Accused killer admitted murder to "crime boss," jury told

A man accused of murdering his girlfriend admitted to an undercover officer posing as a crime boss that he killed her, a B.C. Supreme Court jury heard Monday.

In his opening address, prosecutor Tim Livingston outlined for the jury the evidence Crown will call at the trial of Robert Donald Balbar, who is charged with the first-degree murder of Heather Hamill.

She was found dead in the North Thompson River at Indian Point Aug. 1, 2003. A passer-by spotted her body caught in the branches of a submerged tree along the riverbank.

Livingston said an autopsy showed the woman died of multiple blunt force injuries to her head, caused by some kind of object.

The investigation stalled in the early days, the jury heard, and in 2007, investigators took a different tact.

Livingston described how the RCMP put together an undercover operation designed to make Balbar believe he was being recruited into an organized criminal gang.

The operatives "hired" Balbar to perform a series of tasks, many of which seemed tinged with criminality. Among other things, he provided security for a high-stakes poker game between gangsters and delivered a stash of diamonds to Montreal.

"What Mr. Balbar did not know was that all the persons he met - from the poker players to the waitresses to a supposedly dirty customs agent - were all undercover police officers," Livingston said.

During the course of the investigation, the accused man told one of the officers he had killed a girlfriend named Heather and as a result, he had "heat on him" in Kamloops.

The undercover operatives then worked with Balbar to create an alibi for him. They faked a surveillance tape from a Lower Mainland casino that seemed to show he was there at the time Hamill would have been killed, the jury was told.

The undercover team also arranged for Balbar to meet with the gang's boss, another undercover RCMP officer, to discuss what had happened. Balbar was told to be extremely honest.

In October 2007, Balbar spoke with "the boss" in a Kelowna hotel and provided a detailed account of how he killed Hamill and disposed of her body, Livingston said.

Balbar later took two other undercover officers to a building where she was killed and to the place where he dumped her in the river, the Crown lawyer told the court.

Balbar's trial is scheduled to last four weeks.

Livingston told the six men and six women on the jury another witness will testify how before Hamill's body was found, he gave Balbar a ride to Indian Point in his truck.

Balbar had a large cooler with him. When they got to Indian Point, Balbar drove off with the cooler. When he returned a short while later, the cooler was gone, the man is expected to say.

Livingston warned the jury his opening address is not evidence, but simply an expectation of what the evidence will eventually show.

At the end of the trial, the Crown will ask the jury to find Balbar guilty of first-degree murder, Livingston said. The jury will also be able, however, to convict of second-degree murder.

Jack Roberge, the Crown's first witness, told the jurors he was out jogging Aug. 1, 2003, along the river at Indian Point.

He said he saw something hooked up on a partly submerged tree.

"When I first had a look, I thought, it kind of looked like a body," he said, adding he walked down the bank to get a closer look. "That's when I realized it, it was a body."

He ran and called for help. Within a short while, authorities were on the scene.

Balbar's trial before Justice Laura Gerow continues today.

© Copyright 2018 Kamloops Daily News