'A British bobby through and through': Slain Abbotsford, B.C., police officer remembered as killer gets life

On the day Const. John Davidson was murdered, his wife — Denise — had been dreaming about their plans for an upcoming, month-long trip to New Zealand.

It was to be their first trip without kids since the oldest of their three children was born in 1991, the culmination of a life journey and a romantic partnership that had, until that point, turned dreams into reality.

"I was sure I was the happiest person I knew," Denise Davidson said as she recalled the moments before two Abbotsford police officers told her that Oscar Arfmann had shot and killed her husband.

"I spent the next two weeks unable to breathe normally."

'Killed like an animal'

Denise Davidson spoke Monday about the depth of trauma, pain and sadness she and her family have faced in the hours, days, months and years since Const. John Davidson's murder.

She and her three children stood in a witness box in a New Westminster B.C. Supreme Court room, hands outstretched to support one another, as they gave victim impact statements at Arfmann's sentencing.

Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

Justice Carol Ross gave the 68-year-old former long-haul trucker a life sentence without the possibility of parole for 25 years — the mandatory sentence for someone who murders a police officer in the line of duty.

And Denise Davidson pointed out that her husband wasn't just murdered; he was executed, shot in the back.

"Without fail and to this day, the first thing I see when I wake up is John falling to the ground face first. I can't help but imagine the immense pain of a bullet ricocheting through his chest," she said.

"He was shot and killed from behind ... killed like an animal."

'My father did not die in a shootout'

Const. John Davidson was responding to 911 calls that flooded the Abbotsford police department after Arfmann was seen firing shots into a truck that was blocking the path of a car he has stolen several days earlier.

The 53-year-old officer, who began his policing career in Northumbria in the U.K., had worked for the Abbotsford force for more than a decade.

Abbotsford Police Department

Davidson arrived at a parking lot in a white truck marked with emergency flashers. Arfmann shot him within seconds of Davidson emerging from his vehicle. He then shot him again as the officer lay on the ground.

Const. John Davidson's son, Drew, said that misinformation about the manner of his father's death has been particularly hard to take.

"My father did not die in a shootout. He was shot from behind after getting out of his car and again while lying face down on the ground," he said.

"He never saw Oscar Arfmann target him and he was executed in a calm and calculated manner simply because he was wearing a police uniform and was there to protect the public."

Killer seemed indifferent

Arfmann seemed indifferent to the victim impact statements, even as the many police officers and friends who came to lend their support to the Davidson family reached for boxes of tissue that had been placed on the wooden benches of the public gallery.

The killer pleaded not guilty, forcing prosecutors to tie him to a damning account of events woven together through a combination of witness testimony, video, audio and physical evidence.

Geordon Omand/The Canadian Press

Psychiatrist reports suggested that he may have been suffering from the psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia at the time of Davidson's murder, but that he was likely able to appreciate the nature and quality of his actions.

Ross asked Arfmann if he wanted to speak before he was sentenced. Arfmann, who wore red pre-trial sweats and has long, thin grey hair, sat with one leg crossed over the other while the Davidson family spoke.

He stood up and began a rambling speech in a soft voice that was almost impossible to hear from the gallery.

His lawyer later said that Arfmann believes he was the victim of an accident caused by police and was complaining about his injuries.

He showed no emotion as Ross sentenced him and was later led out of the court by sheriffs to begin serving his sentence.

'I will love him for the rest of my life'

Denise Davidson said she finds it difficult to find any happiness in life, and all she cares about are the three children who each took their turn beside her in front of Arfmann, speaking about their loss.

The couple brought the family to Canada to escape concerns about the youth culture that had worried Davidson in the U.K. 

They talked about gun ownership in their adopted homeland.

But Davidson didn't believe anyone would shoot a uniformed officer in community like Abbotsford because the public knew they were "just doing our job." 

And when the moment came for Const. John Davidson to put himself in harm's way and climb out of his truck, hoping to find a peaceful resolution to a dangerous incident involving a man with a gun, he didn't hesitate.

"I will love him for that for the rest of my life," Denise Davidson told the court, sighing.

"And hate Oscar Arfmann who ended his life so intentionally." 

Denise Davidson said she is comforted by the occasional memory of her husband tapping the side of a cup with a spoon and laughing to himself about the time as a child when someone must have told him that would make his tea sweeter.

Throughout a policing career spanning 24 years on two continents, Davidson had never fired his weapon except in training.

His wife said he was immensely proud of that fact.

"He was a British bobby through and through."