October 19, 1999
Routine surveillance, then a night of horror
Detective recalls trying to save partner after fatal stabbingRosie DiManno
The Toronto Star
The policeman looks not at all as he does in the formal uniformed head shot that has been published in newspapers and shown on television since he was slain the night of Aug. 4, 1998.
As captured on this bit of video, Hancox is the perfect undercover officer - nobody would make him for a cop. The hair is long and shaggy, he's wearing faded jeans and a golf shirt. Protruding from just under the edge of the shirt is the belly pouch in which Hancox kept his firearm.
There's also a bounce in his step, a palpable feeling of amiability, as he walks out of the frame - gone to fetch a soft drink - then reappears to bend over the chocolate bar rack, undoubtedly trying to decide, as his partner Steve Pattison mentioned fondly yesterday, whether to go for the Snickers or the Oh Henry. It was always one or the other.
Hancox picked the Snickers. The chocolate bar was found on the blood-stained seat of his blue Plymouth Voyager. A pool of blood was already staining the pavement when Pattison arrived on the dreadful scene that evening.
Only minutes had passed since the happy-go-lucky Hancox had been caught on the Becker's security tape.
Now he lay dying in a Scarborough plaza parking lot, his airways so clogged with blood that Pattison was unable to apply mouth-to-mouth - the blood of his friend and partner kept being expectorated into Pattison's face. Furiously, he attempted chest compressions instead, only vaguely aware that the other member of that night's surveillance assignment, Detective Geoff Hesse, had arrived also, was standing just behind him, gasping: ``Omigod!''
A sense of the anxiety of those moments was also imparted to the courtroom yesterday, where Elaine Rose Cece and Mary Barbara Taylor stand accused of second-degree murder: the playing, for the jury, of the Officer Down! call for help that Pattison made seconds after halting his own jeep parallel to Hancox's vehicle.
Pattison, panting, switches from one radio band to another, his words racing together while the professionally calm dispatcher tries to extract location details. It's a haunting, frantic dialogue, and those listening to the tape - including the victim's widow, Kim, and his mother - could visualize the scene, see Hancox stretched on the ground, his head propped against a rear wheel, his pulse growing more feeble as Pattison struggled to keep him breathing.
``He's leaning back, there's blood on his chin, his neck, the front of his shirt,'' Pattison told the court. ``His eyes were closed. I reached down and felt for a pulse . . . it was weakening . . . I kept telling Bill to hang on . . . (the pulse) weakened to the point of stopping.''
The last Pattison had heard from Hancox, the last identifiable communication, was the officer giving his colleagues a heads-up about his immediate movements. The three had been on a stake-out all night, in their individual vehicles, and it looked now like the object of their attention had gone out for the evening. Pattison was actually preparing to call off the stakeout, as he returned to the area from a short clandestine pursuit of the car they'd been watching.
Hancox came on the radio: ``I'm just out at Becker's for a pop.''
A few minutes later, Hancox informs his colleagues he's back on, meaning back in position, back in radio contact.
But what Pattison hears later is a sound he can't identify: ``I heard a lot of static noise, didn't know what it was at first. It went on for a few seconds . . . then I heard the sound of a throat clearing, then this silence. . . .''
It was at that moment, Crown Attorney John McMahon told the court in his opening statement last week, that Cece had plunged a 12-inch knife, stolen hours earlier, into Hancox's chest, slicing smoothly through the lung and just touching his heart. Hancox, McMahon said, had pulled the knife out himself and lurched out of the vehicle.
What Pattison saw: A bottle of pop in the cup holder, a paper napkin on the floor of the vehicle, the chocolate bar on the seat, the driver's window rolled down about eight inches, and the radio mike hanging over the edge of the seat.
McMahon alleges the women had tried to lure Hancox from the vehicle, that the plainclothes officer had turned down an invitation to go for a stroll with the ladies, said he was happily married with a second child on the way.
If he had been true to his nature, Hancox would have been polite in this brief conversation; more kindly than anxious to get rid of the interlopers before they had a chance to see his radio, perhaps suspect that he was a cop.
Pattison admits he would have been less well-mannered, more brusque in such a situation. The partners were different, that way. ``I'm a little more abrasive than Bill,'' Pattison said. ``He would have talked to anybody. He would have been polite and not as ignorant as I would have been.''
Courtesy may have gotten Bill Hancox killed.
Rosie DiManno usually appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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