Friday 22 December 2023

Murder convictions of Robert Mailman and Walter Gillespie quashed

Justice Minister Quashes Murder Convictions of Two New Brunswick Men Convicted of a Murder 40 Years Ago
Innocence Canada is announcing that this afternoon, Justice Minister Arif Virani quashed the murder convictions of Robert (Bobby) Mailman and Walter (Wally) Gillespie 40 years after they were charged and convicted in the murder of George Leeman in Saint John, New Brunswick.
On November 30, 1983, Mr. Leeman’s body was found by a jogger in a wooded area in Rockwood Park, Saint John. Mr. Leeman was the victim of a significant beating by one or more weapons and his body was partially burned. Mr. Leeman was living in Saint John in a rooming house when he was murdered.
Between January 19 and 21, 1984, the Saint John Police Service charged Wally Gillespie and Bobby Mailman with the murder. They also charged a third person, Janet Shatford, with the murder. Ms. Shatford subsequently pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
Mr. Gillespie and Mr. Mailman both had strong alibis with multiple witnesses placing them far from the crime scene on the day of the murder. Nevertheless, they were convicted of the murder on May 11, 1984. Both were sentenced to life imprisonment without parole eligibility for at least 18 years. Not for one day have they wavered in insisting on their innocence.
Mr. Gillespie served 21 years of his life sentence in prison and is presently living in a halfway house in Saint John. He is now 81 years of age. Mr. Mailman who served 18 years in prison, sadly, is terminally ill. He is 76 years of age. He also lives in Saint John.
Innocence Canada has worked on their case for many years. We worked alongside Gary Dimmock, formerly a journalist with the Saint John Telegraph-Journal, now with the Ottawa Citizen. Mr. Dimmock investigated the case before Innocence Canada came to it and always believed in Mr. Mailman and Mr. Gillespie’s innocence. He deserves great credit for his work on their case.
Innocence Canada is grateful to Minister Virani for realizing the urgency of the case and giving his decision today to quash the convictions of both men and directing a new trial. We hope Mr. Mailman will be able to appear in the King’s Bench in Saint John in the near future as a result of the Minister’s Order.
Jerome Kennedy of Innocence Canada said today:
“I want to thank Minister Virani for his decision today. It is welcome news for both Mr. Mailman and Mr. Gillespie. Both are in their senior years and Mr. Mailman is gravely ill. This is the best news they could have, and Innocence Canada is privileged to have been helping them.”
James Lockyer of Innocence Canada said today:
“Minister Virani has stepped forward for Mr. Mailman and Mr. Gillespie. The causes behind their wrongful convictions can be left to another day. Today is one of celebration for them.”
Ron Dalton, co-President of Innocence Canada, said:
“I spent 9 years in prison for a murder that I did not commit and much of that time I spent with Bobby Mailman and Wally Gillespie in a maximum-security penitentiary. They never gave up hope that one day justice would be done for them. Today is that day and I congratulate them on their perseverance and courage.”
Bobby Mailman and Wally Gillespie issued a joint statement today:
“It has taken 40 years. Today we are happy that justice is being done for us. Neither of us had anything to do with Mr. Leeman’s murder. We have always been innocent and we thank the Minister for what he has done.”
As a final note, the Minister’s powers to review wrongful convictions are set out in the Criminal Code of Canada. His greatest power is to quash a wrongful conviction and direct a new trial. It is a power rarely exercised but it is what he has done today for Mr. Mailman and Mr. Gillespie. The case is now in the hands of the original trial court, the Court of King’s Bench in Saint John.
For further information, contact:
Jerome Kennedy at 709-725-2966 or
James Lockyer at 416-518-7983 or

Ron Dalton at 709-327-6864 or