35 – A Trail of Deceit, Theft, Fraud, and Murder

Where it all started; Paris, Ontario. Although nowhere near the sophistication and glory that its namesake evokes, a beautiful little town none the less.

Its main street hugs the side of the Grand River that runs through it. And, dotted along the river are trendy restaurants and bars. In addition to the charming shops, dentists, insurance brokers, and financial institutions is a cute boutique hotel, each room styled after a famous author.

Paris, Ontario – Restaurants & Shops Along the Grand River

It’s easy to forget that this was once the home of a man that became so enthralled with money that he eventually earned the title of Canada’s Most Wanted. He even made it to number four on Interpol’s list.

Maybe the signs were always there. He had a hard time starting in business. He attended only one class from several different universities, such as Waterloo, Edinburgh, Harlot Watt, and Wilfred Laurier, yet never graduated with a degree. But he was quite charming. And many people thought that he was extensively educated, some believing he attended oxford and was an economics professor. Something he was pleased to let others believe.

By 1980, he had settled into a small rustic hobby farm on the outskirts of Paris, Ontario, with his wife Barbara and their two daughters, Jillian and Sheena. At this point, he and Barbara had been together for twelve years, having tied the knot when they were both in their early twenties.

The young family was well regarded in the community. Their very character seemed based on wholesome Christian values and devotion.  They sang and taught Sunday school at the local St. Paul’s United Church, where he eventually became one of its elders. 

When Barbara finished university, she started doing some bookkeeping out of their home on the side to make a little bit more income. Over the next ten or so years, this evolved into a Financial Services company, with a total of 35 employees spanning over nine different business locations in Southern Ontario, typically in farming communities between Kitchener and Woodstock. He offered a full range of services at his company, such as bookkeeping, tax preparation, mutual funds, mortgages and financial investment advice. Many of his clients were retired farmers, church members, former acquaintances, local business professionals, and even his friends. Some clients were clients on multiple occasions; this is how much he was trusted, such as David Davis, of St. Thomas. The latter obtained loans from the Financial Services company on six different occasions, both for personal loans and for his veterinarian health product business. People trusted him with their life savings or cash from property sales. The real enticement for investors was his Cayman scheme, coupled with his magnetism, offering people, what they believed, to be a haven for their hard-earned money.

During this time, he and Barbara had two more daughters. By all accounts, theirs was a happy family, based on values and good virtue. But, by 1989, the façade would start to crack. A family friend had inherited a decent amount of land north of Toronto. They sold the land and had entrusted him with 5.1 million dollars to invest and grow. But, in only a few short months, this amount dwindled to 3.5 million. He started wearing expensive suits, was travelling the world in pursuit of investments, and had bought himself a new jaguar. He became hooked. And things were falling apart. He and Barbara split up after he had an affair with a woman in his church. The bond of marriage had been broken. This hadn’t been the first affair.

He moved out of the family home and rented a four-bedroom place in Brantford, ON, the neighbouring city. Originally all four girls moved in with him.  The divorce proceedings weren’t pretty. Eventually, a judge granted custody of the girls to Barbara but informed that the two older girls had the option of living with either parent due to their age. They stayed with their father. By mid-1990, his largest investors, and friends, wanted to see how their portfolio was doing, and he was only able to show a total value of 3.5 million, down 1.6 million in just six months. At this point, they started pressuring for additional details as to where their money went.

The game was on. At this point, he started squirrelling away money, partially to hide it from his ex-wife as they were going through the divorce, and partly for other reasons. He had begun to transfer cash from various locations to the CIBC in Toronto. $700,000 was moved into French francs, British Pounds and gold. On top of that, more than 1$M was transferred from the Cayman’s to a Swiss bank account in Geneva. All the while, he was indicating during the divorce proceedings that he was nearly bankrupt, and Barbara ended up paying him $300/month in child support. He was trying to get more.

He started to make unusual purchases on his business American Express card at the beginning of November. At this time, he went into Birks in Toronto and bought a $12,000 ring with matching earrings. On Nov 20th, 1990, he was scheduled to meet a trustee in bankruptcy to proceed for personal bankruptcy. His largest investor and ex-friends began closing in on him, demanding, in writing, that he return all their money. On Nov 28th, he spent $12,542 on two British Airway tickets, flying from Toronto to London, UK, and then on to Geneva. Between Dec 1st and Dec 5th, he met with long-time acquaintance David Davis, a Canadian and British citizen.

His flight departed Dec 5th, under the ruse that he and his daughter were taking a Christmas Skiing trip and assuring people he would be back for Christmas. He even made Christmas dinner plans with a friend. He never returned for Christmas. A bit before Christmas day of 1990, he called his friend and director of one of his firms, with whom he had dinner plans, to let him know that he and his daughter wouldn’t be able to meet for dinner as they were stranded at Heathrow. The friend thought nothing of it, as coincidently, there had been a big storm in the area at the time. But, when he nor his daughter showed up for Christmas, his friend couldn’t help but think that he was never coming back. And he never intended to.

Once a trusted financial adviser, heading his own company, now a fugitive, on the run with his 15-year-old daughter, with around 3.1 million in stolen funds from his financial company as well as leaving a whopping 10-12 million unaccounted for that was under his control.

When they disappeared, dozens of investors came forward and complained that several millions of dollars under the control of this man had gone missing. This triggered a widespread police investigation involving the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Ontario provincial police.

His financial services company was forced into bankruptcy by July 1991, leaving around 130 creditors seeking just under 5 million dollars in claims.

His and his daughter’s disappearance was featured on Canada’s True Crime TV show ‘Missing Treasures’ that featured the stories of missing children, hosted by Al Waxman in 1992.

In his absence, on Apr 2nd, 1993, he was charged with seven counts of theft, two counts of fraud, and nine counts of money laundering the proceeds of a crime, because of how money had moved out of the country.

But old habits die hard, and he never stopped scheming. Shortly after arriving in the United Kingdom, he befriended a receptionist at an Auction house in the Yorkshire town named Harrogate named Elaine Boyes. And through her, her boyfriend, Ronald. Ronald loved Canada and always dreamed of immigrating there. After all, he had fond memories of the years he lived there as a boy. He even had a maple leaf tattooed on the back of his right hand. He told her his name was David Davis and that he was a wealthy banker from Vermont in the US. He offered her a job. He said to her that after working for a year for him, she and Ronald would have enough money to immigrate to Canada. By May 1991, Elaine took up the offer. Elaine and Ronald were the sole directors of a company that he bought named Cavendish Corp. Ltd. Soon after; Elaine would be sent on several business trips across Europe looking for potential real estate opportunities. On each occasion, he would hand her an envelope full of thousands of Swiss Francs, asking her to exchange it for British pounds.

He then set them up as fronts to operate a business whose sole purpose was to launder his ill obtained money. When the money was laundered, by Christmas of 1992, he purchased two one-way tickets for Elaine and Ronald to Alberta, Canada. Their flights departed in February 1993. But before shipping them off, he obtained rubber stamps of both their signatures, telling them it was needed to wind up the Cavendish Corp business. Additionally, he also convinced Ronald to leave him an empty chequebook, his driver’s license and his Birth Certificate so he could manage his affairs in his absence. He would then use his driver’s license and chequebook to forge himself a new identity.

Western Canada and Elaine didn’t quite agree, and so she made her way back to the UK just a few months later, in July 1993. Ron stayed on a bit longer, hoping to forge himself a life there.

On Sunday, Jul 28th, 1996, off the Devon Coast, John Copik, the Skipper of the trawler Malkerry, and his son Craig had already been on the sea for 10 hours trawling the seafloor without anything to show for it. They decided to move locations and took the trawler out another 3-6 miles or so, to an area a little choppier but a little less fished. They threw down their nets and began their practiced routine. After a short while, John and his son Craig hauled their nets, which finally appeared full of seabass. In amongst the fish was a middle-aged man’s body, and mixed in with the fish was a 10 lbs galvanized plow anchor.

Law enforcement was called. The body was that of a man between the ages of 45-60. He was fully clothed in green corduroy trousers, a blue and white checkered collared shirt, leather belt, brown shoes, an oyster perpetual Rolex chronometer wristwatch and a gold chain. The pockets of his trousers were pulled out as if someone had searched them. He did not have any ID on him whatsoever. Law enforcement wasn’t initially sure what to think about this death. The man certainly could have ended up in the water by accident. They had no idea who he was, and he didn’t match any recent missing person reports.

The pathologist determined that, based on the level of decomposition, he had likely been in the water for approximately 1 week. In addition to some injuries, there was an odd tattoo on the back of one of his hands. There were some noted injuries to the man’s body. He had a bruise on his left hip and another bruise a little further down on his left leg. He also had a 4-inch laceration on the back of his head, likely caused by being hit with enough force to potentially incapacitate him; this wasn’t the cause of his death. He died by drowning in the very water in which he was found.

At first, it was not known that the 10 lbs anchor found among the nets with the seabass and the body of the unidentified man were related. However, when the pathologist placed the anchor along the length of the man’s left leg, each end of the anchor matched and corresponded to a bruise. It appears as though the anchor had been hooked through the man’s belt and had gone with him overboard. The anchor and belt were sent to a forensic metallurgist for analysis. He took samples from the marked area on the belt and the anchor. The mark on the belt was analyzed using a scanning electron microscope. The material on the belt was identified as predominantly Zinc, which matched that of the anchor.

With no identity on the body and no matching missing person report, law enforcement wasn’t sure how they would identify who the deceased was. But there was one big clue left for them to go on; the Rolex wristwatch.

The time had stopped on the watch on Jul 22nd, 1996. The Rolex was self-winding; it would run for 40 hours after the watch would stop moving. This would place the last movements on Jul 20th.

Rolex Watch – Courtesy of The Windsor Star

Each Rolex has a unique serial number hidden within it. Rolex keeps very detailed records across the globe for life, such as owners, service dates, and service locations. Law enforcement engaged the assistance of Rolex in the hopes of identifying their John Doe. Rolex advised law enforcement that the Rolex had recently been serviced, and the owner’s name was Ronald Joseph Platt. Ronald’s brother was located, and he was able to confirm his identity.

Ronald Platt had not been in regular contact with family; therefore, he had not been reported missing.

Ronald Platt – Seen with Wristwatch & Maple Leaf Tattoo

The police were able to locate a rental application in the name of Ronald J. Platt. A man named David Davis was listed on the rental application as a reference.  Along with his name was a cell phone number. Ronald had been living in Essex county, more than 300 miles from where his body was found.

Law enforcement called David Davis and told him that they pulled the body of his friend Ronald Platt from the English Channel. David Davis had confirmed his friendship with Ronald Platt but indicated that he hadn’t seen him in several months. The investigator who made the call noted that David Davis didn’t appear particularly upset about learning of his friend’s death. He took down his address in case he needed to speak to him again throughout their investigation.

In the meantime, law enforcement engaged a hydraulics engineer and specialist in river and ocean hydraulics, Dr. Bob Allen from University College in Swansea, to find out where Ronald’s body entered the water compared to where he was found. After careful study of the weather, currents and water temperature, an experiment was conducted using the anchor. It was concluded that currents weren’t strong enough to move his body and that basically, his body was found near where he went overboard. He indicated that Ronald would have sunk the 20 meters to the sea-bed within 30 seconds with the anchor attached to him.

Law enforcement had decided that they would like to speak to David Davis again, this time in person. They accidentally knocked on the neighbour’s door of the quiet community, thinking it to be the residence of David Davis. An elderly gentleman answered the door, and when the police officer asked if the home was Little London Farm, he indicated that that was the house next door. The officer wanted to confirm that that is where David Davis resided. The elderly gentleman stated that there was no such person as David Davis at that residence. The occupant was a Mr. Ronald Platt, and that he lived there with his young wife Noelle and two small daughters. This was indeed an exciting piece of information. Could their man found dead in the English Channel still be alive and living in this small community?

Through their investigation, they discovered that David Davis had been using Ronald Platt’s identity. All bills were being paid with Ronald’s cheques and credit cards, even after discovering his body. David Davis and his young wife had moved into a small two-storey stucco home named at the end of the hedge-lined dead-end lane called the little London farm home in the village of Woodham Walter, east of London in 1994 that Ronald had rented through an agent. Since Ronald had never lived there, no one was the wiser that the occupant was not, in fact, Ronald.

They also found out that this David Davis owned a 7-meter-long (approx. 24 feet) yacht named the Lady Jane that happened to be moored on the River Dart in Devon, just a few miles from where Ronald’s body was found. 

Law enforcement confirmed a sighting of David Davis and Ronald Platt in July, close to when Ronald would have entered the water. David Davis had initially lied to the police when he told them that he and Ronald hadn’t seen each other in over 3 months. They were unable to get an eye witness account for the specific day in question. Additionally, an analysis of his cell phone records showed calls being made from the Devon area around the time Ronald died.

At some point during the investigation, law enforcement could conduct a search of David Davis’ yacht. They discovered blood in the cabin, and a small amount of hair on a cushion within the cabin, later confirmed to be Ronald Platt. Additionally, a bag from a store called Sport Nautique had Ronald’s fingerprints on it.

There was a Sport Nautique store that was nearby. The store manager told law enforcement that a man with a Canadian accent named Ronald Platt bought seven items by credit card on July 8th. A 10 lbs plough anchor was one of those seven items. The staff member who served him had recommended a heavier anchor for the type of boat he had. He indicated that Mr. Platt decided that the 10lb anchor “would be adequate.”

The yacht was equipped with a GPS, which was analyzed. The GPS had been turned off on Saturday, Jul 20th, 1996, when the boat was just 3.8 miles from where Ronald’s body would later be discovered.  

Based on the evidence gathered, including Ronald’s injuries and cause of death, they were able to conclude that he had been incapacitated with a blunt instrument to the back of his head, a 10 lbs anchor was hooked to his belt, and he was thrown overboard to drown.

They had also confirmed that Ronald had returned from a failed attempt at immigrating to Canada in 1995. After Ronald’s return from Canada, David was seeing him weekly and funding his living expenses. On Christmas Day, 1995, Albert and Ronald were pulled over by the police for a breathalyzer check. David was driving. He identified himself as Ronald Platt. What is someone asked for the passenger’s ID? Just 10 days before Ronald was murdered, David had helped Ronald move his stuff into a storage locker from an apartment that David was renting for him in Chelmsford in Essex. He then arranged for him to stay at the Steam Packet Inn in Totnes, near Dittasham, about 8 km (or 5 miles) from Devon. There at the inn, two men with the last name “Platt” were registered as guests; Ronald and a Cousin named David.

The police investigation was extensive. The investigation consisted of 50 detectives from two different British regional police forces. Police had taken 617 statements and seized 1150 potential exhibits.

Police believed David Davis killed Ronald Platt as he returned from Canada and wanted to resume the life that David was assuming. On Oct 31st, 1996, the police were ready to arrest David Davis for the murder of Ronald Platt. On this day, an armed English response team gathered near his house on Little London Lane, getting ready to make their arrest. Just as they were prepared to make their move, a taxi drove by the police down the cul-de-sac. David Davis quickly got in the cab, and they went away. One police car followed the cab and maneuvered the cab to the side of the street. The officer exited the police vehicle, drew his weapon and aimed it at David Davis, who had been trying to make his quick escape.  He was then arrested on suspicion of murder and taken into custody.

Meanwhile, David’s young wife and two small daughters, 3-year-old Emily and 6-month-old Lillian were still in the house. Law enforcement wanted her to come in for questioning and had allowed her to pack a diaper bag for the two girls. However, it was looking a bit heavy. When an officer inspected its contents, they discovered £4,000 in cash and 5 gold bars stashed with the baby clothes.

Within Noelle’s purse were documents in the name of Ronald Joseph Platt and Elaine Claire Boyes as well as the two birth certificates for each daughter naming Ronald and Elaine as their parents.

The home itself was a treasure trove of evidence. Law enforcement found envelopes full of swiss francs, British pounds, USD, gold bars, expensive paintings and keys to storage lockers. Within the papers, they also located a receipt from Sport Nautique in Dartmouth on the Water, South Devon, dated July 8th, 1996.

David Davis was arrested and held on suspicion of murder. His fingerprints were taken. The police thought he sounded American, so they decided to check his prints with Interpol. It was confirmed that David Davis was not David Davis at all, but was in fact, a fugitive wanted for embezzlement and financial crimes in Canada, and his name was Albert Johnson Walker.

Through extensive police questioning with Noelle, she broke down and admitted that David Davis was her father. Noelle Davis was Sheena Walker, now 21. She refused the identify the father of her children; Ronald Platt was listed as the father on the children’s birth certificates. However, she always referred to her daughters as “her daughters.” When asked why she was posing as her father’s young wife, she said, “my father suggested, because there was a small child, that we should present ourselves as a couple.”

Shortly after interviews with Sheena are completed, she and her two daughters return to Paris, Ontario, to live with her mother.  

The preliminary hearing took place in 1997, which lead to Albert’s commitment to trial for murder.

At the same time, a transatlantic legal team was formed with lawyers in Canada and in the UK, who were acting on behalf of KPMG Inc., who were acting as trustees in Albert’s personal bankruptcy as well as the bankruptcy of his crumbled Canadian business. In May 1998, Ontario Court Justice Edward Browne approved KMPG permission to round up all of Albert’s international assets, as these were acquired through “misappropriation from Ontario creditors.” They were trying their best to move quickly on this as they were concerned that if Albert were released from custody, he would have access to the funds and then disappear again before he could be brought back to Canada to face charges. At this time, he was facing 18 counts of theft, fraud, and money laundering.  At this point, CAD 500,000 equivalent in cash, gold bars, oil paintings, pre-paid credit cards and his boat were located and in possession of Devon and Cornwall Constabulary. Ultimately, they could not recover much more than that, capping their recovery at about $1 million. After his trial in the UK, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police would begin the extradition process against Albert.

Albert Johnson Walker’s murder trial started on June 22nd, 1998. Albert Walker never admitted to killing Ronald Platt. The jury was made up of 4 men and 8 women. A total of 55 witnesses were called to give testimony, by either the prosecution or the defence. One of the witnesses called by the prosecution was Albert’s daughter Sheena.

Sketch of Albert Johnson Walker at Trial

The question of her daughter’s parentage was avoided at trial. However, it should be noted that the police did investigate whether or not Albert was the father of Sheena’s two daughters, as this would be an offence punishable by imprisonment for up to 7 years for each occurrence. He was not brought to trial for this offence. Albert and Sheena maintained separate bedrooms, and she always referred to her children as her own.

Sheena’s testimony did not put Albert in good light as far as the murder trial went. In initial statements given to law enforcement, Sheena had advised that she had not seen Ronald since 1995 and that she was not aware that Ronald was staying nearby at her dad’s expense.

She had also informed law enforcement and again at trial that she and her two daughters were vacationing with her dad in Dittisham, south of Devon. She indicated that on Saturday, July 20th, he left early in the morning to sail his boat and didn’t come back until around 10 pm. He then told her he had a fine day and that he was tired. She also told the jury that in 1997, after she had returned to Canada and living with her mom, he had asked her to change her testimony and say that she knew Ronald Platt was in Devon during their vacation in July and that the Ronald had been on the boat as well, with them, He tried to convince her that she must have forgotten. She indicated that she did not.

After the prosecution rested their case, the jury deliberated for just under 2 hours and was found guilty of murdering Ronald Platt.

Mr. Justice Neil Butterfield stated, “It was, in my judgement, a callous and premeditated killing designed to eliminate a man you had used for your selfish ends, and found to be first, inconvenient and then an increasingly possible threat to your continued freedom. He became not only merely expendable but a danger to you, and he had to die.  The killing was carefully planned and cunningly executed with chilling efficiency. You covered your tracks so effectively that only merest chance led to any suspicion falling on you. You are a plausible, intelligent and ruthless man, posing a considerable threat to anyone who stands in your way.”

He was sentenced to life in prison, with the legibility of parole in 2016.  By 2005, he would be extradited to Canada on “humanitarian” grounds to serve out the rest of his sentence. His ex-wife Barbara was shocked to find out, having only found out a few days before his return to the country.

After returning to Canada, he was charged with theft, fraud, and money laundering. He was sentenced to another 5 years for these crimes. He is currently serving his time at a prison located in British Columbia, Canada’s west coast province.

Sources:

Newspaper Article:

The Windsor Star, 07 Jul 1998

The Vancouver Sun, 04 Jul 1998

Calgary Herald, 04 Jul 1998

The Vancouver Sun, 24 Feb 2005

The Hamilton Spectator, 24 Jul 1993

The Gazette, 22 Jun 1998

The Toronto Star, 31 May 1997

The Hamilton Spectator, 13 Dec 1996

Waterloo Region Record, 24 Feb 2005

Magazine Articles:

Maclean’s, Vol. 109, Iss. 51 (16 Dec 1996)

Maclean’s, Vol. 111, Iss. 25 (22 Jun 1998)

Maclean’s, Vol. 111, Iss. 27 (06 Jul 1998)

Television:

Medical Detectives (Forensic Files) – Season 5, Ep 15: Time Will Tell

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