Six people allege they were sexually assaulted by a former RCMP officer

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Six people allege they were sexually assaulted by a former RCMP officer

Graeme Willson, left, and Bob Callan, right, when they were teenagers. Both allege they were sexually assaulted at the time by former RCMP officer Don Cooke.

Four men and two women allege that a former Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officer, Don Cooke, sexually assaulted them when they were teenagers, in British Columbia and Newfoundland. Don Cooke, now 64, denies the allegations. He was the subject of a criminal investigation regarding some of them, but did not face any charges. Three civil lawsuits are still pending against Don Cooke and the RCMP.

Warning: Details and testimony contained herein may be distressing to some readers.

The allegations span several years. Over a period of approximately 15 years, several alleged victims have come forward to CBC/Radio-Canada to speak out about this.

Graeme Willson first told his story in 2007. Although some of his thoughts were muddled then, his central memory seemed clear: he claimed to have been sexually assaulted repeatedly by an RCMP officer while on duty while on duty. x27;he was a teenager in Abbotsford, BC in 1982.

I was repeatedly assaulted, victimized and harassed by Constable Don Cooke, a he then declared.

He described the RCMP officer as a police officer who uses his authority to manipulate […] and destroy people.

Graeme Willson pointed out that he and his family reported alleged assaults at the RCMP in 1982, but that they felt they were not believed. Since then, his life had been a real mess, he denounced.

Graeme Willson during his interview with CBC, in 2007.

During his interview with CBC, Graeme Willson also said that the Abbotsford Police Department told him they were investigating similar allegations made against Don Cooke by several other men.

When I heard [there might be more], it made me cry, revealed Graeme Willson.

According to him, this police department told him that the other alleged victims were teenagers who were part of a local minor hockey team which Don Cooke was coaching, around the same time as during of his own allegations.

Graeme Willson's allegations have never been proven.

Neither the Abbotsford police nor the RCMP did not respond to CBC/Radio-Canada's requests for comment regarding these allegations.

Don Cooke, now retired, was the subject of a criminal investigation into allegations of sexual assault by members of the hockey team he coached. In 2009, however, the British Columbia Crown prosecutor decided not to lay charges. The reasons behind his decision have not been made public.

Abbotsford police have also not released details of his investigation.

Don Cooke declined CBC/Radio-Canada's interview request.

In an email, his lawyer says a thorough investigation into the allegations has been conducted by the police and the Crown prosecutor has confirmed in writing that no charges will be laid and that the police and the prosecutor the Crown were closing their case.

In 2010, Don Cooke sued the RCMP over the investigation of complaints against him. He attested that the allegations were unfounded and that the investigation itself had revealed his homosexuality within the RCMP, which he described as homophobic. Therefore, he could no longer work as an RCMP officer, he said. Don Cooke said he suffered from depression and panic attacks as a result of the episode.

Abbotsford RCMP Constable Don Cooke visits the new police facility on Marshall Road in 1984.

In his statement, he also maintained that one of the hockey players was bitter and angry because he suspended him from the team. As for Graeme Willson, he was unreliable, according to Don Cooke, because he had already failed a polygraph test.

The lawsuit was settled privately.

Incidentally, Abbotsford police say they have no record of the complaint filed by Graeme Willson's family in 1982.< /p>

In 2005, Graeme Willson even filed a lawsuit against Don Cooke, but dropped it when the latter was not charged. Embittered that his allegations did not appear to be believed, Graeme Willson distanced himself from friends and family and severed contact with his lawyer.

He was found dead in 2017 in a homeless encampment in British Columbia. It was determined that he overdosed on fentanyl.

In 2012, one of the former hockey players, Bob Callan, filed a civil lawsuit against Don Cooke and the RCMP.

Bob Callan, now aged 53, alleges sexual assaults occurred at Abbotsford Arena, team showers, Don Cooke's private vehicle and basement of home he shared with another member of the RCMP.

He's a predator, he takes advantage of people, he uses his power as king of the mountain, Bob Callan said.< /p>

He says he never complained at the time because Don Cooke threatened him. I was told that because of his position, his knowledge of police methods, I would be killed, I would disappear, he explained.

Bob Callan, now 53, alleges he was sexually abused as a teenager by Don Cooke, who was his minor hockey coach at the time.

Shortly after the Bob Callan lawsuit was filed, another Abbotsford man, Tom Thiessen, filed his own civil lawsuit against Don Cooke and the RCMP.

Now 55-year-old Tom Thiessen alleges that when he was 14 he was held down and essentially raped.

It's very sickening , he said.

Tom Thiessen says he met Constable Don Cooke during a traffic stop while he was walking on his new bike.

I was so proud of it, and he told me the same thing, that he just got a new bike and maybe one day we could go for a ride, he claimed.

Multiple rides in Don Cooke's RCMP patrol car and visits to his home followed, according to Tom Thiessen. Then the visits turned into impromptu wrestling fights, then casual touching and, finally, sexual assault, he says.

I was just frightened by everything that was going on, he said.

Tom Thiessen alleges that Don Cooke repeatedly assaulted him while he was in service, especially in a farmer's field near the family home, still in his police car.

In 2019, in the wake of lawsuits by Bob Callan and Tom Thiessen, another former hockey player, teammate of Bob Callan, joined them.

Travis Piers filed a separate lawsuit against Don Cooke and the RCMP, alleging that from 1982 to 1985, [he was] sexually assaulted on numerous occasions by Donald Cooke.

This year, two Newfoundland women allege that Don Cooke had malicious sexual relations with each of them as teenagers, beginning in 1986. Cooke had been transferred there after his stay in British Columbia.

CBC/Radio-Canada agreed not to name the two women because they feared stigma in the small community where they lived .

One ​​said she was terrified of Don Cooke, who she said locked her in an RCMP holding cell .

The two women learned of the ongoing civil lawsuits against Don Cooke and the RCMP in British Columbia by chance, while doing a web search, and contacted the men who filed them. They have since provided statements intended to support the men's claims.

Both said they had been silent for decades because they were ashamed of what had happened and because they thought they were the only ones.

The RCMP and the three men responsible for the prosecutions have begun talks that could lead to a settlement. If they reach an agreement, the details will likely be kept private under a non-disclosure agreement, a common practice in such cases.

Tom Thiessen says he is enraged at how it all turned out.

It makes me very angry that nobody listened, that he is still [free]. […] Everyone has to pay and the system didn't stop him when he should have, he laments.

Bob Callan is also angry, but he is also determined to pursue the civil process. He admits, however, that he sometimes has difficulty letting go of these memories.

We think so much about how we should have gotten out of it, or what& #x27;we could have done differently. Why we ended up in this position, you know, to be so vulnerable, he testifies.

He speaks out now so that ;others may know this story and, he hopes, learn from it.

Based on a report by Paul Hunter

  • British Columbia – VictimLinkBC: 1 800 563-0808 (service available in French)
  • Quebec – Info-help sexual violence< /strong>: 1-888-933-9007
  • Newfoundland and Labrador – NL Sexual Assault Crisis and Prevention Centre: 1-800-726-2743

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