News Local

The Fifth Estate examines the Wilno murders

By Ryan Paulsen, The Daily Observer

"Why Didn't We Know?", a documentary produced by the CBC's investigative team at 'the fifth estate' looking at the murders that rocked Renfrew County in September, aired on Jan. 15, 2016.

"Why Didn't We Know?", a documentary produced by the CBC's investigative team at 'the fifth estate' looking at the murders that rocked Renfrew County in September, aired on Jan. 15, 2016.

 When three women were found murdered in Renfrew County on Sep. 22, 2015, the news quickly spread across the country, with national media attention suddenly focused on the sleepy and bucolic corner of the region surrounding Wilno. Although the horrific crimes that shook the county and country were the talk of virtually all major news broadcasts, momentarily eclipsing even the ongoing coverage of the longest federal election campaign in modern Canadian history, the political leaders vying of office were conspicuously silent on the matter.

That silence, along with the many questions raised by the alleged killer's long history with domestic violence and criminal allegations about the nature of Canada's justice system and how much more ought to be done to protect former abuse victims from their attackers, was the main focus of Friday night's episode of CBC Television's the fifth estate.

In "Why Didn't We Know", journalist Gillian Findlay interviews families and friends of Nathalie Warmerdam, Anastasia Kuzyk and Carol Culleton, the three women killed in a matter of hours that morning. Facing murder charges is Basil Borutski, a man with whom all three had had some degree of relationship with, and who was known by virtually everybody in the community as a man with a violent temper and a willingness to unleash it.

The interviews were poignant, and understandably emotional, as loved ones of the slain women struggled to come to grips with the show's overarching question of how a man who had been in trouble with the law so often, and had faced so many charges of domestic violence in the past, was able to continue to terrorize his victims long after being released from successive, and short, prison terms.

Perhaps most surprisingly, the show also featured a telephone interview with Borutski himself, calling Findlay from within the walls of the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre, where he sits awaiting a trial that could still be years away.

Borutski is calm and composed during the interview, speaking in mostly even tones as he insists that his side of the story needs to be told in order for people to understand "why he was frustrated".

While the episode did not feature any interviews with legal professionals or the political leaders who were so noticeably absent from the national conversation and lamentation following the murders, it does raise the question, is it really just political will, or lack thereof, that is preventing real examination of how our justice system could better protect women who are survivors of domestic abuse from becoming targets of past abusers again?

As one interviewed friend of Warmerdam points out, "thoughts and prayers" are not enough, and Tweeted condolences, while all well and good, cannot replace "rolling up their sleeves and getting things done."

ryan.paulsen@sunmedia.ca

Twitter.com/PRyanPaulsen