Bernardo was the still-unknown Scarborough Rapist, and police made much of the fact that he hadn't killed anyone - although that would soon change.

Questions also remain about the conduct of the judge at Baltovich's 1992 trial. In overturning the conviction, Ontario's highest court concluded Justice John O'Driscoll - who has had several other convictions over which he presided overturned - acted in a seriously prejudicial manner.

Police refused to comment on the prospect of a public inquiry, and McGuinty said he would consult Attorney General Chris Bentley, who appeared to rule one out earlier Wednesday.

"My first instinct is that this case followed the process," Bentley said. "This is not the type of case that would merit or warrant an inquiry."

Later in the day, Bentley said he would take "extra time" to consider the request.

"I want to make sure that for the Bain family, for Mr. Baltovich, that I have taken the necessary time to thoroughly consider all aspects of the call, and whether an inquiry or a review will likely produce any further information to strengthen the administration of justice," he said.

"The request was a serious one and it was made sincerely, and I want to make sure that I take extra time to consider all aspects of the request."

Ontario Opposition Leader John Tory said cases like this one "cry out" for an inquiry to "maintain confidence in the justice system."

 
 
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