Date: Monday, January 8, 2024
Victoria, B.C. – In 2019, Detectives with VicPD’s Major Crime Unit, working with VicPD’s Forensic Identification Services (FIS), arrested a man responsible for a 2014 stabbing in Beacon Hill Park.
On June 30, 2023, the accused, Paul Cowie, was found Not Criminally Responsible on Account of Mental Disorder (NCRMD) by a B.C. Provincial Judge. Last month, almost a decade after the incident occurred, the B.C. Review Board ordered that Paul Cowie be detained in a designated psychiatric hospital in B.C., and that his disposition be reviewed in 12 months.
Shortly after midnight on January 12, 2014, VicPD Patrol officers were called to Beacon Hill Park for a report that a man had been stabbed several times. The assault was interrupted by two witnesses and the suspect ran away.
The victim was transported to hospital and survived the attack but remained in hospital for an extended period with life-threatening injuries to his head, face, and chest.
In 2014, Detectives and FIS officers conducted an extensive investigation which included the collection of DNA evidence and a public appeal with a sketch of the suspect. For years, investigators continued to seek information from the public to further the investigation and attempt to match the DNA captured in 2014.
Sketch Of Suspect Released To The Public
In 2018, VicPD Major Crime Detectives completed a review of the historical investigation due to technological advances in DNA evidence collection. In October of that year, the DNA profile of the suspect was submitted to the United States to be checked with the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), which was not available to investigators in 2014. The check resulted in a DNA match to the accused Paul Cowie, who was in the American database following a criminal offense he committed in Wyoming. Investigators learned that following the 2014 stabbing in Beacon Hill Park, Cowie fled from Vancouver Island and made his way to Alberta where he stole a Parks Canada vehicle. In the stolen vehicle, Cowie unlawfully crossed the USA border and was subsequently arrested by Park Rangers in Yellow Stone National Park. After his arrest in the USA, Cowie’s DNA was collected and submitted to CODIS.
After using DNA to identify Cowie as a suspect, VicPD investigators located him in Brandon, Manitoba. In November of 2019, VicPD officers travelled to Manitoba where he was arrested and interviewed with the assistance of the Brandon Police Service. Cowie was subsequently charged with aggravated assault by B.C. Crown Counsel.
“I’m incredibly proud of the effort and determination of our officers to identify the suspect in this investigation,” says VicPD Chief Del Manak. “Despite several years having passed since the incident, our officers remained focused on solving this file, and ultimately it was that prolonged effort, teamwork, and problem solving that led to the arrest. This is also a great demonstration of coordination across sections at VicPD as well as with agencies both nationally and internationally, and the remarkable power of DNA technology.”
What Does Not Criminally Responsible on Account of Mental Disorder Mean?
If a person is found to have committed the act that constitutes an offence, but lacked the capacity to appreciate what they did or know that it was wrong due to a mental disorder at the time, the court makes a special verdict of “Not Criminally Responsible on Account of Mental Disorder” (NCRMD). They are neither convicted, nor acquitted.
A person found either unfit to stand trial or NCRMD is referred to a provincial or territorial Review Board, which decides on a course of action. Under the current law, a Review Board can make one of three possible decisions:
- If the person does not pose a significant threat to public safety, an absolute discharge;
- A conditional discharge; or,
- Detention in custody in a hospital.
These verdicts are rare, as a 2014 study by Statistics Canada found NCRMD verdicts comprise of less than one per cent of adult criminal court cases processed annually. More information about NCRMD and the B.C. Review Board can be found on the Provincial Health Services Authority website.
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