In the years he spent deep underground, drilling for gold in Yellowknife’s Giant mine, Roger Warren was known as a doer, not a talker. The kind of guy who kept his own counsel, didn’t suffer fools—gladly or otherwise—and wouldn’t cut comers no matter how nasty the task. “I’ve seen more guys tell lies at work just to avoid getting in a little trouble,” Warren told Maclean’s in an interview last summer. “I wouldn’t even lie about how many rock bolts I put in. If I did 99, I’d say 99, not 100. If I put in one loose one I would tell the guy.”
That straight-shooter image is one his family and supporters have clung to during his 10 years behind bars. Ever since Warren was accused and then convicted of setting the bomb that killed nine replacement workers at the height of a bitter labour dispute
in September 1992, they have said he wasn’t the type of man capable of murder. Now, they may have to reconsider.
After nearly a decade of professing his innocence, Warren is now repeating the confession he first made to RCMP investigators in 1993 and recanted shortly after—that he alone was responsible for the deadly blast. This latest admission, first made to lawyers in January in a deposition for a civil suit and only now out in the open, marks another strange twist in the saga of one of Canada’s worst mass murders.
A year ago, the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted, the group that helped free David Milgaard, Guy Paul Morin and other falsely accused prisoners, was looking into Warren’s case. They quietly backed away earlier this year; Warren subsequently told
reporters that he worried the drive to clear his name might focus attention on others like his now brother-in-law, Al Shearing, who was an early suspect.
This new confession could change the complexion of a civil suit against the then owners of the mine, the territorial government, and several of Warren’s former union brothers, a case that is scheduled for trial in September. Some of Warren’s supporters speculate that the miner is trying to help his friends by shouldering the blame. But Jeff Champion, the Edmonton lawyer who represents the victims’ families, says this latest admission of guilt should help their case. “Mr. Warren was just one of many people who were resorting to violence,” he says. “These nine men wouldn’t have died unless many people who had an obligation to keep the workplace safe dropped the ball.”
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