Befriending a murderer for a year to acquire a confession to his brutal crime and provide closure for the victim’s family, Constable Scott Aikman was honoured for investigative excellence with the 2015 William Bishop Award.
In 2007, Alexandra Flanagan, a 33-year-old hairstylist, went missing from her Barrie home. Human body parts found months later by dog walkers were confirmed as belonging to Flanagan following DNA tests.
Phone records indicated that the deceased was in communication with Andrew Keene the night she went missing. A search warrant at his home turned up her blood in a large hockey bag.
With no motive or cause of death, Barrie investigators sought the help of Toronto Police in October 2011. Project Mystic was launched.
Aikman befriended Keene, gained his trust and was able to secure a confession a year later.
Last year, the officer testified at the trial and Keene was found guilty of Second-Degree Murder and Indignity to a Dead Body. He was sentenced to life with no chance of parole for 17 years.
Aikman is proud of the part he played in bringing about justice for Alexandra.
“It was an incredible experience to endure,” said the officer, who had his life threatened during the court proceedings. “I couldn’t even imagine how devastating it could be for a family member to be taken away so abruptly and brutally and then to have no answers. That was what this family was going through and I am happy that I was able to speak for Alexandra who was silenced against her will. Through investigative techniques, and with the support of many hardworking officers, we were able to arrest someone so evil who should not be allowed to walk freely in society.”
Aikman, who joined the Service 26 years ago, dedicated the award to his father, who died while Aikman was active in the undercover operation.
“He was a religious minister, a volunteer firefighter and policeman and the Niagara Regional Police chaplain,” said Aikman, who started his police journey at 54 Division and was later assigned to the Drug Squad, Intelligence and 42 Division, before joining Police Dog Services two years ago. “His drive and passion for that kind of public service was passed on to me. This award is for him.”
The Bishop Award was established 22 years ago by the retired Superintendent and his family, with the support of then Deputy Chief David Boothby.
Elaine Cernowski, Bishop’s daughter, joined Chief Mark Saunders in presenting the award to Aikman. She also presented a bouquet of flowers to Aikman for his wife.
“Our family would like to thank you for putting your life in danger to bring a violent criminal to justice and secure a conviction in this case,” she told him. “You most definitely used all your excellent training, knowledge, common sense, expertise and experience that you have gained over your policing career.”
Accompanying the award was a card Bishop – who was unable to attend the ceremony – sent the officer.
“Behind every success is effort,” he wrote. “Behind every effort is passion and behind every passion is someone with the courage to try it. I am so happy that all the things you have worked so hard for, and all the good things you deserve, are coming true. You have a lot to be proud of.”
Saunders thanked Aikman for divorcing himself from his true persona and risking his life to snare a murderer.
“It takes a true warrior to do the work you did,” he said. “You have made not just the family of the deceased proud. You have also made policing proud. I have a feeling that there is going to be a lot more coming out of you in your career because you are an amazing individual.”
Sergeant Bill Grant of the Barrie Police Service said the Flanagan family is truly blessed to have Aikman on their side.
“The outstanding job he did and the effort he put in brought this case to a successful conclusion,” Grant noted. “Scott’s gift of the gab and his uncanny ability to move at key moments stands out. For him to get Andrew to point out where the deceased torso recovered brought closure to the family.”
Mike Flosman, the assistant crown attorney in the County of Simcoe, sent a letter to Saunders, praising Aikman’s exceptional work.
He was tasked with a most difficult job and he carried it off with a dedication that is exemplary
“He was tasked with a most difficult job and he carried it off with a dedication that is exemplary,” the letter read in part. “His ability to engage the target and to keep him talking was impressive. Officer Aikman put on a clinic in how to conduct oneself during an undercover operation. His skillful work led police to locate the final piece of Ms. Flanagan’s heretofore undiscovered remains, her torso and, in so doing, gave the prosecution powerful evidence to assist its case.
“More importantly, it allowed the family of the deceased some measure of comfort and closure in knowing that they now had their entire daughter returned to them. His professionalism, both during the undercover play and later during his testimony, is in keeping with the best traditions of policing.”