Police investigating a fellow officer accused by a witness of ditching a vodka bottle at the scene of a high-profile 2011 murder in Armstrong had no duty of care in the subsequent code-of-conduct probe because the Mountie under investigation was not a suspect, a judge has been told.
That’s what a lawyer said Tuesday in a Kamloops courtroom as the defendants — the provincial government — opened their case in the B.C. Supreme Court civil trial of former RCMP constable Milan Ilic.
The 43-year-old was the first police officer to arrive at the scene of Taylor Van Diest’s murder in Armstrong on Oct. 31, 2011. He became the subject of an RCMP code-of-conduct investigation in April of 2014, days after he testified at the trial of Van Diest’s killer.
Court heard the investigation stemmed from a claim made by a witness, Zoe Unruh. A friend of Van Diest, Unruh said she saw Ilic ditch a bottle of liquor he pulled from the pocket of his patrol jacket. Ilic claimed he threw a box of blue pens, not a bottle.
An empty vodka bottle was found 7.6 metres away from Van Diest’s body and a box of blue pens was found inside the pocket of Ilic’s patrol jacket, court has heard.
Ilic filed a lawsuit in 2016 and it has been working its way through the courts ever since. He has claimed he was owed a duty of care by police investigating the allegation, alleging the probe was not “fair and impartial.”
Duty of care is a legal responsibility or obligation to avoid acts or omissions that would likely cause harm to others.
Barry Carter, Ilic’s lawyer, has said the man’s mental health “rapidly declined” after he was interviewed by Mounties as part of the code-of-conduct investigation.
Ilic last worked as an RCMP constable in the spring of 2014. He has claimed as part of the court action that his career, reputation and mental health were torpedoed by the RCMP's probe.
In court on Tuesday, lawyer Andrew Scarth delivered an opening statement on behalf of the Province of B.C. He said Ilic was not owed a duty of care because he was not a suspect.
“The defendants deny that Mr. Ilic was owed a duty of care in the code-of-conduct investigation,” he said.
“There’s no existing duty of care regarding RCMP code-of-conduct investigations.”
Scarth also said the defendants maintain the federal government should be responsible for anything having to do with the RCMP's code of conduct, not the province.
Ilic is a born-and-raised Kamloops resident who became a Mountie in 2009, first posted in Vernon and then in the rural North Okanagan. He was on patrol in Armstrong the night Van Diest was killed.
While on the witness stand last week, Ilic said he grew to distrust the national police force while researching his own code-of-conduct investigation.
His trial, in front of B.C. Supreme Court Justice Carla Forth, is expected to wrap up at some point in May.