Heatherington speaks out on disappearance
Last Updated Mon, 16 Jun 2003 21:42:34
LETHBRIDGE, ALTA. - Darlene Heatherington said Monday she was drugged and sexually assaulted four times during her disappearance from Great Falls, Mont., in early May.
The Lethbridge, Alta., city councillor said she is not guilty of the charges of mischief police have laid against her for allegedly fabricating her story.
Darlene Heatherington at Monday's news conference
"The only thing I've done wrong is trusting a stranger," said Heatherington during a news conference in Lethbridge, the first time she's faced reporters since her disappearance.
Heatherington disappeared from Great Falls and turned up three days later in Las Vegas, where she claimed she has been sexually assaulted and possibly drugged.
- FROM MAY 7, 2003: Heatherington found in Las Vegas
Heatherington, sometimes shaking and fighting back tears, told reporters her version of the events leading to her mysterious disappearance.
She said she was touring Great Falls on a bicycle while she was on a business trip there, and a man offered to help her after her chain fell off.
She said they struck up a conversation and she accepted an open beverage from the man, who described himself as a computer analyst.
"I started to feel unwell," she said, and asked the man to drive her back to her car. She said she was then abducted.
Refused examination by male doctor
"I am not going to describe to you what I went through," she told the reporters.
She said she was forcibly injected with medication, taken to Las Vegas and sexually assaulted four times over the period she was with the man.
"I was held against my will and made to do things that were very disturbing," she said, wiping away tears from her eyes.
When she was taken to the hospital in Las Vegas, she said she was told it would be a male doctor and a male nurse that would be doing the examination.
She refused to allow that, but later allowed a female nurse to do the examination.
Although media reports said doctors in Las Vegas found nothing in her system, she said her doctor's medical records of her blood tests showed traces of barbiturates, opiates and tricyclics.
'I finally started telling them what they wanted to hear'
Heatherington also accused police in Lethbridge, Great Falls and Las Vegas of assuming her guilt before she was able to tell her version of events.
She said a family friend flew her husband to Las Vegas to pick her up, but was told they couldn't return to Canada until they went to Great Falls first.
Heatherington claims that was a ruse by police.
"It was a set-up so that they could basically interrogate me in Great Falls, because they had already made up their minds that I had done this to myself," she said.
She told police she was taken from in front of a civic centre and not from the riverside road where she had been biking because, she said, she was ashamed she had trusted a stranger.
She says police confronted her and told her they knew she was lying about her account.
She says after 2½ hours of questioning, she "had gone through an experience I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy."
"I finally started telling them what they wanted to hear," she said. She told them she was making it all up and that she had had an affair in Las Vegas.
Faces charges in Lethbridge
Police in Great Falls later charged her with giving false information. Prosecutors dropped the charges, Heatherington said, because they had nothing to legitimately charge her with.
- FROM MAY 20, 2003: Heatherington gets deal from U.S. prosecutor
She called her treatment by police "outrageously unjust, undemocratic and disgusting."
"I know that I'm not guilty, I know what happened to me and I know now unfortunately why the majority of sexual assault victims never come forward," she said.
Heatherington accused the media of portraying her as crazy, bipolar and schizophrenic. Both she and her psychologist insist she is not.
"I'm here to tell you I'm not crazy. I didn't make this up," said Heatherington.
She will appear in court July 10 on mischief charges filed by Lethbridge police following an eight-month police investigation into her claim that she was being stalked.
- FROM JUNE 10, 2003: Lethbridge alderwoman faces new charges
She said she needs time to heal, but will continue to serve as a city councillor in Lethbridge. Monday afternoon, she took her seat at city council for the first time since she disappeared.
Written by CBC News Online staff