A B.C. Supreme Court judge has dismissed the claim of an ex-Mountie who said he was railroaded out of his job following a high-profile murder investigation in 2011, but says she believes the former constable’s story about what happened on the night of the slaying and that he was wronged during the subsequent investigation.
Milan Ilic sued the provincial government, claiming he suffered “severe psychological injury” when the RCMP conducted an unfair probe into unsubstantiated allegations from a witness who said she saw him ditch an empty booze bottle at a murder scene in the North Okanagan.
Ilic, who is from Kamloops and still lives in the city, was the first police officer to arrive at the scene of Taylor Van Diest’s murder in Armstrong on Halloween night in 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.
The investigation stemmed from a claim made by a witness, Zoe Unruh. A friend of Van Diest who was present when her body was located, Unruh said she saw Ilic remove an empty bottle from his pocket and throw it into a ditch not far from where the teenager was found clinging to life along a railroad corridor in Armstrong.
The implication was that Ilic had been drinking on the job.
Court heard police found an empty Smirnoff mickey in the ditch near Van Diest’s body.
Ilic, 44, has maintained all along that he threw a box of pens into the ditch. He said he picked up the pens from the Armstrong RCMP detachment because they were needed at the Falkland RCMP detachment.
He said he threw the pens away before placing his duty jacket on a bloodied Van Diest, not wanting anything inside the jacket’s pockets to compromise the integrity of the crime scene.
A box of pens was found in the area.
At trial last year, court heard Ilic’s mental health “rapidly declined” after he was interviewed by senior Mounties as part of the code of conduct investigation.
He last worked as an RCMP constable in the spring of 2014. He claimed as part of the lawsuit that his career, reputation and mental health were torpedoed by the RCMP’s probe. Court was told Ilic grew to distrust the RCMP during the code of conduct process.
Lawyers representing the defendants said at trial that Ilic was not owed a duty of care during the code of conduct investigation. Duty of care is a legal term referring to an obligation on a person or organization to avoid action that could likely cause harm to others.
In a 44-page decision released on Wednesday, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Carla Forth said she believes Ilic’s story about the box of pens. She also said she was convinced that a duty of care was owed and breached by two senior Mounties while they investigated Ilic.
But Forth still dismissed Ilic’s claim, because she said he failed to prove causation.
“While I found that Sgt. [Gord] Geary and Cpl. [Scott] Aschenbrenner owed a duty to the plaintiff and breached that duty, I am not persuaded that the breaches resulted in the injury that the plaintiff is claiming in this action. As the plaintiff asserts, the injuries arose from the code investigation process,” the judge wrote.
“I have found no liability against any of the RCMP officers who were involved in the code investigation and process. As such, there is no finding of vicarious liability against the attorney general.”
Forth included an unusual request near the end of her reasons, in which she urged the defendants not to seek costs against Ilic.
“[Ilic] was successful in establishing the two prongs of the negligence test, being a duty of care and a breach of that duty of care by Sgt. Geary and Cpl. Aschenbrenner, but was not successful on the issue of causation,” she said.
“As noted above, the plaintiff has suffered severe consequences of both responding to the murder scene and the code investigation and process.”