Toronto Police Still Haunted By Cold Case Which Inspired a TV Drama


Police procedural series ends with auction of props; But 1984 shooting that launched it remains unsolved

By NICK PRON, Toronto Star

They closed the books on the television crime show Blue Murder over the weekend with one of the oddest garage sales ever held in Mississauga.

But even though the series has been cancelled, the true life murder that inspired the Global television drama remains an unsolved mystery.

It was 20 years ago this coming Easter Saturday when Ontario Provincial Police undercover officer Corporal William McIntyre was murdered in his Oakville apartment, a slaying never solved. There are those who suspect another police officer did the killing.

Newspaper accounts of the murder intrigued long-time friends Steve Lucas and Cal Coons, who sunk about $65,000 of their own money into producing a television pilot loosely based on the slaying.

That later became the crime series Blue Murder, which enjoyed reasonably good viewership across the country and encouraging sales abroad, but was greeted with indifferent, if not hostile, criticism from Toronto television critics.

Blue Murder is a police procedural drama with plotlines that ran the full gamut of crime, from robberies to serial murders. The final season begins airing next month.

"This was my life -- and now it's a garage sale," said Lucas, as he wandered through the 35,500-square-foot sound studio on Tedlo St., yesterday, dodging bargain hunters who scooped up everything from the usual desks and lamps to police emergency lights and assorted body parts -- all fake, of course.

One of the first items to go was an entire morgue, complete with surgical equipment, gurney and the cold storage trays where they keep the cadavers, said Andrea Raffaghello, the show's production manager.

Another television production company scooped it up, he said. Late yesterday, the bars from a police holding cell were still up for grabs in the sale, which ends tomorrow.

"I knew this day had to come, but it's still hard watching people pick through what has been my office these past four years," said Coons.

Both Lucas and Coons admitted to being just a bit melancholy as they wandered around the cleaned-out television studio where they often toiled up to 80 hours a week.

At its height, the series employed nearly 100 people and had an annual budget of about $13 million. It received 27 Gemini nominations, winning six awards.

While fiercely proud of their crew and what they accomplished, Coons and Lucas acknowledged that the barbs from the critics stung just a little.

"The critics gave us mixed reviews here in Toronto, but everywhere else it was good," said Lucas. The pair got much of their information on the McIntyre murder in a smoky bar about eight years ago. They then used their imaginations to put together a script, "blurring the facts" for legal reasons.

While they solved their fictitious murder, finding the culprit in the real life crime has not been so easy.

"There's hardly a day that goes by when I don't think of the case," said Halton Region police Inspector John van der Lelie, the lead investigator in the McIntyre slaying, in April, 1984.

"He was a fellow officer, and it's still an unsolved murder. After 20 years maybe it's time for another look, perhaps taking advantage of the some of the advances in forensic technology."

Superintendent Bill Crate of the OPP said his force is ready to investigate any new tips that could lead to an arrest.

McIntyre died from a single gunshot to the head, fired from close range. He had been packing a suitcase for an out-of-town assignment.

He was a member of a surveillance team, which quietly followed everyone from drug dealers to mobsters and suspected killers.

Investigators believed at the time that a master thief named Rex Yates, a lanky loner with an I.Q. of 162, killed McIntyre.

Yates, an accomplished locksmith whose speciality was breaking into bank vaults late at night, vowed revenge on McIntyre who had posed as a thief to get a jailhouse confession from Yates on one of his bank jobs. He had stolen $173,000 in cash and bonds.

Detectives suspected that Yates found out where McIntyre lived, secretly made a key to the officer's Marlborough Court apartment, sneaked inside and waited for him to return home.

But an intensive, year-long investigation of Yates failed to turn up any evidence. Yates was later jailed for five years for the bank burglary, all the while claiming that McIntyre had made up the confession.

After his release in 1990, Yates drowned in a mysterious boating accident off Wolfe Island, near Kingston. Police speculated at the time his boat had been swamped by choppy waters as he and an accomplice paddled to some island cabins to commit a burglary.

A few years after the officer's murder, a witness came forward who saw McIntyre alive on his balcony on a Saturday morning, the day after police thought he had been killed.

Since Yates had been seen by a number of people, including a police officer, in Orangeville all that Saturday, he was eventually ruled out as a suspect.

At the time, detectives also looked at suspects within the OPP because it was believed that McIntyre, a 33-year-old bachelor, may have been gay and was ready to "come out of the closet," exposing fellow officers.

His sister, Sally Ward, scoffed at the gay suggestion calling it "ridiculous" and said that police should pursue other avenues to find the killer. She has since died.

But even a $50,000 reward posted in 1997 failed to generate any solid leads, and the investigation has since been filed as yet another unsolved cold case.

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