Rosemarie and Mark Surakka were at the Mission RCMP detachment Sunday morning, hoping to collect the personal belongings of their daughter, murder victim Lisa Dudley. However, the mother and stepfather of the victim left empty-handed.
The Surakkas were told in advance that the items were no longer at the Mission detachment, but had been moved on Friday to the RCMP office in Surrey. They were also told they could come to Surrey and collect the items.
But, for personal reasons and because of the principle of the matter, the Surakkas refused to go to Surrey and arrived in Mission instead.
“Why would they gather the belongings and ship them to Surrey when we’re here? Why didn’t we get a call saying, ‘OK, we’ll meet you there (Mission) on Sunday?’ ”asked Mark.
“We’re not going to Surrey. I have a daughter I have to look after. We’re not even supposed to be in the car for that amount of time with the health problems that we have,” Rosemarie said.
It was in September 2008 that Lisa Dudley and her partner Guthrie McKay were shot in their Mission home.
McKay died at the scene, but Dudley, who was 37 at the time, stayed alive for four days before finally being discovered by a neighbour. She was airlifted to hospital, but died later that day.
The Mission officer investigating a shots-fired call at the couple’s home left the scene after being there for approximately 10 minutes, without going inside, and did not follow up the next day.
Four years later, RCMP Cpl. Mike White was reprimanded and docked one day’s pay following a review by the adjudication board.
Four men were eventually convicted in the pair’s death: Jack Woodruff, Justin MacKinnon, Bruce Main and Thomas Holden.
After a long battle, a court order was issued last month to return to the Surakkas the personal objects of Dudley’s that the RCMP had taken from the murder scene as possible evidence.
In the order, RCMP Corp. Matthew Hartwig of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) presented a request to have 30 days to turn over the items.
Sunday (June 16) marked the end of the 30-day period. Coincidentally, June 16 was also Dudley’s birthday. She would have been 48.
The Surakkas met briefly with Mission RCMP Staff Sgt. Steve Crawford before leaving the detachment to address the media.
They said they were told Mission’s evidence room is closed on Sundays, which is why the items were moved to Surrey, so they could be picked up on the deadline day.
“It’s Mr. Hartwig’s responsibility to bring the articles. He’s involved in the paperwork of it all and he’s responsible for that, not Mr. Crawford. Mr. Hartwig is, but he’s reluctant to come here on the Sunday on the day the judge ordered,” Mark said.
“How can it be an accommodation? That’s what they’ve said – ‘We’ve accommodated you. Come to Surrey.’ How can that be when we live here and this is an RCMP station and all they have to do is bring the boxes and let’s go through them, item by item, and make sure what you have there is what is on the judge’s order?”
The list, however, is not complete as one item – a cellphone – is still missing. Efforts are being made to locate it.
Mark added that Mission is where this tragedy all started 11 years ago and coming to the RCMP station causes them to “quake a little inside.”
Rosemarie said she’s not angry about the situation.
“(But I do feel) sick to my stomach and I’m frustrated, because a judge made an order.”
While she does want to finally get her daughter’s belongings back, it won’t give her a feeling of closure.
“There is no closure. I never use that word because there is no such thing. This is my love between me and my daughter. It doesn’t close.”
The Surakkas were scheduled to appear before a judge today (June 21) in Abbotsford to ask for the court order to be enforced.
They want an exact time and an exact date to have the items returned – and not in Surrey.
While Staff Sgt. Crawford said he could not comment on details of the situation, he did agree to discuss why the evidence, which had been stored in Mission for years, was moved.
“It’s an IHIT file and, although the exhibits were stored in Mission, in this case, the protocols are wherever the offence takes place. That agency stores the exhibits. But it’s IHIT’s investigation so arguably they are IHIT’s exhibits and it’s IHIT who has authority over what happens to them and when. So we simply were the repository and IHIT’s efforts were to try to facilitate the return – because we are closed on Sundays, exhibits are certainly closed and we run short hours with short staff – and that was attempted but obviously wasn’t to their liking,” Crawford said.