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Whistler man arrested in connection with 2001 murder

Christopher Dilling transported to Ontario to answer charges

A 25-year-old Whistler resident by the name of Christopher Dilling was picked up by the local RCMP detachment on May 4 and sent to St. Catharines, Ontario to answer the charge of Conspiracy to Commit First Degree Murder.

He made his first court appearance on May 7 and is still in custody awaiting a bail hearing on May 17.

The investigation that implicated Dilling has been ongoing since November 27, 2001, when members of the Niagara Regional Medical Service found the body of 72-year-old Bruce Firman in his garage. An autopsy discovered that he died as a result of a blunt force trauma to the head, and local police started a murder investigation.

Three individuals, including a mother and son from Trail, British Columbia and a young offender from Cranbrook, were arrested in connection with the crime less than a week later.

The Whistler RCMP detachment only played an assist role in the case, but confirmed that they conducted their own investigation to locate Dilling after receiving information from the Niagara Regional Police. They also confirmed that Dilling is currently a Whistler resident, and resided in the 3200 block of Archibald Way in Alta Vista, where he was arrested and taken into custody.

Constable Richard Geady of the Niagara Regional Police could not comment on the particulars of the case while it is still before the courts.

He could say that Dilling’s arrest was a result of a long investigation.

"(The arrest) was from an investigation that started in 2001, and (Dilling) was implicated in some of the preliminary hearings. The investigation was just now able to determine that it was him that was the other person involved in this homicide."

There was no explanation as to what Dilling’s alleged involvement in the murder may have been, his relationship with the other individuals charged, or of the charge of Conspiracy to Commit First Degree Murder.

A 17-year-old young offender from Cranbrook pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in March of 2004, after acknowledging that he struck Firman on the head with a pipe wrench. He was sentenced as a young offender and received a six-year jail sentence – the highest a youth offender can receive in Canada. He was identified by his fingerprints.

Byron Gatenby, who was 19 years old at the time of the murder, pleaded guilty in September of 2002 to the lesser charge of conspiracy to commit murder, after agreeing to co-operate as a witness for the Crown. He was then sentenced to six years in prison.

The case made national headlines because it also implicated Elizabeth Gatenby, 42 at the time she was arrested in connection with Firman’s murder, who was a prominent figure in the Trail community. She had founded a youth counselling centre that provided services like crisis intervention, substance abuse counselling, treatment for sexually abused youth and advice on a wide variety of youth issues.

Bruce Firman was Gatenby’s mother’s common-law husband.

Her trial is expected to begin in July.