STUNG: Conversations with a murder suspect snared in RCMP Mr. Big scenario
He is charged with a brutal jailhouse stabbing, another vicious stabbing involving an undercover police officer and he knows he is suspected of murdering his girlfriend — but Mark Lindsay looks like anything but a killer.
Aside from the bright red prison-issue T-shirt and pants he is wearing — not to mention the cuffs on his wrists and shackles on his ankles — the 24-year-old does not look like a criminal.
When he speaks, he doesn’t sound like one, either. He is well-spoken and offers clear and thoughtful responses.
Nevertheless, Lindsay is a man facing very serious charges.
The son of a former Edmonton police chief, Lindsay spoke with KTW in a series of jailhouse interviews earlier this month.
The path Lindsay took from a comfortable upbringing on Edmonton’s south side to the depressing segregation unit of the Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre is a bizarre one, involving a murdered woman, undercover cops posing as gangsters and an a prison-cell stabbing that took the eye from an inmate.
Lindsay was arrested by Kamloops RCMP on Sept. 21, but the story of how he ended up in the Tournament Capital begins in Edmonton on June 22, when he stabbed his girlfriend, 31-year-old Dana Turner, in the head with a paring knife.
He was arrested and held at an Edmonton jail. During a court appearance in August, Lindsay pleaded guilty to assault and was handed a 50-day jail sentence — which worked out to time served.
Lindsay was released from custody on Aug. 12.
On Aug. 14, Turner disappeared. Her body was discovered nearly two months later in a farmer’s field near Innisfail in central Alberta.
Lindsay refused to discuss Turner’s disappearance or death, but said the last time her saw her was “in the summer.”
Lindsay told KTW he took a trip to Vancouver after being released from jail in August. On the way back to Edmonton from Vancouver — Lindsay can’t remember exactly when, but said it was sometime in late August — he met someone.
Lindsay said he was taking a Greyhound home.
When the bus stopped in Edson, about 200 kilometres west of Edmonton, a man got on and sat behind him.
The two spoke casually for the rest of the trip, Lindsay said. When they arrived in the Alberta capital, Lindsay said he noticed the man forgot a bag of potato chips on his seat.
He returned the chips to the man and they talked some more.
The man then offered Lindsay work, which he accepted.
“I needed to work,” he said. “I just got out of jail and I didn’t have a job.”
Lindsay said he began working with the man and his associates a short time later.
Unbeknownst to Lindsay at the time was the fact his new colleagues were police officers posing as criminals, conducting an elaborate undercover investigation.
“We were getting along OK,” Lindsay said, adding the jobs were pretty straightforward — mainly driving packages to and from various locations.
“Just moving stuff around. He’d drive me around town.”
The tasks were all confined to Edmonton and the surrounding area until a night in late September, Lindsay said, when he and his boss took off on their first out-of-town business trip.
The job, according to Lindsay, was to drive a pickup truck hauling a trailer from Edmonton to Kamloops. Inside the trailer was a pair of quads.
The men drove through the night, stopping once for dinner and then again in Barriere for coffee.
That’s when something happened.
Lindsay is hesitant to discuss the specifics — he described it as “a long story” — but what is known is that just before 1 a.m. on Sept. 21, Kamloops RCMP received a report of an undercover officer having been stabbed by a homicide suspect in Barriere.
The murder suspect — later identified as Lindsay — then took the truck and continued south toward Kamloops on Highway 5.
Kamloops Mounties arrested Lindsay near McLure a short time later and he has been in custody since.
In his interviews with KTW, Lindsay would not go into detail about what happened in Barriere, but conceded there was an “incident” following an exchange of words.
Following his arrest, Lindsay said, investigators told him they were charging him with murder in connection with Turner’s disappearance.
“Two officers picked me up and then I heard the call for murder over the radio,” he said.
“He [one of the two officers] just turned around and charged me with murder. He said, basically, ‘Here’s your rights and we’re charging you.’”
Lindsay has yet to be charged in connection with Turner’s disappearance or death. In fact, Mounties in Alberta have yet to make an arrest in the case or publicly name a suspect.
However, it is believed Lindsay is still considered a suspect and is being investigated for his potential involvement.
Lindsay said he had no idea he was the target of an undercover RCMP investigation — known as a Mr. Big sting.
“There was definitely something about them, but your first impression is not police officer,” he told KTW. “Everybody’s got their misleading aspects to them, same as everybody else.
“But, I didn’t really catch on with what they were doing.”
In Mr. Big stings, undercover RCMP officers pose as gangsters in an effort to gain the trust of their target — usually a murder suspect. Eventually, they ask the target to come clean about any crimes in his or her past in order to continue to move up the ranks of the gang.
The confessions are videotaped and used as evidence if the targets end up going to trial.
One knock on Mr. Big operations has been that they are unfair. Critics say the undercover Mounties use intimidation to pressure their targets into confessing.
Lindsay said he felt scared when the truck hauling the quads stopped for coffee in Barriere.
“That’s what they do,” he said. “They go undercover and they gain the respect and the fear.”
Lindsay said he had never heard of Mr. Big stings prior to his arrest, after which his lawyer advised him what had really been going on.
But, he said, he had a friend who was targeted in a similar fashion after a homicide in Edmonton in 2002.
In that instance, a bus driver was killed when a group of teens pushed a rock off a pedestrian overpass and onto a freeway. It smashed through the windshield of the bus, killing the driver.
Lindsay told KTW he was in the area at the time of that event, but said he wasn’t involved.
“We were up on a hill,” he said, noting he was questioned by police, but never charged.
His time at Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre hasn’t passed without incident.
In October, Lindsay was charged with aggravated assault after his cellmate, Michel Fougere, was stabbed twice in his left eye — once with a pencil and once with a pen — resulting in emergency brain surgery in Vancouver. Fougere was left blinded in his left eye.
Like Turner’s disappearance and the Barriere incident, Lindsay is hesitant to discuss the jail-cell stabbing with KTW.
He acknowledged reports it occurred during a game of Scrabble and said it took place when the cell’s doors were locked.
Following the incident, the victim’s family told KTW Lindsay said something about “black magic” before the stabbing.
Lindsay said he has no idea what they’re talking about.
But, he said, the incident has landed him in KRCC’s segregation unit.
In “seg,” as he describes it, Lindsay is locked up alone in his cell 23 hours a day — and kept under close guard by a team of three correctional officers whenever the door opens.
Every time he leaves the cell, he said, he is shackled and handcuffed — as he was when meeting with KTW.
Growing up in Edmonton, Lindsay said, he never would have pictured himself sitting in a jail cell facing so many serious charges, with more potentially on the way.
“No, I didn’t,” he said. “But, things kind of happen all at once and sometimes you can’t do anything about it. It’s kind of hard, but it happens.”
Lindsay’s father, John Lindsay, is no longer involved with policing, having stepped down as Edmonton’s police chief amid a storm of controversy in 2000.
The elder Lindsay is now a deacon with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton.
Mark Lindsay said he hasn’t had any contact with his family since he was arrested in September and, even before then, he hadn’t been close with them for some time.
On Dec. 12, Lindsay did not appear in a B.C. Supreme Court courtroom in Kamloops as lawyers set trial dates for two separate matters — the charges out of Barriere and the cellmate-stabbing incident.
Lindsay said he is looking forward to his days in court.
“I’ll go through with the trials,” he said, adding he’s optimistic.
“It’s just a long wait. I’m stuck in seg.”
Lindsay is slated to stand trial on the KRCC stabbing charge on June 11, and on the charges out of Barriere on Aug. 13.
Police in Alberta have said the investigation into Turner’s death is ongoing.
• A PUBLICATION BAN, BUT NO EVIDENCE IN COURT TO BAN
The story of Mark Lindsay's involvement in an RCMP Mr. Big investigation has gone largely unreported by media in B.C. and Alberta, aside from KTW's continuing coverage and a few stories on Edmonton radio stations.
The reason is likely a publication ban, which was placed on the charges out of Barriere before Lindsay made his first court appearance.
The ban put in place applies to evidence given at bail hearings. It was granted by a Kamloops justice of the peace outside of open court, so its reasoning is unclear.
What is clear is that Lindsay has never applied for bail and no evidence regarding the charges has ever been heard in court — meaning there is no evidence to be banned.
Despite that, RCMP media liaisons in both provinces have cited the publication ban in telling reporters they are unable to comment on the allegations.
• RCMP MR. BIG STINGS
Mr. Big stings have a relatively short but controversial history.
Believed to have been developed by the RCMP in B.C. in the early 1990s, the technique has been called unfair and unconstitutional by critics — and such stings are illegal in the U.S.
Mr. Big operations are elaborate and expensive, usually involving dozens of undercover officers in several provinces.
They generally begin with a meeting made to look like a chance encounter, during which the target is asked for help or offered work.
The targets usually begin their service performing menial tasks, such as shuttling duffle bags and boxes to and from storage compartments and airport lockers. Eventually, the work becomes more significant and the target is made to believe his or her apparent employers are placing him in a position of trust.
The officers act as though they are members of a criminal organization and the target is paid for completed tasks.
In many of the B.C. investigations, targets have travelled to Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec to complete tasks for the fictional crime group.
The operations generally culminate in a meeting with "Mr. Big" — an undercover officer who is portraying a high-ranking gang boss.
At the meetings — videos of which are routinely played in court when Mr. Big targets go to trial — the supposed boss asks the target to come clean about crimes in his or her past.
Like them or not, Mr. Big investigations — at least the ones about which the public hears — are usually successful in getting suspected killers to admit their crimes.
Recent examples of the Mr. Big technique being used successfully in the Kamloops area include Robert Balbar, who was convicted of second-degree murder in the 2003 beating death of his wife, and Brian Townsend, who was found guilty of the same charge after beating to death a teenaged hitchhiker in 2000.
Both men appealed their convictions. Townsend's appeal was subsequently denied, while Balbar's is still before the B.C. Court of Appeal.
• LINDSAY'S CHARGES
Mark Lindsay is currently facing four charges in Kamloops provincial court — two counts of aggravated assault and one count each of robbery and possession of a dangerous weapon.
One aggravated-assault charge stems from the alleged stabbing incident inside Lindsay's cell at KRCC in October.
The other charges were all laid in relation to the alleged stabbing of the undercover Mountie in Barriere.
According to court documents, the weapon alleged to have been in Lindsay's possession in Barriere is "a hooked carpet knife."