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Private eye to investigate deaths

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson (July 22/05) - A private investigator has been hired by two Fort Simpson families to determine what led to the deaths of two men in the North Nahanni.

An internal RCMP investigation isn't good enough, said Rosemary Gill, sister of David Horesay, one of the deceased.

"We had real concerns about the RCMP investigating themselves," said Gill. "There are biases."

Cpl. Al Shepherd said the RCMP is agreeable to having an independent investigator as part of the official police investigation.

RCMP Inspector Jim Cunningham, due to arrive in Fort Simpson from Yellowknife on Tuesday, is expected to examine every aspect of the police's actions in this case, Shepherd explained.

The body of Fred Hardisty, 61, was recovered from the North Nahanni River on July 7. David Horesay was found in the bush on June 27, 3.7 km from a cabin where the men were staying. A preliminary autopsy report indicates Horesay died from exposure to cold. The men were last seen alive on June 12.

Robert Hardisty, younger brother to Fred, said shotgun blasts in trees and spent shells around the cabin make him suspicious.

Although foul play is not suspected, "we're not ruling anything out," said Shepherd. He noted that neither of the deceased men had bullet wounds. Everyone who was at the North Nahanni site from June 12-18 is being interviewed by the police, he added. Critical of the RCMP's initial response, Gill said she hopes to see a standardized search and rescue protocol established between the RCMP and First Nations. Improved communication and cultural sensitivity training are necessary, she said.

Areas of expertise

Ria Letcher, another family member, agreed, adding that the police have their areas of expertise, as do First Nations people.

"We know the land like the back of our hand, so we are the experts," Letcher said.

Robert Hardisty spent more than two consecutive weeks scouring the river, the shore and the bush around the North Nahanni in hopes of finding his brother.

"Some days we found nothing, it was frustrating. It was tiring, yeah, but I rested good out there in the mountains," he said, referring to the area as a spiritual place.

The outpouring of support from people in nearby communities and the guidance of spiritual elders provided a boost, according to Robert.

"We prayed lots to the Creator, fed the fire and paid the water," he said.

Robert's steadfast resolve earned the admiration of Jonas Antoine, a fellow searcher.

"He was determined to stay from day one," Antoine said.

Robert said he clung to the faint hope that his brother walked towards Cli Lake or was on a cutline somewhere. That hope was dashed when Fred's remains were found snared on some driftwood in the cold river.

Antoine said the discovery elicited a range of emotions.

"There was crying, but at the same time, relief," he said. "Thank God we can rest a little bit now. Thank God he's not going to be gone forever."

Robert said he will remember his brother as someone who "liked to have a good time" and enjoyed Merle Haggard tunes.