Sinclair Inquest: Missing ER footage stretches logic

130806 sinclair03.JPGMaybe it’s the residual skepticism in me over the Phoenix Sinclair Inquiry debacle surrounding  missing and/or shredded supervisor’s notes from the murdered little girl’s CFS involvement.

But when I read tonight that six minutes of security cam footage from the HSC ER are missing — at the precise time Brian Sinclair was discovered dead — a wave of awfulness came upon me.

Read this CBC Manitoba story here.  Pay careful attention to how the headline says HSC officials “explain” missing footage at Sinclair inquest.

Here’s the CBC fact box in full, emphasis mine.

Missing footage

On Tuesday, the inquest heard six minutes of tape from the emergency room at the Health Sciences Centre, where Sinclair died, was missing from evidence. The six minutes were the precise time staff realized Sinclair was dead. That revelation was made by the Sinclair family’s lawyer. The officer in charge or reviewing the footage said he had not previously noticed the five minutes were missing until the lawyer pointed it out.

The inquest heard a security guard realized Sinclair was not breathing and took him to get help. He was pronounced dead at 12:51 a.m. on Sept. 21, 2008. The security camera footage is missing from 12:47 a.m. to about 12:53 a.m.

In testimony heard later in the afternoon, Norman Schatz, the co-ordinator of investigations and staff development for HSC, told the inquest the cameras activate via a motion sensor. He said he “assumed there was no motion during those six minutes.”

However, right before the camera cuts off and when it resumes taping, motion can be seen in the corners of the frame. (Again, credit to the CBC for this)

This raises many profoundly disturbing questions to me. Here’s just two  three small things to think about.

1] Consider the ‘lack of motion’ aspect — in the ER of ostensibly Manitoba’s busiest 24-hour hospital early on a cool, but pleasant early 10C Sunday morning in the fall . Am I supposed to really believe that for six minutes, nothing moved in that room to trigger the cameras? ( I wonder what the 911 call log looks like around that time? It was Saturday night just before Sinclair died waiting for care, after all, and we all know Winnipeg on a Saturday night). 

2] A Winnipeg cop, a veteran investigator who worked homicides and was seconded to conduct the police investigation into Sinclair’s death, testified he spent roughly 500 hours (That’s 20.83 full days of life) reviewing the footage from the ER but didn’t notice the missing 5-6 minutes until the lawyer for the Sinclair family advised him of it in court today. He investigated the case for a year. No charges ever came of his findings, which the public will never know much about anyway.

3] [Added at 9:46 p.m. after original posting] It’s interesting how in the above CBC text, the HSC co-ordinator of investigations is directly quoted as saying he “assumed” there was no motion, hence no footage of around the time Sinclair died. That “assumed” word gives me pause. Didn’t the HSC investigations co-ordinator review the whole tape?

I’ve read multiple media accounts of today’s inquest proceedings. They all basically say the same thing.

But the one question not really being asked is this: Is it remotely credible that innocently, in one of Manitoba’s most concerning health-care related cases ever — one everyone’s had years to prepare for the onslaught of scrutiny this inquest would bring — that there’s missing camera footage, or missing documents? [More missing stuff here].

Again, maybe it’s just Phoenix and the gaps in logic and process seen there coming back to rattle me.

But I just can’t accept this. It really, really troubles me.

It should trouble you too.

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EDIT: 8:55 p.m. to clarify lead sentence somewhat.

EDIT 9:45 p.m. to add third question.

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