Newfoundland premier tipped police to killer, newly released documents reveal
Sue Bailey, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, December 19, 2017 7:42AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, December 19, 2017 5:31PM EST
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. -- Less than two months before the election that would make him premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, Dwight Ball tipped police that the prime suspect wanted for murder in a botched bar robbery could be his daughter's ex-boyfriend.
Ball was then leader of the Official Opposition and preparing for the biggest political moment of his life.
According to court documents released Tuesday, he told police on Oct. 8, 2015 -- five days after the bar killing -- that his tires had recently been slashed and his credit cards fraudulently charged for tens of thousands of dollars.
Ball's daughter, Jade, had also gone to police on Oct. 5, 2015, to report she was being harassed by a drug dealer for about $40,000 allegedly owed by her on-again, off-again boyfriend Brandon Phillips.
"Ms. Ball states since the harassment has started, the persons responsible have now been harassing her father for the money, and at one point, bought a car using her father's stolen credit card number," according to the documents.
Dwight Ball tipped investigators that Phillips could be the masked man shown on TV during a week-long manhunt. A jarring detail had caught his eye: the suspect on security images at the Captain's Quarters bar in St. John's was wearing a black windbreaker matching one stolen from Ball.
Phillips also lived close to the crime scene where former firefighter Larry Wellman, 63, was killed Oct. 3, 2015, as he tried to stop the robbery. Wellman died of massive blood loss from a single gunshot to the groin.
A jury found Phillips, 29, guilty of second-degree murder earlier this month. He is due back in court Feb. 22 for a sentencing hearing.
Details leading to Phillips' arrest, which did not come out during his trial, are part of information related to a search warrant that Ball went to court to keep secret. He has said through his lawyers the documents should be kept private to protect his daughter, who was charged with no crime.
Ball argues in his application for a publication ban that his daughter's "privacy and personal health interests outweigh in importance any right of access to the information" sought by media.
Ball was granted an interim publication ban on Dec. 4 until the matter could be heard in provincial Supreme Court. Lawyers for Ball, the CBC and other media agreed Tuesday to a partial lifting of that secrecy.
Arguments for keeping remaining details under wraps will be heard when the case is back in court Feb. 12.
Ball said Tuesday he and his daughter co-operated with police and only want to protect their most private conversations.
"My daughter is an innocent person in all of this," he said in an interview. "When I made the decision ... to go forward with this information it's because I felt it was the right thing to do as a citizen, as a resident in this province. I would do the same thing again."
Phillips was charged with first-degree murder the day after an apartment located a short walk from the Captain's Quarters hotel was searched Oct. 10, 2015.
Neither Jade Ball nor the premier were called as witnesses at the trial held earlier this fall.
Dwight Ball told investigators on Oct. 8, 2015, that his daughter, then 29, had known Phillips for four or five years, and that they moved in together soon after meeting.
"Mr. Ball said at that point Jade and Brandon had a very serious drug problem" -- particularly opiates, says the document, an Information to Obtain a search warrant. "Mr. Ball paid all outstanding bills they (Jade and Brandon) had. Mr. Ball's concern was to make them safe."
Ball said Tuesday his family has endured the same drug issues that grip so many others.
"Many families face similar challenges around substance abuse in their own lives, and I've always supported my daughter."
Ball said she has moved on with her life.
"She's a much different person right now than she was over two years ago. She's now a new mother -- and a good mother, I would say."
Ball said he wasn't thinking of potential political consequences when he went to investigators.
"I took this as my civic responsibility as a resident of this province, thinking about the family of Larry Wellman, a father, a husband. He was the real victim in all of this."
Wellman's widow, Linda McBay, watched from the back of the courtroom Tuesday as the publication ban arguments played out.
"It's important to me," she said. "It's just important."
Less than two months after reporting Phillips to police, Ball led the Liberals to a majority win on Nov. 30, 2015.
He was characteristically even-keeled in victory.
"I don't overreact too much in my life," he told reporters that night. "I try and remain steady as things go."