Ann Burke’s The Seventh Shot (Latitude 46 Publishing) is a recounting of two grisly Ontario murders some thirty years on, and the remarkable efforts of police detectives to unravel the senseless brutality of these crimes.
The author and one-time classmate of the killer, haunted by the grisly crimes, she sets about shedding light on how the Ontario Police brought this killer cop to justice. Drawing on faded archival files, hours of interviews and a personal passion to see the story finally reveal itself, The Seventh Shot is a mesmerizing account of an unforgettable crime, comparable to the recent intrigue and terror brought from the Golden State Killer case: a suspect, who was also a police officer, who went long undetected, until the power of DNA changed things forever.
After serving in the Royal Canadian Navy as a navigational operator/radar technician, Ann turned her interest to her greatest love, writing. Working largely in the social services sector as a counsellor in a women and children’s shelter, coordinating a homeless drop-in, and directing a rural community centre, she freelanced for newspapers, including the Toronto Star. Her most memorable years were spent working for the Walden Observer in Lively, Ontario and covering events for the Sudbury Star. She now lives in Innisfil with her husband.
Was it difficult to listen to the stories of those who first attended the crime scenes of the two women? How did those who initially attend the crime scenes describe their reactions?
Yes, the vivid descriptions that they gave after so many years demonstrated to me how deeply moved they were. Some forty-five years later, the officers described the scenes as if it was only yesterday. Death was not a new concept to any of them but none of those attending had experienced anything like this. I felt vulnerable just listening to their stories of their initial arrival at the sites. There was no doubt that their individual commitment to find the perpetrator lasting those many years was driven by those first moments.
What do you want the reader of The Seventh Shot to come away with?
I would like them to discover, as I did, that however cruel and evil these crimes were, that there are heroes out there. I cannot tell you how many times I was assured that the officers “felt a commitment to bring justice for the sake of the survivors”, and at no small cost to themselves.
Did you, as some writers suggest, find yourself attached to some of the characters in your book?
Yes, In respect to the officers, it became important to me to share who they were, as well as what they did. As well, I wanted to acknowledge how archivists went beyond any of my expectations in assisting me, and how West’s childhood friends, in spite of their sense of loss of someone they believed to be a friend, offered up their own interpretations of what may have brought West to commit these despicable crimes.
And yes, for the victims. I often thought of how proud Helen would have been of Dale for taking the actions that he did and how terrible for Doreen dying without knowing if the child in your arms would die as well. Yes, I became attached.
What would you say fueled your motivation behind the obvious in-depth research conducted for The Seventh Shot?
I have spent a number of years as a journalist and background work became second nature. In the case of The Seventh Shot, I soon discovered that there was actually a wealth of information to uncover. I have always had a fascination for digging through old files, letters and books. Each time I uncovered something previously hidden, it inevitably moved me towards the next discovery. I am finding that since the book was launched, I have been introduced to even more facts. It is always very compelling to follow up.
What aspect of writing this book did you personally find most rewarding?
I embrace the fact that people are so willing to share very personal aspects of their lives and careers with me. I have remained friends with some, in touch with others, or at the least, compelled to keep some up to date on where I was with the book at any particular time. I hope that some lives may be a little better because of the book and that there is the chance that at least one more crime may be solved: the Murder Park crimes.
This book deals with particularly painful and dark material. How do you feel you were able to balance this?
Perhaps surprisingly, my past writing has been more of a humorous nature, more often than not. It is no secret that humour is a great buffer for dealing with the darker side of life, in fact this coping strategy is often referred to as dark humour. It is something that cops have done for years. I worked for a Coroner many years ago and I learned some things about ‘coping’ from him. I don’t believe we could cope without humour in our lives.
You said that you planned to write at least one book on your retirement. Why this one? Why Ron West?
I can honestly say that the subject of the book presented itself. It began by having attended high school with the subject (and ex-cop), hearing about his conviction for the murders years later and the fact that I had indirectly been involved as a witness in an attempted murder attempt by an ex-cop. Recognition for actions I took in the attempted murder case I mentioned, assisted in my connecting with the leading players in this book.
Who will this book appeal to, do you think?
First and foremost, I would have to say True Crime fans, however, I think that it will appeal to those curious about some of the ins and outs of policing, as well as giving some insight into the dissection of a cold case. I also hope that appeals to those looking for some modern day heroes because they are out there, I promise you.
Do you think that there are more Ronald Glen Wests out there? Do you think they would be able to conceal their crimes for so long now?
I am sorry to say yes. While writing this book I became aware of the Golden State Killer and learned of the incredible parallels that existed between West and D’Angelo. (I cover this in my website – www.annburkeauthor.com) I would love to hear that it was otherwise but I do not doubt that for a moment there will be more. Killers such as these two are very clever and are underestimated in their ability to move about like ‘ghosts’. They blend in with the background, so to speak, and we will always be surprised when they are finally identified to us. Their seeming normalcy is their greatest weapon.
What is your take on the nurture vs. nature theory and Ronald Glen West?
I have spent a lot of time looking into both sides of this argument! As well, I have discussed with Dr. Lee Mellor, Criminologist for his take. I am not only less convinced that it is one or the other so much as a combination but believe that there may be other factors that include head trauma for one. I do believe that West is a (sexual) psychopath and totally lacks empathy for anyone other than himself. I will leave this one to the experts.