Murder on the Bruce Peninsula revisited .. again .. and again .. and again

Jun 4th, 2009 | By Counterweights Editors | Category: Crime Stories

UPDATED NOVEMBER 4, 2009, JANUARY 9, 2011, and JANUARY 13, 2011. In Ontario today, as in so many other places no doubt, the rule of law often seems to move at what can only strike we ordinary citizens and taxpayers as an astoundingly glacial pace.

It was more than 16 months ago now that  the 57-year-old Dr. Henry Janssen was found shot to death in his red Chevy pickup truck … on Scenic Caves Road, in the idyllic Bruce Peninsula community of Jackson’s Cove. And Dr. Janssen’s friend and neighbour, retired corporate executive Allan Wayne Powney , was charged with his murder only two days later – on January 24, 2008. [CW EDITORS' UPDATE, JAN 17, 2011: we should have said here some such thing as "retired corporate technician" Wayne Powney, not "executive": see Robert Preston's comment at the end of this report. L. Frank Bunting's original article does seem to have covered this base more or less properly. Our subsequent editorial emendations introduced the "executive" slip. Our apologies. And our thanks to Mr. Preston for correcting our mistake.]

Mr. Powney subsequently spent more than three months in jail before being granted bail in May last year. (More exactly: “Murder suspect Allan Wayne Powney literally sprinted to freedom Monday [May 5, 2008] -  to a waiting car from a side door at the courthouse – after a Superior Court justice released him on strict terms into the care of six family members who posted $300,000 bail.”) Then a  hearing into the fate of Dr. Janssen’s alleged murderer, Wayne Powney, was held on Thursday, September 11, 2008 at the Ontario Court of Justice in Owen Sound.

At that point there was talk of setting a date for a preliminary hearing, to determine if enough evidence exists to go to trial. Now, at last, we know that this inquiry will start on Monday, June 8, 2009. And it is scheduled for 14 days, concluding July 9.

NOVEMBER 4, 2009 UPDATE: For better or worse, the plot here has thickened again.  On November 4, 2009, the results of the June-July inquiry have surfaced at last.  It seems it has been determined that there is enough evidence to go to trial. And the Owen Sound Sun Times has reported that: “The first-degree murder trial of Allan Wayne Powney, who is charged in the death of a Bruce Peninsula doctor, will likely begin next April or fall … Powney, the neighbour and friend of Dr. Henry Janssen, was not in court yesterday while his case was adjourned to the Dec. 4 Superior Court of Justice assignment court … The date of the start of the trial will depend in part on Powney’s lawyer’s schedule, Justice Robert Thompson said.” The wheels of justice, in this case in particular, continue to grind ever so slowly.

JANUARY 9, 2011 UPDATE: Wayne Powney has been out on bail since May 2008. A preliminary inquiry in 2009 found enough evidence to send him to trial. Now, finally: “A jury is to be picked [this coming Monday], January 10 [2011] and his murder trial is scheduled to commence the next day … Visiting Crown attorney Mike Murdoch said … in an interview [in Owen Sound] that the trial should take about six weeks … Justice Robert Thompson is presiding over the case. Details … can’t be published until the trial is over.”

JANUARY 13, 2011 UPDATE: The case has unexpectedly come to a very quick end. For further details see our “Powney suddenly confesses in Bruce Peninsula murder .. life in prison ‘with no chance of parole for 10 years’!

* * * *

Meanwhile, as a service to those members of the ordinary public still trying to follow this both tragic and still rather puzzling real-life murder mystery, we have reproduced below our original article on the subject from January 31, 2008, prepared by our diligent research colleague, L. Frank Bunting (and including updates to September 15, 2008).

As further current background to this article we have reproduced immediately below two recent reports on the hearing that starts this Monday, June 8, 2009. The first is from Scott Dunn at the Owen Sound Sun Times – the major newspaper in the Bruce Peninsula region where Dr. Janssen`s murder took place. The second is from the Orangeville Citizen – in the Ontario region where Allan Wayne Powney lived before he moved to Jackson`s Cove for his retirement.  (The main thrust of the most recent press report is reproduced in the November 4, 2009 update above. )

Owen Sound Sun Times …

A hearing begins Monday to determine whether enough evidence exists to send Allan Wayne Powney to trial on a charge of murder in the death of a Bruce Peninsula doctor.

Powney is charged with first-degree murder in the death last year of his friend and Jackson’s Cove neighbour, Dr. Henry Janssen.

The Bruce Peninsula physician was found shot in his truck on Scenic Caves Road in Northern Bruce Peninsula on Jan. 22, 2008.

Police descended on Jackson’s Cove, a remote, idyllic spot on Georgian Bay, readily accessible in winter only by ATV and snowmobile.

Janssen’s body was found on a Tuesday night and Powney appeared at a bail hearing two days later, charged in his death. He was 63 years old when charged.

Powney, who uses the name Buddy, spent more than three months in jail in 2008 before being granted bail in May last year.

Today’s preliminary hearing in the Ontario Court of Justice is scheduled for 14 days, concluding July 9.

The defence will likely seek a ban on publication of details heard during the hearing. That ban would be effective until the end of any subsequent trial or until the accused is discharged by the court.

Powney also faces six counts of possessing unregistered firearms and two counts of improper storage of a non-restricted firearm and ammunition.

More than 200 people attended a public memorial service for Janssen.

People told stories about the doctor, describing him as a physically imposing, quick-thinking and plain-spoken man who enjoyed life and lived it on his terms.

Area doctors helped cover for Janssen’s absence. He was semiretired and carried a roster of 550 patients. He’d worked on the Bruce Peninsula for five years.

Orangeville Citizen …

Former Orangeville resident Wayne Powney, 64, is to appear at Owen Sound next Monday, June 8, for a preliminary hearing of a murder charge stemming from the slaying of a neighbour, Dr. Henry Janssen, 57, in January 2008.

Mr. Powney, husband of retired Mono Amaranth Public School teacher Elaine Powney, was granted bail by a Superior Court judge shortly after he was arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

The Powneys had moved from Orangeville to their present waterfront home near Lions Head when Mrs. Powney retired in 1999.

Dr. Janssen and his wife Lynn moved to the same street as the Powneys in about 2003.

He continued his medical practice at a clinic in Tobermory and had been on duty at the Lions Head hospital on the night of his death.

Reports at the time said Dr. Janssen had not returned home as scheduled on the fateful night.

When the hospital called his home asking that he return, Lynn went in search and found him slumped over the steering wheel of his pickup truck on the remote Scenic Caves Road.

Mr. Powney was a former employee of Nortel and a local sports enthusiast.

L. Frank Bunting’s original report, January 31, 2008: MURDER ON THE BRUCE PENINSULA .. something going on we don’t know about?

UPDATED SEPTEMBER 15. The Bruce Peninsula is Southern Ontario’s variation on the magical Upper Peninsula in the adjacent State of Michigan (made forever famous by Ernest Hemingway‘s immortal fishing story, “Big Two-Hearted River“). It is also where the Niagara Escarpment, which starts down at the legendary Falls between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, drifts off into the more exotic northerly waters of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay.

Whatever else, it is an idyllic place. That’s what lured the 57-year-old Dr. Henry Janssen and the retired corporate executive Wayne Powney to estate homes along Jackson’s Cove, on Georgian Bay. Now something about the idyll has gone wrong. Mr. Powney has been charged with the murder of his friend Dr. Janssen, found shot to death in his “red Chevy pickup truck … on Scenic Caves Road,” just after 9 PM on January 22, 2008. The crime has shocked and perplexed the local community. “There’s got to be something going on,” one resident has explained, “that we don’t know about.”

Woodstock, Ontario boy makes good …

Part of the poignancy of this murder mystery turns around the character and background of the victim. The late Dr. Henry Janssen was born and raised in a family of nine children, in the small southwestern Ontario city of Woodstock in the 1950s.

Woodstock, Ontario is a two-to-three hour drive south of the Bruce Peninsula. And perhaps especially in the 1950s it could stake some claims as an idyllic small city of the North American Midwest in its own right – a centre of hard work, relieved by sports and mom and apple pie. In this milieu Henry Janssen had developed disciplined habits, and grown to a height of 6 feet 7 inches, by the time he attended the University of Western Ontario, not far west of Woodstock.

At UWO the tall, young Henry played tight end for the school’s Mustangs football club in the early 1970s. He was so good that in his graduating year he qualified as the third overall draft pick of the Calgary Stampeders in the Canadian Football League. He was also a top student, however, and decided to become a doctor of medicine instead.

After medical school Henry Janssen spent some years as a family doctor in North Dakota. But he eventually became homesick. At first he re-established his practice in Ingersoll, just a ways down the road from Woodstock. Then he returned to Woodstock itself, where he remained for 15 years, with his wife Lynn, and his son David, and daughter Rebecca (and quite a contingent of Janssen relatives, scattered throughout the wider region).

The dream house on Jackson’s Cove

Both Dr. Henry Janssen and his wife Lynn liked outdoor life. It was on a camping trip in the Bruce Peninsula several years ago that they were struck by the unique attractions of spending their golden years in the place, now that their children were young adults. They purchased a large lot on “Georgian Drive, which curves around Jackson’s Cove, a small, idyllic inlet off Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay” (on that part of the larger Georgian Bay known as Hope Bay). And they arranged to have a dream house erected on the lot.

Intriguingly enough, the Owen Sound Sun Times has reported that the “Janssens’ home was featured recently in the winter edition of Our Homes magazine. An article by Jim Fox with accompanying photos shows a modern 2,700 square-foot bungalow filled with pine and oak furniture on a 44.5-acre parcel of land with 550 feet of waterfront. The article quotes Lynn Janssen describing the idyllic location’s privacy and access to an outdoor lifestyle including hiking and skiing. In winters, the couple have to snowmobile into and out of their property.”

When he moved to the Bruce Peninsula some five years ago, a nephew has told the press, “Dr. Janssen’s intent was to slow down.” He became a member of the Bruce Trail Club, and tried to spend more time enjoying the great outdoors, in all seasons.

Ye he also continued to practice as a dedicated and highly skilled family doctor, with an adroit bedside manner and valued sense of humour. An article in the Sault Star reports that “Janssen was among four physicians and a nurse practitioner on [the] staff of the Peninsula Family Health Team. Doctors on the team provide consultation service to patients in clinics in Lion’s Head and Tobermory and emergency coverage of the Lion’s Head hospital.”

Another newspaper article, in the Toronto Globe and Mail, explains that according to his nephew Brad Janssen, the doctor was in fact not exactly “slowing down” in his idyllic country retreat. “Henry was his own man. He had a passion for what he did. I can honestly say anybody I talk to that was a patient of his just raved about him.”

The same article goes on: “Ken Pritchard, a colleague of Dr. Janssen’s in Lion’s Head, released a statement earlier this week saying the health-care team was suffering from an overwhelming sense of sadness, shock and deep sorrow … He was a commanding presence towering over most of us and bringing with him a sense of humour that was infectious and much appreciated in the hectic world of hospital care and medical practice … To say that it will be difficult to move forward without him is an understatement.”

What was going on between the Janssens and the Powneys?

One reason many Northern Bruce Peninsula residents have trouble understanding Wayne Powney’s alleged murder of Dr. Henry Janssen is that the Janssens and the Powneys were both close neighbours on the Jackson’s Cove street called Georgian Drive, and apparently even friends.

According to press reports, the 63-year-old Mr. Powney “identified himself on an Orangeville high-school reunion website in 2000 as a retired Nortel employee and father of two.”

(Nortel here means the once near-great high-tech firm with global reach Nortel Networks [formerly Northern Telecom], headquartered in Brampton in the Greater Toronto Area, somewhat south and east of the exurban edge city of Orangeville – where Orangeville is about two hours drive south and east of the Bruce Peninsula.)

A Georgian Drive neighbour, Mr. Dixon, has further reported that “Powney and his wife have two grown children who don’t live with their parents now. Powney worked for Northern Telecom … on the technical side of the business … Dixon said he believed Powney retired at age 50, but he continued to do freelance work for Northern Telecom.”

Both Dr. Henry Janssen and his wife Lynn and Wayne Powney and his wife Elaine are “relatively new” to the Lion’s Head area of the Bruce Peninsula. (Lion’s Head, in case you have forgotten, is the hamlet where the local hospital is located, somewhat north of Jackson’s Cove.) “Mr. Powney, who sometimes refers to himself as Buddy,’ bought property on Georgian Drive in 1988, although his [2000 school reunion] Internet posting suggested he only began living there full-time when his wife, a former Orangeville schoolteacher, retired in 1999.”

The Janssens and the Powneys are in any case “country neighbours on Georgian Drive at Jackson’s Cove … The mailboxes of the two family names appear beside one another at the intersection of Hopeness Road and Jackson’s Cove Road.” The “Powneys live in the middle of the development, about one kilometre away, and the Janssens live another kilometre further west.”

According to Henry Janssen’s relative, Herman Janssen (who lives in the Meaford area, along Georgian Bay somewhat east of the Bruce), Henry and Wayne Powney “were friends,” and had “been out boating together … and had drinks together.” As far as Herman Janssen knows, Mr. Powney is a “decent guy.” Moreover, the local press goes on to report, the “wives of both Janssen and Powney are best friends. Together, they ski and walk their Labrador dogs.”

According to the Mr. Dixon who is another Georgian Drive neighbour, Elaine Powney had “slept at the Dixon home” on the evening of Thursday, January 24, just after her husband had been charged with murder. Mr. Dixon apparently accompanied Mrs. Powney to bail court the next day in Owen Sound (the largest urban centre in the region, just at the southern edge of the Bruce Peninsula) – where Wayne Powney appeared “emotional, shaking and weeping.”

Case adjourned until Friday, February 8

At this point the case was just put over to Wednesday, January 30. A week before, however, on the evening of Wednesday, January 23 – the “night after Dr. Henry Janssen was found shot to death” – another local friend of both the Janssens and the Powneys , Steve Farnan, had “called … Wayne Powney to find out what had happened.” As yet Powney had still not been charged by police. He mentioned to Farnan that “he had thought Lynn Janssen would be calling because she was expecting him to give her a ride on his snowmobile to get out of their secluded waterfront subdivision, which is accessible only by snowmobile or ATV this time of year.”

Steve Farnan has also told the local press that “Powney used to play bridge with Lynn Janssen and two other women … It was like a weekly thing or twice weekly or something like that … The group met at Powney’s house, Janssen’s house and at another location.” Mr. Farnan has said as well that “he thought Powney was a decent fellow. This is really shocking to me.’”

Even in his state of shock, Steve Farnan braved a snowstorm, which closed roads, schools, businesses and some government offices throughout the wider region, to attend Wayne Powney’s appearance in bail court on the morning of Wednesday, January 30. He “said he was hoping to see Lynn Janssen in court to offer her any help he could.”

As it finally happened, on January 30 the case was adjourned again to Friday, February 8. Powney “appeared in bail court by video link … because police couldn’t bring him to court due to the weather. He appeared on a large TV screen at the front of the small courtroom dressed in orange overalls.” He was no longer weeping, and “responded Yes, sir,’ in a clear, calm voice when Justice of the Peace David Stafford adjourned his case.”

On Wednesday, January 30 as well Ontario Provincial Police Constable Dave Meyer told the local press that police had “finished investigating the Jackson’s Cove neighbourhood where the Powney and Janssen families live … Now officers are interviewing acquaintances of the victim and Powney. They “still want to speak with anyone who drove along Scenic Caves Road between noon and 9 PM” on Tuesday, January 22.

Constable Meyer went on: “It’s all in preparation for court now. You know, checking backgrounds . . . the whys of everything.” This seems just what so many people in the Bruce Peninsula are at the moment so puzzled by too.

* * * *

SEPTEMBER 15 UPDATE: Yet another hearing into the fate of Dr. Janssen’s alleged murderer, Wayne Powney, was held on Thursday, September 11, 2008 at the Ontario Court of Justice in Owen Sound. Powney himself, who is still free on bail subject to certain conditions (see below), did not appear in court. Owen Sound lawyer Ian Boddy appeared on his behalf.

Progress in the case has for some time been waiting on test results from the Centre of Forensic Sciences in Toronto. As reported by Scott Dunn in the Owen Sound Sun Times: “Assistant Crown attorney Michael Martin said test results from the Centre of Forensic Sciences won’t be ready by the end of November. But he said a date for a preliminary inquiry, to determine if enough evidence exists to go to trial, should still be set. It’s estimated the hearing will last three weeks.

“Martin also said a judge’s ruling is needed on the admissibility of certain documents’ to determine if they’re subject to solicitor-client privilege. That ruling need not be made before the preliminary hearing, he said.”

It is now expected that a date for this preliminary hearing will be set on Thursday, October 23, 2008. That will be almost exactly nine months from Dr. Janssen’s shooting death. In Ontario as elsewhere, it seems, the wheels of justice in such matters do grind slowly indeed

MAY 6 UPDATE: There has now been a major development in the fate of Dr. Janssen’s alleged murderer, Wayne Powney. Following are some relevant excerpts from a report by Scott Dunn in the Owen Sound Sun Times:

“Murder suspect Allan Wayne Powney literally sprinted to freedom Monday – to a waiting car from a side door at the courthouse – after a Superior Court justice released him on strict terms into the care of six family members who posted $300,000 bail …

“Powney was first driven by family to Owen Sound Jail, where one member held up a coat to try to block a Sun Times photographer’s view of him. Powney, wearing a short white beard and moustache like hockey commentator Don Cherry’s, remarked Can I hit him?’ referring to the photographer.

“Details of evidence heard during the 2 1/2-day bail hearing and reasons given by Justice B.J. Wein for releasing Powney cannot be reported until the conclusion of a preliminary inquiry or after a trial, if there is one.

“Lead defence lawyer Michael Midanik said after the hearing he was pleased Powney has been released from jail. He has been in custody since Jan. 24, when he was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Dr. Henry Janssen …

“Asked to help explain why Powney was granted bail when charged with murder, Midanik said: He’s got no criminal background and the presumption of innocence applies. We’re going to be vigorously defending the charges and he expects to be acquitted.’”

Some members of the Janssen family present when Justice Wein’s decision was announced were not pleased by the granting of bail to Wayne Powney. The conditions on or terms of Powney’s bail, however, are quite strict and circumscribed:

“Powney was ordered to live under house arrest with his cousins, Tom and Joan Kennedy in Heathcote, near Thornbury. He is not to be left alone, may not use a phone or access the Internet or any messaging devices and be anywhere outside the home without one of those posting his bail present. He may visit his other sureties if approved in advance.

“Two other couples are also responsible to ensure he follows the rules and have agreed to let him stay with them: Powney’s sister, Carole Hill and her husband Kenneth Rolland Hill of London, and Powney’s daughter, Jacqueline June Irwin and her husband John, of Orangeville. The latter’s guns must be removed from their home before Powney may visit.

“Powney was ordered not to go within five kilometres of the University of Western Ontario in London, where Rebecca Janssen, the doctor’s daughter, is studying medicine, or anywhere else she is likely to be in London. He must have no contact with the doctor’s widow, Lynn, or her son David either.”

Further details are available in Scott Dunn’s report in the Owen Sound Sun Times. The greatest continuing mystery at the moment, of course, involves the details “of evidence heard during the 2 1/2-day bail hearing and reasons given by Justice B.J. Wein for releasing Powney,” which “cannot be reported until the conclusion of a preliminary inquiry or after a trial, if there is one.”

MARCH 1 UPDATE: Manny Paiva of Bayshore Broadcasting in the area has reported that: “A funeral will be held this weekend for Doctor Henry Janssen – the popular doctor who was killed in the Lions Head area … The family is holding a funeral service at 1 o’clock this afternoon [Saturday, March 1, 2008] at Cobble Beach and it will be followed by a Celebration of Life …

“Thousands of people are expected to attend – including family and friends from the Woodstock area where Doctor Janssen lived before moving to Bruce County five years ago … Doctor Janssen – who was 57 – was found shot to death in his truck on Scenic Cave Road southeast of Lion’s Head in January …

“His neighbour and former friend – 63 year old Allan Wayne Powney of Northern Bruce Peninsula – has been charged with first degree murder … He [Wayne Powney] made a brief video court appearance in Owen Sound Thursday [February 28] and his case will go back to court on March 20th.”

FEBRUARY 9 UPDATE: Scott Dunn has reported in the Owen Sound Sun Times that “Toronto trial lawyer David Midanik will soon be defending Wayne Powney,” who “appeared again in bail court Friday [February 8] by video link from Owen Sound Jail. Local lawyer Ian Boddy adjourned the case to Feb. 28 and told Justice of the Peace David Stafford that Midanik would be defending Powney.”

Midanik “will be coming to Owen Sound to interview Powney before the next court appearance, Boddy said … Grey County Crown attorney David Hay said a synopsis of events, a timeline and background information has been handed over to Boddy, who brought Midanik on the case. More Crown disclosure will follow, he said …

“Elaine Powney, the suspect’s wife, attended the bail hearing and met with Boddy privately in the courthouse after her husband’s appearance was over. She declined to speak with a reporter … Midanik has handled high-profile cases, including the defence of a man in the 1994 Just Desserts cafe shooting in Toronto …

“Locally, he defended Travis Gaeler in the 2004 Owen Sound manslaughter case in which Gaeler was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison for strangling his wife. The next year Midanik helped get drug charges dropped against two men caught with $400,000 worth of marijuana in a case which saw the judge criticize police for an unlawful search.”

* * * *

Along with the web references embedded in the text above, the report here is based on the following regional and national press reports:

Jessica Leeder, “Neighbour charged in killing of rural Ontario doctor,” The Globe and Mail, January 25, 2008.

Police say Bruce Peninsula doctor was murdered … Post-mortem confirms gunshot wound as cause of death,” The Sault Star, January 25, 2008.

Patrick Maloney, “Friend charged in doc’s slaying … The accused, Wayne Powney, had openly wept with Henry Janssen’s grieving relatives,” London Free Press, January 26, 2008.

Jim Algie, “Community in shock… ‘Everybody liked him’,” Owen Sound Sun Times, January 26, 2008.

Tracey Richardson, “Family reaches out,” Owen Sound Sun Times, January 26, 2008.

Scott Dunn, “Neighbour charged in doctor’s murder … Allan Wayne Powney has been charged with first-degree murder,” Owen Sound Sun Times, January 26, 2008.

Scott Dunn, “Suspect in doctor’s murder to appear for bail hearing … Lawyer expects case to be remanded for 10 days,” Owen Sound Sun Times, January 30, 2008.

Scott Dunn, “Suspect sounded ‘shooken up’ … Friend recounts conversation with Wayne Powney day after murder,” Owen Sound Sun Times, January 31, 2008.

[CW Editors' note, January 13, 2011: Our apologies. Some of these links are no longer active, and the references now refer only to the dates of the articles in their print edition forms.]

* * * *

The first photograph above is of the London, Ontario artist Christie Davis-Amyot, standing beside her landscape paintings of the Bruce Peninsula, including “Winter, Jackson’s Cove.”

Other photographs depict Bruce Peninsula shoreline scenes, the Lion’s Head hospital with flag at half mast to commemorate Dr. Henry Janssen’s sad death, and the Janssen home at Jackson’s Cove.

[Alas these notes also refer in most cases to links and illustrations that are no longer active.]

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  1. Allan Wayne Powney article “Murder on the Bruce Peninsula revisited .. again .. and again .. and again” UPDATED NOVEMBER 4, 2009, JANUARY 9, 2011, and JANUARY 13, 2011.

    I worked with Allan Wayne Powney at Nortel in Brampton and I want to straighten out one mistake in your article about him and his crime of murder.

    Wayne is no retired Nortel corporate executive (If he was, Nortel would have gone bankrupt a lot sooner).

    Did anybody verify this with Nortel?

    The Wayne Powney I knew at Nortel was a BSE (Buildings Study Engineer) also know as Field Engineer in Digital Engineering. He was a technician, defiantly not a corporate executive.

    Wayne was a scoundrel and definitely not a good Nortel employee or a good human being.

    The only reason he retired early was because Nortel gave him the choice of retiring or he would be terminate without his pension.

    Wayne had faked a back injury in his cubical at Nortel and was on sick leave. Nortel had evidence that his back was not injured so they gave him the choice.

    The only reason he has a clean criminal record is because he’s never been caught.

    I believe in Karma and Wayne finally got what he deserved.

    Robert Preston – Former Nortel 39 Year Employee

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