NEW WATERFORD — Maureen Miller says a 24-year journey to get the truth about her son Clayton’s death is about to move on to the courtroom.
Miller said after 24 years of fighting for the documents regarding her son’s death, the family received a letter from Christian Picard, director of strategic case managment, complaints resolution and compliance with the federal Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada, stating documents from 1990-2000 have been destroyed.
"It's been 24 years (and) we're still fighting to get the truth about what happened to Clayton," she said.
"We're going to keep on fighting until we get those files. For them to say they’re destroyed — I don't believe that for a second. If they do not want to give us those files, it means we're going to court.”
Miller said the information commissioner's office told her they can't go any further, as they have no power to force the RCMP to hand over the files.
"What he suggested for us to do was to go to court. The thing is, we are entitled to Clayton's files, we're going to keep fighting until we get them."
Miller said all the family wants is the truth from the RCMP.
“What they've said so far, none of it goes with the evidence — none of it."
Josee Villeneuve, director of public affairs for the Office of the Information Commissioner, said she can’t confirm the documents in question were destroyed but can confirm there is an ongoing investigation.
"Unfortunately, there is not a lot we can provide in terms of details, as an investigation is ongoing."
Clayton Miller was 17 years old in 1990 when his body was found face down in a stream, two days after New Waterford police raided a teen party in the woods. An initial autopsy concluded he died from dry drowning and a second autopsy indicated he died of exposure.
The Millers believe their son died while in police custody and his body was placed in the brook. An RCMP investigation and inquiry cleared the Cape Breton Regional Police.
Shortly after the probe into Clayton's death, the Millers attempted to use the Access to Information Act to retrieve RCMP investigation documents, but were told they were sealed for 20 years.
In 2010 the Millers reapplied for the documents and were then told because of the magnitude of information the RCMP would need an additional nine months. She said she met with RCMP in Halifax in 2012 and was told the family would receive all information connected with the case.
"Staff Sgt. Al Hearn met with me and said I would get everything. Only feet from his desk were nine boxes filled with files in connection with the investigation into Clayton's death."
The family was expecting the 12,704 pages of files and 24 CDs containing video, audio and pictures related to the case.
"What we got was five CDS and they're not worth anything, nothing is on them."
"What are they hiding? They don't want us to see those files." Miller said .
She said Halifax lawyer Raymond Wagner is working with them and she appeals to anyone with information regarding her son's death to contact Wagner at 902-425-7330 or toll free at 1-800-465-8794.
Wagner said the Millers have been on a long journey that is still continuing.
"Twenty-four years of no answers, no answers that are sufficient and logical."
Wagner said they’ve been told the information from the various assistances and reviews completed by the RCMP had a two-year retention period and they've destroyed all those. He said the files from the CBRPS and eventually RCMP, went to the North Sydney detachment, then the Port Hawkesbury detachment and then the Bible Hill detachment.
"They said all the information that they have there has been reviewed, processed under the information act and given to us. We are going to have to challenge that."
Wagner said all the family received were some heavily redacted statements.
"The statements have so much deleted from them, they are impossible to read," he said.
"You don't know who's making the statement, any names or information that could lead to identifying anyone has all been redacted. You’re dealing with a very sketchy abstract situation."
As a result, he said, they're embarking on their own investigation.
"I'm not a police investigator, nor is Maureen, but we're kind of pooling our resources and will continue to conduct investigations and will continue to interview witnesses until we get the answers that we need. “
He said he, along with the Millers, has been going to individuals connected to the investigation and getting authorization for their statements to be released.
"We are sending the authorizations to the RCMP so we can get these statements."
“I have a few but there’s some I still don't have. We'll be trying to get those as well."
"What we hear from people who have come for statements is inconsistent with what the official story line is."