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Saskatoon judge: Fertuck's confession can be admitted as evidence

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A Saskatoon judge has ruled that a confession provided to undercover RCMP officers during an elaborate sting operation can be admitted as evidence in a high-profile murder trial.

Greg Fertuck is accused of first-degree murder in the death of his estranged wife Sheree Fertuck. She disappeared in December 2015 and her body has never been found.

Justice Richard Danyliuk's ruling follows a lengthy "voir dire" — a portion of a trial where a judge determines whether evidence can be admitted.

Charges were brought against Fertuck following a "Mr. Big" sting — an elaborate investigation where undercover police pose as criminals hoping to gain a suspect's trust and elicit a confession.

Earlier in the trial, Fertuck's defence team had attempted to cast doubt on his confession due to a brain injury he sustained during the course of the investigation.

Court heard the injury resulted in memory loss so severe that police opted to reenact a pre-planned "scenario" with Fertuck that had already taken place — because he didn't appear to remember it.

However, in his decision, Danyliuk says he's seen no medical evidence of "some catastrophic, or highly serious, or irreversible brain damage occurred such that Mr. Fertuck was in a state of health that showed he should not be the subject of this sort of investigation."

Danyliuk said the officers involved "were confident that Mr. Fertuck had recovered and possessed an independent and operative mind" before resuming the investigation.

He also notes the officers were "dismayed by his condition" and simply kept contact and for a time "actually assisted" Fertuck and his domestic partner.

Throughout the investigation, police took steps to try and minimize the amount of alcohol consumed by Fertuck, even creating scenarios where liquor wasn't an option.

In his decision, Danyliuk says Fertuck's "alcohol problem" actually improved following his brain injury.

Fertuck's defence also painted him as someone who was naively caught up in the police sting.

But Danyliuk found there was "no evidence of cognitive deficits" and that he was "not a follower, blindly obeying the directions or wishes of others."

He points to the fact that Fertuck was involved in two romantic relationships simultaneously during the investigation — at one point living under one roof with both women — as evidence he "possessed independence and an ability to operate socially."

Danyliuk says Fertuck's alleged account of killing Sheree remained consistent when speaking to two of the fake gang members separately.

In his decision, Danyliuk also notes a number of apparently correlating details between Fertuck's confession and other evidence, including drops of Sheree's blood found in the box in his truck, and the two shells found at a gravel pit where she worked — Fertuck told the undercover officers he fired twice.

In his decision, Danyliuk says although the evidence can proceed to trial, it does not mean the Crown's case is proof of murder beyond a reasonable doubt.

"It simply means the statements ought to be put before the trier of fact at the trial proper because the Crown has demonstrated either that the statement is inherently trustworthy, or that its reliability can be sufficiently tested," Danyliuk says.

Fertuck's trial started in September 2021 and has been marred by numerous delays and has seen the departure of Fertuck's lawyers. He is currently representing himself.

It's expected to resume on Oct. 4. 

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