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John Furlong cleared in one abuse case, still under investigation

A strategy to rescue the bruised reputation of John Furlong, who was the CEO of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, unfolded throughout Monday.

Global TV's regional channel promoted a one-on-one interview of Furlong by anchor Chris Gailus for 7 p.m. Monday evening as Furlong's first such appearance since he was accused 13 months ago of abusing aboriginal children.

The interview was recorded in the Gastown office of Furlong's public relations representative, Twenty Ten Group, and was set to air the day after the Vancouver Whitecaps' ended their 2013 season. CTV national anchor Lisa LaFlamme also conducted an interview with Furlong, the executive chairman of the Bell-sponsored Major League Soccer club.

Almost five hours before the scheduled 30-minute program, Global reported that the RCMP cleared Furlong of allegations he abused Beverly Abraham when she was a child under his care at a Burns Lake school for aboriginal children in 1969 and 1970. Furlong had come to Canada from his native Ireland as an 18-year-old Catholic missionary and taught physical education at Immaculata Elementary School.

The Global website included a photograph of a letter apparently sent by the RCMP in April to Furlong's lawyer, John Hunter. The name of the RCMP officer who wrote it was obscured.

Global quoted Abraham saying the RCMP had interviewed her once in person and once by phone. Her lawyer, Jason Gratl, called the RCMP investigation haphazard and said Abraham was disappointed she was interviewed only once in person and once on the phone.

"My client, Ms. Abraham, informs me that the police have not interviewed all the potential witnesses to whom she directed them," Gratl told The Tyee. "The decision whether or not charges should be approved rests with the office of Crown counsel, not with the RCMP. Our police complaint to the Office of the (Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP) has not yet been resolved. That complaint, as I understand, is still under investigation.

"She said RCMP [were] going to follow up with her to get a further list of witnesses and never called her back."

Gratl's July 29 complaint accused the Mounties of bias and improperly communicating with Furlong's lawyer. The RCMP led a $90-million effort to secure the 2010 Games and senior officials worked closely with Furlong.

On Monday, Sgt. Rob Vermeulen issued a statement said: "When a file(s) is concluded our normal course of action would be to notify the complainant(s) and in some cases, where appropriate, the subject(s) of complaint.

"Due to the serious and sensitive nature of the allegations, earlier this year we asked for an independent review of our complete investigation by major crime investigators from another province. That review resulted in a number of investigative recommendations that we continue to follow up on. Our file remains open at this time.

"We also remain mindful that there are multiple civil actions underway as well and as such it would be inappropriate to provide further comment."

Abraham and Grace West filed lawsuits July 24 against Furlong alleging sexual abuse. A male filed a lawsuit in late September alleging Furlong molested him as a child. Furlong has emphatically denied all abuse claims, none of which have been proven in court.

Furlong has not scheduled dates for examination for discovery or a trial in the defamation lawsuit against the Georgia Straight and reporter Laura Robinson. Robinson's Sept. 27, 2012 Georgia Straight expose alleged Furlong physically abused students and hid his initial life in Canada from readers of his 2011-published Patriot Hearts memoir, which said he arrived from his native Ireland in 1974 at Edmonton.

Furlong said at a news conference on Sept. 27, 2012 that he had lived in northern B.C., but called his time there "brief" and "uneventful."

Stories in the Prince George Citizen newspaper archives said Furlong fled Prince George in 1972 so he could return to Ireland after he was threatened and assaulted while acting as a soccer referee.

Meanwhile, the Irish coroner's inquest into the April 11 death of Furlong's third wife, Deborah Sharp Furlong, was opened Aug. 16 but adjourned until Jan. 27, 2014, according to the Dublin District Coroner's Office. Sharp, a 48-year-old TV producer, died in a head-on crash near Furlong's house in rural Gorey, Ireland.

Vancouver journalist Bob Mackin is a frequent contributor to The Tyee. Due to the nature of this story, comments are closed.

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