Toronto Sun

Sunday, June 4, 2000

Dad wins his freedom, but loses everything

By CHRISTINA BLIZZARD -- Toronto Sun

His children's funeral was, by all accounts, a sad little ceremony, the darkest day of Robert Mathison's life.

The rites took place in Warkworth Penitentiary - the first funeral ever held inside a federal jail for someone who wasn't a prisoner.

His two sons, Billy Bob, 4, and John, 2, were murdered by their mother, Mathison's ex-wife, Ingrid, on Aug. 22, 1994.

They were suffocated with plastic bags in a room in a Brampton motel.

At the time, Mathison was serving three years for assault and threatening. His wife's testimony was key in convincing the judge he was guilty.

Ingrid Mathison is now serving a life sentence for second-degree murder in a federal prison near Kitchener.

In December, 1999, the Ontario Court of Appeal overturned Robert Mathison's conviction. According to Brendan Crawley, a spokesman for the ministry of the Attorney General, the Crown has decided not to have a new trial.

"The Crown has determined there is no reasonable prospect of conviction and it would not be in the public interest to proceed," Crawley said.

"The Crown has further instructed the police to remove the convictions from their national computer database program," Crawley said. As well, a prohibition order on Robert Mathison, regarding the possession of firearms, has been lifted.

Crawley declined further comment, since the Crown is reviewing Mathison's request that his ex-wife be prosecuted for perjury and obstruction of justice.

CHARGES REVIEWED

In a letter to Mathison, director of Crown operations John McMahon said he has reviewed the charges: "I appreciate you were convicted based upon her (Ingrid Mathison's) evidence and she was subsequently convicted of murdering two young children."

Defence witnesses at her 1996 trial testified Ingrid Mathison believed her husband was plotting to kill her from prison.

She suffered from mental illness, psychiatrist Mark Ben-Aron told the court, saying he based his diagnosis on evidence heard during the trial and information presented by lawyers.

In a victim impact statement to the court, Mathison said he cries a lot when he thinks of his dead children.

"Losing all your children - your whole family at once - is something you can never recover from. There is no healing process available for this," he wrote.

"When I attend social gatherings, I feel out of place. Other people have their children with them, but I no longer have my boys," he wrote. "I often become emotional and cry just looking at other people's young children. Just thinking about my children can make me cry."

Court heard Ingrid Mathison hit the youngest boy on the head and shoulders with a hammer and, after the killings, tried to commit suicide by setting her car on fire.

Mathison, meanwhile, is in the process of looking for compensation, not that there is any amount of money that could ever replace his two sons.

He points out, however, that had he not been in jail, his children would have been alive now, since he would have been there to protect them in their hour of need.

"My children would not be dead today if I had not been wrongly incarcerated," he said in an interview last week.

Instead, Mathison spent two years in Warkworth and Millhaven penitentiaries.

He wants his former wife declared a dangerous offender.

"This person should be incarcerated forever or put in a psychiatric facility," he said.

"Society should be protected from baby murderers," he added, pointing out that she will soon be eligible for day parole.

"Do you want a baby murderer in your neighbourhood?"

Mathison wants compensation for the time he spent behind bars. His lawyer, Larry Burns, is waiting for Mathison's records to arrive from his previous lawyer.

"We are in the very early stages," he said.

Not that money can heal a broken heart. Nothing will give him back the two years he spent in prison. Nothing will erase the memory of that sad little funeral in a prison chapel for two innocents who were buried in the same coffin.

And no amount of money will bring back those two little boys who died such horrible deaths in a Brampton motel room.

Copyright © 2000, Canoe Limited Partnership.