Dateline   |  June 14, 2013

Deception, Part 7

The Unsolved Homicide Squad of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police decides to embark on an elaborate, ambitious undercover operation that targeted Denis Ratte.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> it's a very personal thing the way humans react to trauma. for three years after his mother disappeared, gabriel 's way was to forget. force it out of his head. he went to vancouver, registered for college, tried to go on with life.

>> i didn't give it a lot of thought to the point where i tried to remember her face, and i couldn't. i would have dreams, though. dreams of her coming back up those stairs in the same way that she walked out.

>> anguish like that couldn't stay hidden for long. it happened in a drama class. gabriel was reciting a scene from a play that dealt with abandonment, anger, desperation. the very feelings he'd been trying to suppress.

>> i broke down. i was bawling.

>> in the performance?

>> in the classroom. they couldn't console me. i was -- i was on the ground. i was heaving. i didn't know -- this is like three years' build-up of just holding it in. i just quit school because i felt like this is too much right now.

>> my brother was lost. i say i always felt that i connected with my father more. i'd always felt that my brother connected with her more. i feel a lot of guilt for not being able to -- have been able to replace her.

>> why should you replace her?

>> because maybe he would have been okay. but we're both so lost that we couldn't -- we couldn't be there for each other anymore.

>> gabriel tried to forget. anna became obsessed with remembering. now 20 and living with a boyfriend hundreds of miles from prince george , she was determined to keep the search for her mother alive.

>> everything else i did was just mechanical motion. my emotion went into finding her.

>> and she began to believe she was quite alone. that the rcmp had let the case go cold.

>> they always promised me it wasn't. they promised they want still looking. but nobody would be working on it. finally, i was tired of this file shuffle. i went to the media to say don't forget. this was a person in your community. don't forget.

>> she came in carrying this folder of news clippings and possible leads that were connected to her mother. i had talked to many families of many disappeared people over the years, and i could see the light in her eyes that way. this was one of those people who was not going to let this go.

>> but anna 's father, denis , it seemed had never given up. not only on never finding his wife again about on himself.

>> he was changing over the years in front of my eyes. this calm, patient, sturdy, steady person was emotional.

>> falling apart.

>> and angry. he was a mess. i saw him at the food banks . i saw him with girlfriends that he had to pay for. i saw his demeanor change from a proud, working man to a street thug.

>> denis was in a downward spiral, desperate for money he turned to small-time crime. did a bit of drug dealing . got caught. he was lucky. it was his first offense so he only got probation.

>> he told me that, you know, he did this drug deal because he needed the money to keep her home, wendy 's home. he said, "if i keep the house, she'll have a home to come home to."

>> denis lost the house. six years after wendy disappeared, he was living in an apartment in the seediest part of town, collecting bottles to make ends meet.

>> it was a blow. that he'd gone that low. but when i tried to question him about it, he just -- you know, he says, "hey, my kids are gone. my wife's gone. don't have much left."

>> but anna had a sense, she said, a nagging feeling that it wasn't just grief that kept denis from being the strong, dedicated father she had known. was it possible, she wondered, that it was guilt?

>> i thought, i thought he was hiding something.

>> what would he know?

>> i don't know. he said, "i have gone through my story. if you need to hear it, go see the police . ask them to tell you the story."

>> he was fed up, over it?

>> he said, "i'm done. i'm not talking it it anymore." i understand about being fed up. i couldn't imagine how it would feel to be the one investigated. but i also believe in truth. if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to hide.

>> but whether anna kept push -- when anna kept pushing, her dad snapped back that he was conducting his own investigation. his target -- suspects police had already eliminated, the jones family .

>> he said that day that she disappeared, friends of his saw the family from down the street that she had had kicked out. she saw them following her. i said, "where's this coming from? who are these people? have they told the police ?" he said, "these people don't want to go to the police . they're afraid of this family." i couldn't understand that he would be okay with not telling the police .

>> if her father didn't want to go police , anna decided, then she would.

>> i asked, could i have my father's storyline, and the police said, "we don't have a clear picture of what happened that day because every time he tells us a story, there are big holes."

>> what did you think when you heard that?

>> just at a loss. it felt like there was -- like he was putting a barrier in front of the investigation.

>> but there was something anna didn't know. the case of her mother's disappearance wasn't cold at all. in fact, police were actively investigating her father. four years after denis passed his lie detector test , the rcmp reviewed it. standard practice in unsolved cases. this time with a quite unexpected outcome.

>> the polygraph operator rereads his charts.

>> sure.

>> and then we find that he was actually deceptive.

>> deceptive, meaning according to the police polygrapher, that denis ratte lied when he claimed he had nothing to do with wendy 's disappearance. investigator thomas wanted to be sure.

>> we had five polygraph operators read those charts. every one read them to be deceptive.

>> right. but a failed lie detector test was not enough evidence to arrest denis , let alone charge him with a crime.

>> it was hard for me not to tell anna . i couldn't. you have to balance the integrity of the investigation. you don't want it jeopardized.

>> so all thomas could do was file the results away and try to find more evidence against denis . but as the years slowly ticked by one by one, nothing. finally in 2007 , a decade now since wendy vanished, thomas decided that if she wanted to get closer to denis to find out what he knew once and for all, she would need some help.

>> that's when we looked at passing it off to the unsolved homicide unit.

>> vancouver's e-division to be exact. the premiere cold case unit in british columbia . get ready for an undercover mission unlike any you have ever seen.