Lahey’s body language, travel record prompt computer search

  • October 9, 2009
{mosimage}Bishop Raymond Lahey’s evasive behaviour coupled with a passport stamped with exotic locations known for child pornography prompted a Canadian Border Services agent to examine the contents of his laptop.

Lahey, 69, faces charges of possession and importation of child pornography in the form of “graphic computer images.”

The investigation widened Oct. 13 when RCMP in Nova Scotia executed two search warrants of Lahey’s home and office in Antigonish, N.S.

“Ottawa Police Service provided us with evidence they had gathered up as part and parcel of their investigation,” said Sgt. Brigeit Leger, media relations officer for the RCMP in Nova Scotia, in an Oct. 14 phone interview.

If the search warrants produce new evidence, the bishop could face charges in Nova Scotia. 

“These are completely separate files,” Leger said. “This is now an ongoing investigation in the province of Nova Scotia.”

The then bishop of Antigonish had arrived at Ottawa airport Sept. 15 after a flight from London, England. The agent examined his passport and noted he had “made several trips to Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Spain and Germany dating back to 2005,” according to an “Information to obtain a search warrant” filed by Ottawa police Det. Dan Melchiorre of the High Tech Crime Unit. Those countries are known as “source countries” for child pornography, according to the application.

The agent also reportedly “flagged” Lahey because he was a male travelling alone, he gave evasive answers about his laptop and other electronic media, his “vocal tone” changed in response to certain questions and he avoided eye contact. When asked whether he had any electronic devices, Lahey told the agent he had two cellphones. When asked if he had a laptop, he “hesitated and replied ‘yes,’ ” the information said.

A preliminary investigation revealed three pornographic images involving young men, but the agents were not sure they were under age 18 — the child pornography threshold. At the time Lahey, according to the report, told an Ottawa police investigator he “was attracted to males aged 20-21.”  The police seized his laptop, cellphones, a Palm device and several memory sticks before releasing Lahey, pending further investigation. Further analysis of the laptop revealed pictures of boys estimated to be from eight- to 12, the report said.

Ottawa police laid charges against Lahey on Sept. 25. He then resigned as bishop of Antigonish and several days later the charges became public.

Lahey told no one in the Canadian hierarchy the reasons for his stepping down, citing only a need for personal renewal. When the charges became public, fellow bishops expressed shock and devastation at the news. In August, Lahey had been lauded for his sensitive handling of a more than $13-million settlement of sexual abuse lawsuits in his diocese.

Lahey returned to court Oct. 9 to ask for a change in his bail conditions. Instead of returning to a New Brunswick monastery, he asked for permission to stay in Ottawa. He also turned in his passport. The request was granted. He must stay away from the Internet, from computers or cellphones that can store images and from children 18 or under unless they are accompanied by a parent. His bail is $9,000.

Lahey had originally planned to return to the monastery, pending his Nov. 4 court appearance, but townspeople, including the local mayor, protested. On Oct. 7, he approached the Ottawa archdiocese because he could not find a place to stay in Ottawa either.

In an Oct. 8 message to priests, Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast said he allowed Lahey to stay at the priests’ residence near the diocesan offices.

“I am aware, of course, of the serious charges pending against Bishop Lahey,” Prendergast said.

Lahey is back in court on Nov. 4.

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