When Theresa Neville was eight years old, she told her parents she’d been raped by a family member.
They took her to the police to file a complaint but it didn’t go as expected.
“The RCMP interrogated her for hours,” Carol Neville, her mother said. “That never should have happened. There was not an adult or a lawyer present, she was underage.”
She said a Kelowna police officer told her the man she accused was given a lie detector test, that he passed and charges were never pursued. RCMP have not answered questions about this allegation.
“She started her decline there,” Carol said, adding that they had reached out to the Elizabeth Fry society at the time, who believed Theresa’s claims, but it wasn’t enough.
That was her first of what would be many experiences with police and she'll never know how it impacted her daughter. When she was in her early teens, Theresa was already struggling and vulnerable to the likes of Jay Sinclaire Thomson, who pleaded guilty to her June 17, 2013 murder in January of this year.
Thomson told the court he befriended Theresa in 2001, when he was 45 and she was 15, though Carol thinks it was earlier.
READ MORE: JONESIE: The blurred lines from a surprise guilty plea to murder
According to information released at his 2019 sentencing, Thomson told RCMP that he met Neville at a Kelowna beach, and she had been crying. The two spoke for a while before Thomson offered up his number, suggesting she call him if she needed to talk. She did call a few days later and the two started talking.
In the meetings that followed, Thomson said that he helped Theresa find God and they began a relationship.
Carol isn’t sure if that’s a true description of how their paths crossed.
“I don’t know when the relationship started or how it started exactly,” said Carol. “But as naive parents, we did know she kept getting phone calls from this guy.”
They’d also heard from neighbours that when she was going to walk the dog she was seen stepping into a stranger’s car.
“We got (Thomson’s) license number and went to the RCMP and they looked into it and said, ‘yes she is seeing somebody — he’s a much older man and you’re not going to like it,’” Carol said.
She remembers asking the RCMP to do something about it, to arrest Thomson for stalking or anything that would protect her daughter.
She also remembers the Mounties saying that Theresa simply needed a stern talking to from her parents.
“So we said, ‘OK, Theresa, we need to meet this fellow,’” she said.
Thomson went to their home and tried to say he was counselling Theresa, and Carol said it didn’t make sense. He was not a counsellor.
While they confronted the situation the best they could, they couldn’t get the two to stay apart and not long after that conversation the then-16-year-old was pregnant with the first of two children she had with Thomson.
For years, Theresa disappeared from their lives and Carol said she went to the RCMP to ask about sexual assault charges. While Theresa was pregnant at age 16, Carol believed there was evidence their sexual relationship began earlier. She said her complaints never went anywhere. However, during the 5.5 years police investigated Theresa's murder, they had enough evidence, including a report they were found together in a hot tub when Theresa was 15, for the Crown to state they were in a romantic relationship at age 15.
“My daughter was murdered six years go by a man who (at age 46) impregnated her at (16),” she said. “With all the evidence, I asked that sexual charges be laid (from) before her death and the RCMP did nothing. It’s frustrating to think that if they would have done their job in the first place she wouldn’t be dead, on two accounts.”
New revelations about the Kelowna RCMP detachment’s dubious record of dismissing sex assault complaints is strengthening her resolve to keep fighting for her daughter.
In November, Statistics Canada reported the rate of sexual assaults deemed "unfounded" or not credible by the Kelowna RCMP from 2017 and 2018 was 42 and 40 per cent, respectively. That compares to a provincial average of about 15 per cent and a national average of 14 per cent over the same time period.
READ MORE: The face of Kelowna's unfounded rate: 'I cried tears of fear and relief'
In response to that news, Kelowna RCMP Cpl. Meghan Foster said in a statement that the sexual-assault review team will look at files and refer them for additional review if all investigative steps were not followed.
“We understand that there are many questions about the roots of these statistics and we’re taking immediate steps to get answers,” she wrote. “We are aware that people may find the number of unfounded sexual assault cases unsettling."
Carol is looking for answers, too.
Thomson was sentenced to life in prison with eligibility for parole in 10 years, which means he could spend many years in the community while serving the rest of his sentence. And he will not have any sexual abuse charges on his record — and won't be on the sexual offenders registry.
She wants that to change.
“From my first official complaint to them in 2011, but all through the murder investigation and even up until Christmas last year when trial was supposed to start, I would ask them ‘what about all the sexual related charges’,” she said. “They would tell me, ‘Mrs. Neville, those charges will come.’ Well, they didn’t.”
Carol wants it to be clear that he’s not just a murderer but also a child predator who sexually exploited a young person.
Now raising her daughter’s daughters, she wants to know the system has advanced and can protect vulnerable young women.
And she wants us all, as a society, to start speaking more frankly about these issues.
“For naive children, they give talks at school about drugs, but they need to accentuate the risks people who prey on vulnerable children,” she said. “We need to look at that closer than we do.”
iNFOnews.ca has asked the RCMP for comment but police have not responded.
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