Defence says Greg Fertuck a lying alcoholic with a head injury preyed on by police in Mr. Big sting

·6 min read
Greg Fertuck's lawyer offered an unflattering characterization of his client. (Greg Fertuck/Facebook - image credit)
Greg Fertuck's lawyer offered an unflattering characterization of his client. (Greg Fertuck/Facebook - image credit)

Greg Fertuck's lawyer says the 68-year-old accused killer drifted through the first six months of a police sting in a whisky and beer haze, collecting cash for doing nothing and chronically lying

Morris Bodnar made the characterization Friday outside Court of Queen's Bench in Saskatoon after cross-examining a key police witness in Fertuck's murder trial.

Fertuck is charged with first-degree murder in the disappearance of his wife Sheree on Dec. 7, 2015.

The 51-year-old mother of three went missing after heading to work at a gravel pit near Kenaston, Sask. Her truck, jacket and cellphone were found there on Dec. 8, and she has not been seen or heard from since.

Although Greg told undercover police that he shot her and dumped her body in the country, he later changed that story and pleaded not guilty.

Police elicited the admission by posing as criminals in a technique known as a Mr. Big sting. None of the officers involved in the operation, called Project Fisten, can be named because of a court-ordered publication ban.

Dan Zakreski/CBC
Dan Zakreski/CBC

Justice Richard Danyliuk is presiding over the judge-alone trial and he has yet to determine the admissibility of the evidence from the sting.

The officer designated to be Fertuck's closest criminal confederate in the sting spent three days in the witness box this week. Police ran 136 structured interactions with Greg over the 10 months of the sting and this officer featured directly in 115 of the scenarios.

Prosecutor Cory Bliss led the officer through the scenarios, drawing out a blow-by-blow description of how investigators tricked Fertuck into making his damning disclosure to the crime boss on June 21, 2019.

In contrast, Bodnar spent a little more than 90 minutes Friday morning cross-examining the officer.

Brandy and beer

"It appears that in scenario 54 you refer to having a beer with Mr. Fertuck," Bodnar said.

"Yes."

"On the next page [of the transcript] he buys a bottle of liquor. Brandy."

"Yes," the officer replies.

Bodnar then began a recitation of scenarios, all following the same pattern. He would name a scenario, and then quote from the officer's notes about Fertuck drinking, or appearing intoxicated.

"Mr. Fertuck, you can see, is a drunk," Bodnar says.

"Yes, he consumes alcohol," the officer replies.

"On an almost daily basis. The 'hasn't been drinking' doesn't happen too often," he said.

"No, it doesn't," the officer testified.

Bodnar also listed off the numerous times that Fertuck lied to the men he believed to be his criminal counterparts.

Fertuck lied about getting attacked while on a gang trip to British Columbia, lied about attacking a prostitute, lied about getting medical attention after getting injured while drunk, Bodnar said.

The officer agreed.

Clark's Crossing Crash

Bodnar also went over what happened after Greg slipped on the ice outside a west-side Saskatoon bar on Jan. 1, 2019.

He was knocked unconscious and taken by ambulance to hospital. The court heard how he checked himself out that same day but, within a week, collapsed at his girlfriend's home with a brain bleed.

"And then the drama starts," Bodnar said.

Dan Zakreski/CBC
Dan Zakreski/CBC

Fertuck spent three days on the floor of her home, soaking in his own urine and feces, refusing to go to hospital, Bodnar said. It was only after his girlfriend called the gang members did he seek medical attention.

Fertuck's face was swollen, he could not stand unsupported and the entire left side of his body was not working properly. He stayed in the hospital for a full month.

In that time, the officer said the sting went into a holding pattern as they assessed whether to continue. Greg ultimately decided that he had recovered enough to resume his supposed criminal activities.

The officer confirmed that there were gaps in Fertuck's memory concerning scenarios they'd run, and characters from the gang he'd met.

Under questioning by Bodnar, the officer confirmed that there were no psychiatric or psychological reports accessed to determine his post-injury mental abilities, and he did not know whether Fertuck was on, or supposed to be on, any medications.

Dan Zakreski/CBC
Dan Zakreski/CBC

Blasting Mr. Big

Outside court Friday, Bodnar said it's clear that police took advantage of Fertuck.

"A very sophisticated organization is dealing with a person who has a major alcohol problem and then, on top of that, had a major injury causing memory loss," he said.

"What is the truth here? They claim that they're looking only for the truth. Well, the police lied through this as well. And I think that the accused lied throughout."

Bodnar said the trial demonstrates that Mr. Big stings should be banned in Canada as a police technique because they manipulate vulnerable people into making false confessions.

He also suggested a motive for Fertuck claiming to have killed his wife.

The gang had developed a scenario where it was sponsoring a high-stakes poker tourney in Montreal. Increased police attention on Greg around his missing wife was threatening his chances to go to the game.

The gang had already established through earlier scenarios its willingness to clean-up evidence after violent crimes.

"What does Greg have to gain?" Bodar was asked.

"The $70,000 to $100,000 in a trip to Montreal that was promised. That's what he has to gain," he said.

The missed warning

Bodnar also suggested outside court that Fertuck simply didn't have the capacity to understand the extent to which police would go in their investigation.

RCMP arrested him in October 2017 and interrogated him for six hours. They laid out their entire evidence package, including cellphone records that placed him at the gravel pit where Sheree worked, on the day she disappeared, and DNA evidence showing a speck of her blood in the back of his truck.

He denied killing her and was released without being charged.

Then, he went to see Bodnar.

"I told him that they were going to try and do a Mr. Big on him. And when I talked to him more recently, I said 'I told you not to talk to them.' And he doesn't even remember being in my office," Bodnar said.

"And [co-counsel] Mike Nolin told him the same thing, and he doesn't remember. But I remember him being in my office and going, 'this is how a Mr. Big works.' And I told him, because I've had it before."

The trial started Sept. 7 and resumes Monday. The Crown expects to call the officer who played the crime boss.

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