Murder charge dropped for 2nd time against man accused of killing mother

Target of Mr. Big police sting describes elaborate plot to get murder confession

For a second time, the case against a Nova Scotia man accused of killing his mother has collapsed in court.

John (Jack) Buckley appeared in Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Bridgewater this morning, where a charge of first-degree murder was dismissed after the Crown announced it would call no evidence in the case.

The dismissal of the case can be traced to Friday, when Justice Josh Arnold ruled on the admissibility of some evidence the Crown wanted to use in Buckley's trial, scheduled to begin this morning. Buckley had pleaded not guilty.

Arnold ruled the jury would not be permitted to hear the results of an undercover police operation against Buckley, commonly known as a Mr. Big sting, where officers pose as criminals to draw confessions from suspects.

As part of that operation, undercover officers befriended Buckley and persuaded him to tell what he knew about the death of his 57-year-old mother, Victoria Brauns-Buckley, who was found dead in 2012 in the home they shared in Chester Basin.

Without that evidence, the Crown had no case and Buckley was freed.

"I think most defence lawyers would agree the Mr. Big technique, while often useful for the police and the Crown, does run the risk of being used in order to obtain false confessions or unreliable confessions," said Buckley's lawyer, Pat MacEwan.

Buckley was 19 at the time of his mother's death, and had first been arrested and charged with second-degree murder early in the police investigation. But prosecutors dropped that charge a few months later, saying there was no likelihood of a conviction.

Four years later, in April 2016, Buckley was charged again — this time with first-degree murder. RCMP officers said at the time they had located new evidence to support the charge.

It was never revealed how Brauns-Buckley died.

Outside of court this morning, Buckley called the police investigation "pathetic."

"People lied," he said. "And as a result the investigation was pathetic and botched. Investigators made a lot of mistakes and it needs to be looked into again." 

The Crown said it has not yet decided whether to appeal the judge's pre-trial decisions.