The Beverly Lynn Smith murder: A Star reporter’s coverage of the Durham cold case

Wendy Gillis has led the Star’s coverage of the Beverly Smith murder for years.

The investigation into the Durham woman’s 1974 death, considered one of the Durham Region’s coldest cases, spanned more than 40 years. The police probe, called a Mr. Big sting, happened right before a landmark Supreme Court decision set strict limits on police use of the sting operations across the country.

Gillis’ comprehensive coverage of the investigation and ensuing police drama led her to be featured in an Amazon Original documentary series that made its world premiere at Toronto’s Hot Docs documentary festival on April 30.

“The Unsolved Murder of Beverly Lynn Smith” is currently the top trending documentary series on Amazon’s Prime Video platform, with an IMDB rating of 6.8.

Here, a curated list of Gillis’s coverage into the violent murder of a mother, and one of the most unconventional policing operations in recent history:

The 40-year search for Beverly’s killer

Gillis’s long-form feature delves deep into the circumstances surrounding Smith’s murderand paints rich portraits of Smith’s twin sister and daughter.

Gillis interviewed Alan Smith (no relation), the prime suspect of the investigation until 2014.

The feature includes voice recordings captured by undercover officers during the operation, as well as while chatting themselves amongst about the admissibility of a confession.

An Ontario Superior Court judge would later rule that “information obtained in this manner would shock the sense of trial fairness to Canadian society.”

Mr. Big went bad: inside Durham police’s failed investigation

Gillis goes behind-the-scenes into the undercover policing operation or ‘sting,’ carried out by the Durham Regional Police Service.

In this story, Gillis sheds light on the police department’s attempts to obtain a confession and close a decades-old case, and even provides a word-for-word transcript of the confessions that led to the botched operation.

Man acquitted of murder after ‘Mr. Big’ sting sues police and Crown

A later development in the Mr. Big saga, Gillis reported on the acquitted suspect, Alan Smith, suing police and the Crown for using the controversial ‘sting’ techniques that led to his conviction and more than four years of imprisonment.

Canada’s Supreme Court restricting police use of sting techniques

The same year, Gillis also wrote about the significance of Canada’s Supreme Court restricting police use of Mr. Big sting techniques. She wrote about how the tactic had been used more than 350 times and how those convicted prior to 2014 would have little redress.


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