Coquitlam RCMP is backtracking on the photographs it released of the alleged accomplices of a man on trial for first degree murder who escaped July 21 from North Fraser Pretrial Centre, after a reporter noticed nearly identical images were published on various obscure websites.
Rabih (Robby) Alkhalil, 35, was dressed in a black jumpsuit and high visibility vest when he left in a white Ford Econoline van at 6:48 p.m. July 21 with two others who were posing as contractors.
The RCMP’s news release from the late morning of July 22 showed black and white images of two men, but not their names. Later in the day, the RCMP issued a news release that said police had tentatively identified the two suspects.
However, this reporter contacted Const. Deanna Law just after 2 p.m. on July 23, noting that colour images of Suspect 2 were found on three different websites with three different names. A fourth image was found on a passport printing website in India. Law was asked to explain whether the RCMP-issued photograph of Suspect 2 was genuine or if the image was used because it most closely resembled the suspect.
Almost an hour later, Law responded by email, to say she was in contact with investigators and would respond with an update as soon as possible.
At 4:31 p.m., the RCMP issued a third news release about the case, confirming that the photographs were not the suspects.
“It is believed that the suspects who helped Alkhalil escape bear a close resemblance to the photos they left behind, but those images are not them,” Law said in a prepared statement. “As with many complex investigations, the information is rapidly changing as we progress. For this case, time is crucial and it’s important to keep the public as informed as possible even though the facts could change as we go.”
Meanwhile, the RCMP says the Ford Econoline getaway van was found and is being examined by forensics experts. It also said North Fraser Pretrial Centre is cooperating with the investigation, which is turning into a global search.
Alkhalil’s first degree murder trial will go on without him. He is charged with the Jan. 17, 2012 killing of gangster Sandip Duhre at the Sheraton Wall Centre Hotel in Vancouver. Hells Angel Larry Ronald Amero is also standing trial for conspiring to murder Duhre.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Miriam Maisonville recalled the jury July 22 to say jurors would return on Wednesday to carry on the trial. She informed the jury that Alkhalil had absconded and said she would instruct them later how to handle that fact. She also warned jurors to ignore any media reports about the case.
“I remind you again that both accused including including Mr. Alkhalil, who is not before you, is presumed innocent until the Crown has proven their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” Maisonville said.
In the original bulletin issued at 10:19 p.m. on July 22, Coquitlam RCMP said corrections staff informed the RCMP of the escape at 7:30 p.m. It said Alkhalil left in the van at 6:48 p.m., but Law would not comment on the actual time that the warden had considered Alkhalil to have escaped.
Alkhalil was one of four men convicted and sentenced to life in prison for a 2012 murder in Toronto’s Little Italy during a Euro soccer watch party at a cafe.
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