Serial child abuser Karl Toft dies from lung cancer
The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, April 28, 2018 6:35PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, April 28, 2018 7:50PM EDT
EDMONTON -- A pedophile who spent over a decade in prison for sexually assaulting boys while he was employed as a guard at the Kingsclear reform school in New Brunswick has died.
Karl Toft died in Edmonton Saturday morning from lung cancer, according to Charles Ingles, a close friend who met Toft through a community program when the offender was still living in an Edmonton halfway house.
Toft served 13 years in prison after he pleaded guilty in 1992 to 34 charges related to the abuse of boys at the school near Fredericton. He later admitted to assaulting 200 boys over a 35-year period.
Toft moved to Edmonton after his release from prison, and remained in the city after he was allowed to move out of the halfway house in 2005.
Ingles had been working with the Mustard Seed, a Christian group that helps the poor and homeless, when he met Toft. He says they stayed friends, often discussing scripture.
Ingles says Toft admitted that he remained tempted by children, but worked hard at avoiding places they might be in order not to re-offend.
"He would not go on public transportation. He made sure that he bought a car as soon as he was out on his own. He would drive from one place to another because then he could avoid being around children," said Ingles, who was driving from Creston, B.C. to Edmonton on Saturday to help settle Toft's affairs.
"He would go to Walmart, for instance, to do shopping at 10 or 11 at night so that there weren't kids around."
Toft said in an interview published in the Edmonton Sun in 2008 that a lot of his victims believed he had the power to keep them in the reformatory longer than their sentences. He said that at six-foot-two and 245 pounds, he was a man his victims would not resist.
He also assaulted boys from the age of 16 while he worked as a Boy Scout leader.
Toft told the paper he also got away with many of the sex assaults by befriending parents and their children.
"When it comes right down to it, I'm still ashamed of what I did. I've always been ashamed of what I did and to face that child today, even though he would be a grown adult, I would not know how to justify my actions. I would not know what to say to him, except, 'Can you forgive me?"' Toft said in the 2008 interview.
Former Kingsclear residents claimed that the abuse was more widespread and involved other officials connected to the school.
An inquiry by the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP in 2007 cleared the force of allegations it covered up alleged criminal activities by Kingsclear staff, or by one of its own members, during its investigation of the school.
But it also concluded that sloppy investigative techniques, lack of supervision and poor documentation created the perception of a coverup.
New Brunswick held an inquiry on Kingsclear in the mid-1990s.
Wil Tonowski, a retired Edmonton police officer who worked with high-risk offenders, knew Toft and remained in touch with him even after his retirement.
"We spent a lot of money doing surveillance on this man and he passed with flying colours in every single circumstance," Tonowski said, recalling an event where Toft was observed in a supermarket and happened upon a young boy with a woman.
"He simply looked, stopped, froze, put the basket down and did an absolute about face, turned around the way he came and walked out."
Wayne Land, a property manager who became friends with Toft through volunteer work helping offenders, said he met with Toft regularly over the years in Edmonton and visited him in hospital just last week.
Land said he was skeptical when he met Toft of his claims that he'd accepted Christ, noting that he's heard the same line from other convicts.
But he said he didn't think it was that way with Toft.
"He has tremendous grief in his life and remorse over what he had ruined in so many young boys. However, deliverance is deliverance, and his soul has been delivered," Land said.