THREE decades of investigative efforts, led by investigators from Project E-PANA and the Provincial Unsolved Homicide Unit, have resulted in homicide charges being laid in two BC homicide cases from the 1970s.
On September 24, 1975, 11-year-old Kathryn-Mary Herbert was heading to her Abbotsford home when she disappeared. Her mother reported her missing and tragically, two months later, her remains were located near Harris Road in an undeveloped area. The investigation into her death underwent extensive reviews by various police agencies over the years. In October 2005 investigators from the Provincial Unsolved Homicide Unit assumed conduct of the case.
“The murder of 11-year-old Kathryn-Mary Herbert was heinous and horrific. It devastated a family and deeply impacted a community. The investigation into the murder spanned years and required a concerted effort by law enforcement to gather the necessary evidence to bring charges against a suspect. The journey to arrive at this point, however, was not just the product of a continued effort by police; it was also the result of the tenacity, persistence and love demonstrated by her mother, Shari Greer,” said Deputy Chief Rick Lucy of the Abbotsford Police Department on Monday.
On May 6, 1978, 12-year-old Monica Jack was riding her bike along north on Highway 5A just south of Quilchena near the Nicola Ranch in Merritt. While her bike was discovered a day later, it would be another 17 years before her remains were located on June 2, 1995, in a rural area north of Merritt about six kilometres from Highway 5A. Investigative efforts moved forward and in 2007 her murder was added to the Project E-PANA investigation.
“Both Monica and Kathryn were young, vibrant and happy girls last seen travelling on roads not far from their homes. Both children also had incredibly strong mothers – Madeline Lanaro and Shari Greer- who have been amazing advocates for their daughters,” said Chief Superintendent Jim Gresham, Head of BC RCMP Major Crime Section. “Ensuring they had the answers they so rightly deserved was a powerful force that guided us over these many years. While these investigations were led by two different investigative and integrated teams, information has been constantly shared and efforts combined when the same suspect was identified in the two cases.”
The totality of three decades of investigative efforts has result in two murder charges against 67-year-old Garry Taylor Handlen of Ontario. Based on the Criminal Code that was in place at the time of the offences Handlen is facing one count of first-degree murder in connection with the death of Jack and one count of first-degree murder in connection with the death of Herbert.
“The road to today’s announcement has been long,” said Supt. Ward Lymburner, Officer-in-Charge of Special Projects Unit. “In Monica’s investigation alone, once it was transferred to the E-PANA team, police reviewed over 500 investigative tasks and then initiated another 241 tasks including re-interviewing individuals and exploring new forensic analysis options. Our efforts to bring the girls’ alleged killer to justice have been extensive and exhaustive.”
Handlen was arrested without incident in Surrey on November 28. He will remain in custody and is scheduled to appear in Abbotsford Provincial Court on Monday, December 8.
In order to further their investigative efforts, police are taking the step of releasing of photo of Handlen around the time of alleged offense. Police are issuing a plea to the public that if anyone has any information about Handlen, or the disappearances of Monica Jack and Kathryn-Mary Herbert, to call the Tip Line at 1-877-543-4822.