Walker Money Hunt
Convicted killer Albert Walker, 52, may spend the next 20 years in a British prison cell, but last week he still tried to evade dozens of southwestern Ontario residents who hope to recover some of the $3.2 million he stole from them. In Exeter county court on July 10 - in the same building where four days earlier he was convicted of murdering his 51-year-old friend and business associate Ronald Platt - Walker's lawyers sought an adjournment of legal proceedings to seize his assets. But the gambit failed. District Judge Andrew Moon ordered local police to turn over the assets to KPMG Inc., the accounting firm whose London, Ont., office is administering the bankrupt estates of Walker and his companies. At stake were any items Walker purchased with stolen funds and any money left in 25 European bank accounts he controlled. "This is nothing more than a treasure hunt," acknowledged Angelo D'Ascanio, a lawyer in London, Ont., who represents KPMG. "We don't know if there's a significant amount of money left to recover."
D'Ascanio, and many of the southwestern Ontario residents who lost money in Walker's shady schemes, are not optimistic. The assets include the sailboat on which Platt was murdered, oil paintings, gold bars and cash totalling about $290,000, all seized by police when they arrested Walker in October, 1996. However, Crown prosecutor Charles Barton received permission from Judge Neil Butterfield to sell the sailboat in order to reduce the Crown's costs. Walker's bank accounts, many of which were opened in the names of Platt and his former girlfriend Elaine Boyes, are believed to have been used for money-laundering transactions. "I don't think I'll get anything back," said 75-year-old Brantford resident Eric Winter. Winter's late wife, Myrtle, sold her tax and accounting business to Walker for $100,000 in the mid-1980s, but was never paid for it. "I've got a funny feeling it's a waste of time pursuing this."
Having lost the fight over the assets, Walker is waging one last legal battle from his jail cell. Defence lawyer Richard Ferguson announced that his client will seek leave to appeal. Another member of his legal team said Walker is "quietly convinced he was wrongly convicted." But he may wait months before learning whether a higher court will grant his request. It may also take several months before he finds out how much time he will have to serve before he can apply for parole. Under British law, a judge imposes a life sentence for murder, then recommends a term in writing to the home secretary, the cabinet minister in charge of law enforcement, based on the nature of the crime and the character of the defendant. If his remarks at the conclusion of the trial were any indication, Butterfield is not inclined to be lenient. "The killing was carefully planned and cunningly executed with chilling efficiency," he told Walker. "You are a plausible, intelligent and ruthless man who poses a serious threat to anyone who stands in your way."
Walker planned the July 20, 1996, murder so well that he almost got away with it. At the time, he was living under the name Ronald Platt in Essex in the southeast of England with his daughter Sheena, who had fled Canada with him in December, 1990, at age 15. Sheena later gave birth to two daughters, Emily, now 4, and Lily, 2, while living with her father. The real Platt, a shy television repairman, left England for Canada in February, 1993, with Boyes - a venture conceived and financed by Walker. But at the time of the murder Platt had returned to England and was living in a nearby town.
The fugitive Canadian, who was number 4 on Interpol's wanted list and feared his cover would be blown, lured Platt to Devon in southwest England on the pretext of helping him sail his boat, the Lady Jane, to Essex. Once aboard, Walker knocked Platt unconscious, tied a 4.5-kg anchor to his belt and tossed him overboard. Eight days later, a commercial fisherman scooped up the body and the anchor in a net about 10 km offshore. Police initially thought the victim had committed suicide. But after establishing Platt's identity through the Rolex watch on his wrist, and discovering that someone else was living under his name, Devon police launched a murder investigation.
Their case against Walker was entirely circumstantial, since there were no witnesses and nobody had seen the two men together for at least 10 days prior to the murder. Nevertheless, prosecutor Barton called or entered written evidence from 36 witnesses, including 22-year-old Sheena Walker, who travelled from her mother's home in Paris, Ont., to testify. She carefully avoided shedding any light on the question hovering in the background from the moment the trial opened on June 22: who is the father of her children? Albert Walker also danced around the issue during his two days in the witness box. He did admit that he was a liar and a thief, but emphatically denied murdering Platt.
The jury of eight women and four men deliberated a mere two hours before reaching a verdict last week. "Do you find the defendant Albert Walker guilty or not guilty?" a clerk asked. The jury foreman replied in a clear, unfaltering voice: "Guilty."
Walker showed no emotion as the verdict was delivered and sentence passed. Afterward, a relieved and smiling Boyes, who attended the trial daily, described her former boyfriend as a kind, honest and gentle man. "For his life to end in this tragic way," she said, "by a so-called friend whom Ron and I felt at ease with and trusted is - well, I cannot find the words to express my horror." That feeling was clearly shared by the Exeter jury.
Maclean's July 20, 1998