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RCMP in Lower Mainland investigating child luring, pornography case

Case involves 12- to 13-year-old girls after complaints made in 2022
Ridge Meadows RCMP have been granted an detention order until August for seized items in a child luring, child pornography case. (The News files)

Ridge Meadows RCMP are investigating a case of child luring and possession of child pornography after several reports from 12- to 13-year-old girls in 2022.

The criminal investigation came to light after the RCMP asked a judge’s permission to keep items seized from the suspect’s residence for a longer period of time.

According to court documents, police began their investigation on May 18, 2022, when a number of girls complained that they had received sexually explicit texts or social media messages from a person, using a particular name. The document does not say what that name was, only that it would be later linked to the suspect.

Within weeks of the start of the investigation, police interviewed three of the girls, two of whom told officers that they received sexually explicit photos from the suspect and that they had exchanged text messages with him.

One girl even said the suspect offered to buy her shoes, “if she would come to his place to cuddle.”

Court documents say the girls told the man that they were between the ages of 11 and 13 years of age. The suspect told them that he was between 18 and 20 years old.

A timeline outlined in the documents say that police were able to get “production orders” to make Snapchat and Telus identify the IP address and subscriber information for the suspect’s username, which allowed police to identify the suspect, whom they said lives in the Lower Mainland.

By Nov. 26, 2022, police were able to get a search warrant and executed it at the suspect’s residence, where they found and seized three iPhones, a laptop, and a computer tablet. They were granted a detention order for three months for the seized items.

However, they needed to get another extension because of the amount of time it took for the RCMP’s E Division digital forensic services (DFS) to gain access to the information on the devices.

RELATED: Minimum child luring sentences unconstitutional says Canada’s Supreme Court

It wouldn’t be until July 2023, when data from one of the phones was extracted, that police found images of “female body parts that appeared to be in the nature of child pornography,” and texts, that were believed to be evidence of child luring.

Two of the other seized devices did not result in any evidence being found.

Police would also examine two of the girls’ phones with one containing chat and instant message communications between the girl and the suspect, which “could be evidence of the offence of child luring.”

After police returned two devices to the suspect and another to one of the girls, they applied for two more detention orders for three devices – a grey iPhone, a black iPhone, and a laptop device.

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One of those applications came last November when Const. Samarasinghe with the Ridge Meadows RCMP asked for a detention order until Nov. 25, 2024. However, he did not disclose entirely the reasons why police needed this much time.

It came out during a cross examination of Samarasinghe by the suspect’s lawyer, M. Bloom, that a delay of three to four weeks in the investigation took place in late September, 2023, when the lead investigator on the case was “seriously injured in a shooting while executing a warrant in an unrelated case” and a new investigator, Const. Noelle-Royont was assigned.

On Sept. 22, Ridge Meadows RCMP officers were executing a warrant in Coquitlam as part of an ongoing drug investigation, when an altercation with a man led to the shooting death of Const. Rick O’Brien. A second Ridge Meadows officer was also shot and injured and another sustained non-firearm-related injuries.

“This cuts both ways,” said Supreme Court of B.C. Justice Paul Riley, delivering his decision on the new detention order.

“On the one hand, Cst. Samarasinghe did not volunteer that a new lead investigator had to be assigned. On the other hand, Cst. Samarasinghe did not put forward the original investigator’s injury as any kind of excuse or justification for delay in the investigation. Cst. Samarasinghe’s explanation was that his affidavit was focused on the status of the seized items, not personnel issues.”

There was also a delay that Samarasinghe didn’t fully explain about the laptop, that was sent back and forth from the Ridge Meadows detachment to the DFS. Under cross examination Samarasinghe said the DFS sent a USB storage device to the detachment saying it included data from all of the seized devices, including the laptop. But, Const. Noelle-Royont, shortly after they were assigned to the case, discovered it did not include data from the laptop, and as a consequence, the laptop had to be returned to the DFS so the data could be extracted.

Justice Riley agreed to the detention of the seized items, not for a year, but for seven months from the date of his decision.

“Taking into account all of the matters considered above, my conclusion is that at this point in time, based on [Const.] Samarasinghe’s affidavit and the evidence elicited in cross-examination, further detention of the seized items is warranted for seven months from the date of this decision, until 4 August 2024,” said the judge about his decision, noting the conclusion was made when considering, in particular, the black iPhone.

“It has been found to contain potentially relevant, important evidence, but the data on the device requires further analysis or interpretation by DFS,” said Riley, noting that he believes further analysis of the items, plus the preparation of a report to Crown counsel, and then the charge approval assessment could be done within seven or eight months.

The suspect is not named as the investigation is not complete and a decision to lay charges has yet to be made.

The names of the victims have not been released to protect their identities.

Colleen Flanagan

About the Author: Colleen Flanagan

I got my start with Black Press Media in 2003 as a photojournalist.
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