Statement from Leon
My initial reaction to the fire report prepared by Jim Fairbank, was that of total disbelief. I sat wondering why someone would take such an unsubstantiated and serious attack on me. Based to some extent on information provided both by Fairbank's report and his testimony, Judge Larry Kyle found me guilty of second degree murder. This ruling was later rubber stamped by the Court of Appeal.
After the appeal, my lawyer suggested that I have an independent fire investigation done. I felt Fairbank's past as an RCMP officer and his new job with Wawanesa insurance, were good enough reason to get a second opinion. It was also felt that there were too many things wrong with this aspect of the case and an arms length assessment was in order.
During the summer of 2001, Mr. Peter Pendlebury of Fire Investigations & Analysis was contacted. All information regarding this case was sent to Mr. Pendlebury for his review. Following his review of the file, a thorough examination of the site was completed. The finished report was available in December 2001.
While the reports like Fairbank's make for great fiction reading, something the police and our legal system may subscribe to, they do little to explain what really happened. In reading the conclusion of Fairbank's report, I find little or nothing that is correct.
The following statements tend to strongly support my thinking:
"it is my opinion that this fire was deliberately set." At the trial under oath, Fairbank admitted to not knowing the origin/cause of the fire.
"there was a 20lb propane bottle from the gas barbecue located in the porch, but this is not an issue." The propane tank would most certainly have had an impact on the fire. Burn tests done later by Fairbank, for the trial, show that the propane tank likely had a great deal to do with the speed and intensity of the fire.
"It is my opinion that the victim was put/thrown into the basement and flammable liquid was poured from the victim to the top of the stairs." Flammable liquid was not found to be poured on the deceased, as well as flammable liquid was not found on tests done on the stairs.
"It would not have been possible for her to exit the car and end up in the basement due to the position of the car on in relation to the house." It has been proven with photos and video, that there was sufficient room for someone to get by the car into the house with little or no difficulty.
While the ideas found in Fairbank's report make for great theatrics, they fall a long way short of reality. Given the huge difference between Pendlebury's report and that of Jim Fairbank's, it would appear to me that either Fairbank has a lot to learn about fire investigation or he had some personal stake or vendetta in regards to this matter. Whatever the case, I look forward to getting to the bottom of this someday!