Heatherington skips court date

Monday, Nov 1, 2004


Former alderwoman Dar Heatherington reads her letter of resignation to council in this Aug. 9, 2004 file photo taken in Lethbridge, Alta. Rob Olson/CP
 Photo: Rob Olson/CP
Former alderwoman Dar Heatherington reads her letter of resignation to council in this Aug. 9, 2004 file photo taken in Lethbridge, Alta.
Canadian Press

Lethbridge, Alta. A former southern Alberta politician who made international headlines last year after she disappeared in Montana failed to appear in provincial court Monday.

Instead, Dar Heatherington, 41, sent her lawyer to answer allegations she had violated her conditional sentence for a conviction of public mischief six weeks ago.

"Why is she not here?" Judge Fred Coward demanded of lawyer Tracy Hembroff.

"Your client should be here," he said, noting she had been convicted of an indictable offence.

Told Ms. Heatherington was at home, Judge Coward said he would excuse her "for today's date only."

Ms. Heatherington is accused of breaching the terms of the conditional sentence she received Sept. 10 after being found guilty of public mischief for sending lurid letters to herself and complaining to police that she was being stalked. The sentence included eight months of house arrest.

Police allege an off-duty officer spotted Ms. Heatherington off her property without the permission of her supervisor on two occasions.

The court order allowed her to leave her residence only to attend medical emergencies, bring her children to and from school, do four hours of shopping per week, attend religious services or participate in treatment and counselling.

The Crown appeared to be taking a hard line on the charge.

John Gill, acting on behalf of special prosecutor Photini Papadatou, told the court that a full hearing had been arranged for Dec. 3, before Judge Peter Caffaro, who convicted and sentenced Ms. Heatherington.

Outside of court Ms. Hembroff declined to say if the Crown had it in for her client, but she came close.

"I would love to comment on that but I try to be professional," she said. "It's just brutal.

"I was thinking this morning on the way to work, You'd think this was Osama Bin Heatherington."

Ms. Hembroff had just returned from vacation and asked for two weeks to assess the case.

Judge Coward ruled seven days would be sufficient and set the matter over until Nov. 8.

Since Ms. Heatherington is appealing both her conviction and sentence, it may not be appropriate for the latest charge to be heard before Judge Caffaro, said Ms. Hembroff.

"He was the one who found her to be not credible, and I don't believe she can take the stand in a situation where a judge has already said in writing that she cannot be trusted and has no credibility whatsoever," she said.

Police and justice officials haven't given any details as to where Ms. Heatherington was seen, but Ms. Hembroff said she'd been advised the transgression was relatively minor.

Lethbridge police say they've received numerous calls from members of the public who have spotted Ms. Heatherington in the city of 75,000.

If she is found guilty of breach of probation, Ms. Heatherington could face further sanctions, including jail time.

Ms. Heatherington made news last year when she mysteriously vanished in Montana while on Lethbridge city council business. She surfaced three days later in Las Vegas, saying she had been abducted and sexually assaulted a story that was discounted by U.S. investigators.

She was later charged with mischief by Lethbridge police, who had been investigating her stalking complaints for several months.

Ms. Heatherington resigned from city council in August.