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GIVE THEM ENOUGH ROPE
By Shawn Blore
 


" Do I know what I've done?... Yes, I know quite well what I've done. I have committed murder. I have committed passionless, motiveless, faultless and clueless murder. I have killed for the sake of danger and for the sake of killing."
. . . . . . . . . . . . .From the play Rope, by Patrick Hamilton.

"The privilege of committing murder should be reserved to those few who truly are superior individuals."
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . From the movie Rope, by Alfred Hitchcock.
.

GLEN SEBASTIAN BURNS WAS A SUPERIOR individual. Superior intelligence, demonstrated by a straight-A average. With his superior looks and confidence, he starred in the school production of the play Rope. Superior friends.

If anything, Atif Rafay was possessed of an intelligence even keener than Burns's. Among the top 10 high-school students in all of Canada, Rafay graduated with marks in the high 90s and was awarded a full scholarship to ivy-league Cornell. A superior mind.

The two shared their friendship with one other student at West Vancouver Secondary: Jimmy Miyoshi. Miyoshi's brilliance was perhaps less in himself than in the company he kept. He was the mirror from which the dazzling light of his companions could reflect: Crito to Rafay's Socrates, Patroclus to Burns's Achilles. The joe-boy, police later called him.

By their intellect and their achievements, Burns and Rafay ranked among the elite. Loneliness is ever the burden of the few. Miyoshi appears to have been their only other friend. Not even women came between them. Girls, said Burns, interfered with their unique relationship.

Arrogance is another prerogative of the superior few. Burns and Rafay certainly had more than their share of contempt for the mediocre rich kids who were their peers and the middle-aged time-servers who were their teachers. In his high-school yearbook, Rafay described his feelings in flowery prose: "Hearing the cries of the plebes below, Atif descended through the clouds driven by a compassionate impulse, realising all too late that their pleas are a cunning trap. The pawns of WV defeated Atif Rafay for the last time. Casting aside the hollow illusions of his peers, he gazed bemusedly at the petty struggles of those around him, and began to laugh-and would continue to laugh for three years. When will his laughter cease?'."

Burns's yearbook epistle is equally instructive: less flowery, more brutal. "Having no tolerance for the labyrinth facades of the weak," wrote Burns, "Sebastian seized every weeping opportunity with a clenched fist, and without regard for potential victims exploited them in any way that would yield laughter."

Laughter; of course, is harmless. The mediocre get a great deal of practice brushing off sniggers from the elite. But in this case the laughter may have grown hysterical, maniacal. It may not have stopped, not even short of murder.

On the evening of July 12, 1994, two superior teenagers went out to a restaurant in Bellevue, Washington. Rafay's father, a civil engineer, had worked in Seattle since 1992. When Rafay graduated from high school, the family had sold their North Vancouver home and reunited with Rafay's father in a two-storey house on a quiet cul-de-sac in the suburban city of Bellevue, across Lake Washington from Seattle.

Burns was 19, Rafay 18. Rafay was back visiting after completing his first year at Cornell. Burns had not yet begun university. He was considering taking film at UBC. Burns, in fact, was a bit of a film critic. Few films met with his approval, though he liked The Godfather and Scarface.

It was to a film that the pair went after supper: The Lion King. Then, the two say, they went directly to a nightclub. Around 2 a.m., they came home.

To a charnel house.

Rafay's father and sister lay in their beds-he dead, she dying. Rafay's mother lay on the floor of the downstairs rec room. Also dead. All three had been bludgeoned to death. The VCR was missing, drawers were open, papers strewn about the floor. A botched B & E, perhaps.

The Bellevue police arrived and set to work, dusting for prints, collecting hair and fibre samples, looking for DNA in places it didn't belong, even removing doorknobs and putting them in little plastic bags. Among the samples they collected were human hairs from the drainpipe of the downstairs shower.

No charges were laid. Burns and Rafay's alibi checked out. They had been seen and remembered at the restaurant, cinema and club. They knew how the movie ended. The police put them up in a hotel for a few days, after which the pair left for Burns's North Vancouver home. Bellevue police did not try to hold them. They were not suspects, merely "persons of importance."

On July 20, 1994, a small notice appeared in the Seattle Times. Bellevue police, it read, would like to talk to anyone who saw the late show of The Lion King at the Factoria cinema on July 12. Purely routine.

Except that Bellevue police had decided there was something fishy about the break-in scenario. No money or jewellery had been taken. There were no signs of forced entry. The police decided they had a few more questions for Messrs. Burns and Rafay. In fact, they wanted a DNA sample from them both. If either set foot over the border, they could expect to be taken into custody.

So Burns and Rafay chose to avoid the U.S. of A. They also declined to provide DNA samples. At any time, of course, American authorities could have charged the pair and sought their extradition. But before a Canadian citizen can be extradited, a Canadian judge has to see enough evidence to convince him that there is a pretty solid case. All the Bellevue cops really had were three corpses, some strands of hair and their suspicions. Burns and Rafay had Canadian passports and their freedom.
Stalemate.

April 11, 1995.5:45 p.m. Nine months after the murders. Sebastian Burns steps out of Crimpers Hair Fashions on West Georgia. At $35 for a shampoo and style, Crimpers is not the place for a cut-rate blow-dry, but Burns likes to keep himself looking good. He's dressed casually: jeans, long blue shirt unbuttoned over top of a T-shirt. Low-cut cowboy boots. He's slim, dark, about 5-11, good-looking. He heads to the parking lot where he has left his car.

As he goes to pay, Burns is approached by a man in a bright-yellow dress shirt, with a goatee and hair past his shoulders. Hey buddy, the man says, you know anything about breakin' into cars? He has locked his keys inside his car, he explains. Burns and the man walk over to the car, a black 1995 Trans-Am. Sure enough, a set of keys dangles from the ignition. Burns agrees to drive him over to his hotel, where the man has another set.

They get into Burns's Honda Accord and drive toward the Westin Bayshore. The man introduces himself as Gary. He doesn't mention that he's a cop, RCMP corporal Gary Shinkaruk. The RCMP have had wiretaps in Burns's house for weeks. Knowing he'd be at the hairstylists', they sent Shinkaruk over. His job is to make friends.

At the Bayshore, Shinkaruk offers Burns a beer for his trouble. They talk cars for a bit; then Burns tells Shinkaruk about the film he and his friends plan to make, a kind of cultural critique of today's society. They just need money. Burns reckons it'll cost about $200,000 to make. r have a friend with money to invest, says Shinkaruk. Want to meet him? Sure, says Burns.

Two days later, the evening of April 13, Sebastian Burns is standing at the corner of Capilano Road and Marine Drive looking out for Shinkaruk's black Trans-Am. At 7 p.m. Shinkaruk swings by, and they head off. Where're we going? asks Burns. Whistler, says Shinkaruk. Al's waiting.

Al is RCMP corporal Allen Haslert, a 20-year veteran of undercover work. Shinkaruk introduced the two at a strip bar the night he and Burns first met. Film funding wasn't much discussed, but Haslett, a middle-aged man with long hair, dressed in a bright-green shirt, black sports coat and snakeskin cowboy boots, did ask Burns if he was interested in making some money. I'm interested, said Burns.

On the drive up they talk film some more. Burns likes Woody Allen. Shinkaruk asks if the allegations have been cleared, refer-ring to Allen's confused love life. Burns flinches and admits to Shinkaruk that U.S. cops want his DNA. If he crosses the border he'll be roughed up and his DNA will be taken.

Up in Whistler, Burns, Shinkaruk and Haslett meet round a table at Dusty's pub. Here's the plan, says Haslett. In the parking garage under the bank by the Boston Pizza there's a car, a Crown Victoria. Gary'll break in and start it. You, Sebastian, will drive it back to Vancouver. Burns pales. What if the cops stop me? he asks. Do I run? No, says Haslett, just follow Gary's car down, and nothing will happen.

Nothing does. Burns drops the car at the Bayshore, and the three meet at Fogg 'n' Suds for the payoff. Haslett gives Burns $200. Burns is pissed off. Still nervous, still a little afraid, but very pissed off. $200, he says, the car is worth at least $40,000, and you give me $200? I can get that shoplifting videos.

And another thing, Burns says. I don't like finding out what's going down three minutes before it happens. It doesn't matter what the crime is, I'll do anything if the price is right, but I like it to be well thought out. Me and my friends, we trust each other with our lives. And when we do something, all the details are planned out. Haslett is unimpressed. When I know you better, he says, when I trust you better, that's when the payoff will come.

May 6, 1995.7:40 p.m. Burns, Shinkaruk and Haslett are in a wired room in the Four Seasons. They are counting out money from a duffel bag another undercover cop has dropped off. They finish tallying up the stacks of bills: $250,000. Then they talk. Burns is comfortable. On the couch, feet up, he describes his film in more detail. It's going to be a kind of semi-biographical work, he says, about criminals who admit to being criminals. I have enough money, Burns explains, so I won't be needing your services for the time being. Though, he adds, maybe you could blow up something for me in the States, or kill some detectives there.

I once killed someone, says Shinkaruk. Haslett paid $80,000 to set things right. It's what I do for guys I trust, Haslett interjects. Besides, says Haslett, if anyone ever jerks me around, I know how to deal with it. I've killed, too. Speaking of which, he says, you, Sebastian, haven't been straight with me about those murders in Bellevue. I know you did it, he says.

Burns simply stares.


June 15, 1995.1 p.m. Haslett and Shinkaruk meet Burns and his friend Jimmy Miyoshi in the Royal Scott Hotel in Victoria. Their room is wired, but Haslett doesn't ask about the murders. Today is a day for building trust. He has a job for the two. Will they help Shinkaruk launder some money? Sure, they say. In the phony crime scenario the two cops have set up, laundering money involves no more than driving around and depositing eight or nine thousand dollars in cash into various banks. Burns is into this. He brags a little and jokes around. Hey Gary, maybe next time Jimmy and I can do this on roller blades? Next day, they deposit cash in another five banks. Haslett meets them back at the Royal Scott and gives Burns $2,000 for his trouble.

June 20, 1995.9:21 p.m. Haslett and Shinkaruk arrive unannounced at Burns's Philip Ave. house in North Vancouver. Burns is not at all happy to see them, but Haslett forces his way in. He wants to shake Burns up a little. He has news, he says. His contact inside the Bellevue police department called saying he had information about the evidence being put together down there. Haslett says he doesn't actually know what his guy has. He refused to say over the phone. But it looks bad. They have you in a pretty big fucking way down there, Haslett says.

June 28, 1995. 6:50p.m. The Royal Scott again. Burns and Haslett are alone. Haslett wants to talk. My contact, says Haslett, tells me that the Bellevue police have hair from the downstairs shower, hair with blood on it. They have your DNA. They got it from a snot-rag you left behind in a restaurant. They're growing it right now. They're going to get a match. Tell me how you killed these guys, Haslett says.

Well, the medical report says a baseball bat and a two-by-four, replies Burns. That's not a big variety of possibilities.

Answer the fucking question, Sebastian! Haslett says.

I can't answer the question, says Burns. Anything I tell you may end my life.

You're fucking giving me the song and dance, says Haslett. The report I read, fucking basically spells out in black and white that the police fucking know you killed these people.

July 18, 1995. The Ocean Point Hotel in Victoria. Shinkaruk takes Burns up to room 238 and leaves him with Haslett. Haslett shows him a report that he says his friend lifted from the Bellevue police. The report says the police found a pair of underwear in the dryer with a bloodstain on it, and red fibres mixed in with Burns's hair were in the shower. Earlier in the week, Bellevue police held a press conference, saying they expected to lay charges any day. They're fucking coming to lock your ass up, says Haslett. Yours and your friend's.

Burns is scared. Haslett says his friend in the evidence room can fix things, but he won't do a fucking thing without Haslett knowing exactly what happened. If you go down, I go down, Haslett implies. And I'm not fucking goin' down. Do as I say or just fucking deny knowing me, he says.

Burns confesses. He killed them, he says. Clubbed them to death with a baseball bat. Rafay watched. The sister was hardest, she was up walking around. They left the movie early, returned home and did the number, then went to the nightclub. He did it in his underwear. Then he took the bat with him into the shower and washed it and himself clean. They ditched the clothes and the bat in dumpsters throughout Seattle.

Haslett burns the faked crime report and tells Burns he will have the Bellevue evidence room burned down. An East Indian will be found to confess to the murders. Great, says Burns. Maybe I'll make you an extra in my movie someday.

July 19, 1995. Burns calls Rafay and, on Haslett's instructions, asks him to come to Victoria. Haslett says he wants to make sure that Rafay isn't going to "fuck him around." Burns says Haslett shouldn't worry. He says his friends know that if they fucked Haslett around, "they'd be dead fucking two days after they did."

Burns introduces Rafay to Haslett. Then he and Shinkaruk leave. Let's be honest, says Haslett. Trust and honesty are the biggest things in my life. I want to trust you, he tells Rafay. I want you to work for me. But I need to know about the murders.

Rafay says he didn't do anything. He's smaller. But he saw Burns kill his mother. And he heard him kill his father and sister. It was tough to kill them, he says, but it was necessary in order to accomplish the things he wanted in life. With the money from the house and the insurance, Rafay says, he expects to get about $400,000.

Burns and Shinkaruk return. Haslett repeats his promise to burn down the crime lab. He tells the two not to talk to their lawyers about him and not to act excited when the crime lab burns down. You don't go running around thinking you're fucking Mr. Cockiness because this is happening, he says.

No indeed, no Mr. Cockiness, because on July 31, 1995 Sebastian Burns, Atif Rafay, and Jimmy Miyoshi are all arrested. (Taped confessions in hand, Bellevue police had filed charges of aggravated murder in the first degree against both Burns and Rafay, and now sought their extradition.) In detention, Burns and Rafay are introduced to RCMP officers Haslett and Shinkaruk, no longer in mufti. If the shock of being outwitted by a pair of ageing cops with a shaky command of English grammar did any violence to their notions of superiority, the extradition proceedings must have shattered their ideas about friendship. Their trusted companion, Jimmy Miyoshi, they learned, had made a deal to testify against them.

The extradition hearing in B.C. Supreme Court concluded on January 31, 1996. Defense lawyer Patrick Beirne argued that Burns and Rafay had feared Haslett, so much so that they made up phony confessions to please him. Beirne pointed out that there were no facts in the confessions that had not already been made public by the media. Justice Howard Callaghan rejected this argument and ruled that U.S. officials could seek extradition. First-degree murder carries a penalty of death in Washington state. Indeed, the current debate in Olympia revolves around whether hanging or lethal injection should be the method of choice.

Burns and Rafay's lawyers plan to appeal the extradition order to the Minister of Justice, to the Court of Appeal and, if those appeals fail, to the Supreme Court. Win or lose, they expect a final decision within a year or so. Meanwhile, Burns and Rafay pass their days in custody.

Burns's film script is also being held. It lies in a police evidence room gathering dust. Likely, it will never get made. A pity. Had these two superior young men put their brilliance solely into film, they might have produced a masterpiece, a searing condemnation of the muddled hypocrisy that is society. We, the muddled hypocrites, would have applauded, or at least laughed it off. Names have never hurt us. But sticks and stones do break our bones.


Shawn Blore is a writer living in Vancouver

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