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My father’s killer: Murder mystery on Cortes Island – The Fifth Estate


[Birds cawing] [♪♪] People are drawn by the
lawless nature of this place. [♪♪] She said, “Do you know what
happened to Stefano? “He’s been killed.” I just couldn’t believe it. It’s been eight years and the
RCMP isn’t doing anything. Do you think it’s possible that
the person who murdered your father is on that island
this morning? [♪♪] [♪♪] For me, Cortes Island
was a magical place. I spent my summers here. I have beautiful memories
about Cortes Island. [Mark] But you don’t want
to sleep on the island. -No.
-Why not? I’m not ready. Something has happened. Everything has changed… We have to finish the job. [Mark] Cristiano Savioli has
waited almost a decade for this moment. To return to Cortes Island
and try to find out who murdered his father. It’s strange, I’m the son of a
guy who has been murdered, and I don’t know
even how he died. -To this day.
-Yeah. It’s time to move. I don’t have nothing to lose. [Mark] He’s traveled from his
home in Italy to this remote island in British Columbia to
bring the memory of his father’s death back to life. [♪♪] [male reporter] RCMP continue to
secure the property where a 60-year-old man was found
dead on Friday morning. Police are treating
the death as suspicious. [female reporter] The wealthy
artist Stefano Savioli was found dead in his isolated
cliff top home Friday, reportedly by his teenage son. [man 1] I’d heard he’d been
bludgeoned with a hammer. [male reporter] A local artist
lived in the home where the body was discovered. [man 2] There were two
people there on the property, when it happened. [female reporter] What happened
to one of this island’s most beloved and colourful residents? [Seagulls calling]
[♪♪] [radio announcer] You’re
listening to CKTZ, Cortes Community
Radio, at 89.5 FM. So does this look the same? -The island?
-Yeah. -Always the same.
-Really? -Yeah.
-Nothing much changes here? No. [Mark] As a boy, Cristiano spent
his summers with his father on Cortes Island. The house we’re going to now
is your father’s first house? Yeah, when he moved here in the
’80s, for a while he lived in a boat house, then
he bought a real house. And was this the house you would
have stayed, in this house? [Knocking]
Yeah. -Hi.
-Hi. -Is Trude in?
-Trude! -Oh my goodness!
-Long time. Ahh, I haven’t seen you in ages.
Hi! How are you? [Mark] His parents soon split. His mother took
Cristiano back to Italy. His father found what he
thought was an island paradise. I don’t know if you knew that
but he had the only bathtub, the only running water bathtub in
the neighbourhood and everyone came to use it. Yeah. I spent two or three
summers here in this house. [Mark] Has it changed much? Yes, it’s changed, because
there was a bed over there. When my father
arrived, we had a dog. I think he’s
buried in the garden. [Mark] His father Stefano
inherited a family fortune, but his true passion was his art. And Cortes Island was his muse. It’s also the backdrop
for his unsolved murder. [Mark] Why don’t you tell Trude
what you’ve come here to do? I put a reward to find
out what was happened. Oh definitely, yes. [Mark] He’s going to offer a
$10,000 reward for any information that can help
solve the crime, the mystery. Yes, it has to be found out.
This is ridiculous! He was such a
gentle person, you know. I liked your father very much. Thank you, thank you. It’s important. Richard, were you here at
the time of Stefano’s murder? Yeah. What kind of impact did
that have on the island? Ahh, you know, it’s one of those
things that people talk about as though– when
everything changed. [Mark] What changed after his– Well, it brings a spectre
of the outside world here. You find out you’re much closer
than you think to all the stuff we think we’re leaving behind. Right. It’ll– it’ll find you. [Quick banjo music playing] [Mark] Faced with a cold case,
Cristiano hired a lawyer, and went to Interpol to put pressure
on the RCMP to reignite what seems like a
stalled investigation. He hopes money will light
a fire under his father’s unsolved murder. [man] Gordon! Gordon! -Hi, ciao Gordon.
-Ciao. Nice to see you. [Laughter] What it’s been, eight years? -Nine years?
-Nine years! Nine years and you know, nothing
really has happened, the RCMP isn’t doing anything, and for
like his son, for his friends, it’s all very frustrating not to
have any resolution, you know? -Yeah.
-Mmm-hmm. [Mark] People on the island
have their own theories about the murder. Maybe drug dealers
were involved. Another theory is that Stefano’s
family wealth was mafia built, so his murder was a hit. Ciao! [Mark] Then we run into an old
friend of Stefano’s who also comes from Italy. Everyone’s got a theory? Everybody’s got a theory. I mean, every Canadian here
thinks about the mafia, right? -You know?
-I know. He thinks, he thinks the
mafia theory is bullshit. Yeah, well, me too. [Both hemming, hawing] I mean, I should know. [Mark] Everywhere Cristiano
goes he’s greeted as his father’s son. So good to see you. Just came here to make pressure,
and, ahh, to find out… To see what you can find out. -Yeah.
-I know. I hope you can
resolve this issue. Yes, we will. [Mark] Has there been any
speculation on the island? Well, I mean, it was a long
time ago, I don’t really want to comment on it. I mean, all I know is nothing. [Mark] But do you think somebody
on the island does know? I do not know.
I do not know. And I mean, if I say
something, I’m speculating. [Mark] Cristiano gets back to
work putting up reward posters. But off-camera, we are
told he won’t find what he’s looking for here. [♪♪] I think it’s changed
the mood of the island. [Mark] How has the
mood changed for you? People are totally different. In what way? Has the island
lost its innocence? Yeah, probably it
was only a mirage, no? This innocence, but people were
totally different, I feel it. [♪♪] Where was your dad’s place? Over there. It’s that bluff. [Mark] And that’s where
the murder took place. Yep. [Mark] Stefano lived
there with his wife Abigail. A sprawling property with
two cabins and a studio. After he died, she inherited the
property, and the Canadian side of Stefano’s fortune. They married in Cuba
in the late 1990s. Afterwards, Abigail and her
young son Samuel moved to Cortes Island, and soon
became part of the fabric of the island community. This is Thunder Road. -This is Thunder Road?
-Yeah. This is where your
dad’s place was. Yeah. Up here. Your father’s widow,
Abigail, she must be here. I guess so. Do you want to see her? I prefer not. There’s nothing you
want to say to her? No. It’s complicated. [♪♪] [Mark] Seems there are bad
memories around every corner. So Cristiano goes in search of
some good ones, visiting one of his father’s old girlfriends. Here is Ester.
Yeah. Hello? Ciao, Ester! -Hi, Cristiano.
-Ciao, ciao, ciao! Good to see you.
How you doing? Fine, thank you very much. I have a lot of good memories. We shared so many
adventures together. It was beautiful, beautiful. I had a great time. Let me ask you this,
did he have any enemies? Not everybody liked him. Stefano was a very complex man. He had a complex personality. Many women would just fall
in love with him because he was charming,
he was irresistible. But that said, he was always… ..there was a part
of him that… My God, this is
difficult to say… He just– He, um, he had a control issue. Sometimes that would
trigger a quarrel. Yeah, it was kind
of old style also. But were you ever
afraid of him? I wasn’t afraid of him. No. Esther, do you think there is
someone on Cortes Island today who knows the truth? -Definitely.
-Yeah? Definitely. I think it must have been
someone who knew the place where Stefano lived, because it was a
very large property and you had to know, you know,
the house where Stefano was sleeping, because there
were different buildings. -Somebody who knew him.
-Who knew him. Yeah. In Italy, we used to
call it cold blood murder. So, if you kill somebody
in his bed when he’s sleeping… It’s another thing. It’s much more evil. [♪♪] [Mark] It sounded like your dad
Stefano was a complicated guy. Yeah, he was, he was. Some people say great things
about him, some people say not so great things about him. [Mark] Cristiano tells me he
reconnected with his father only three months before the murder. I cannot say he was the
best father in the world. I cannot say it. We had a very
difficult relationship. Anyway, that’s the fact. [male reporter] Late this
afternoon, police could be seen at the property of
Stefano Savioli. A man islanders say was
a popular island artist. [Mark] In the days after the
murder, the RCMP sent its major crimes team here. Police divers searched the
harbours for a murder weapon. They spent weeks collecting
evidence and then eventually, it all went silent. Have they given you any
idea whether a suspect, -they have a suspect?
-No. -Or there’s a suspect?
-No, no. -On the island, off the island?
-No. In Italy, in Canada? They didn’t give me
any idea about… ..about nothing. But they give me a brochure. A brochure? Yeah, for, uh, helping the
family victims of homicides. But it’s a joke.
Okay? [Mark] We wanted to know more
about the relationship between Stefano and his wife Abigail. And that took us
to Bertha Jeffery. She runs one of the few
grocery stores on the island. A popular meeting place
where Abigail once worked. What impact did Stefano’s
murder have on the community? Um, quite a bit. I think at first it drew the
community together a bit because we were all concerned for Abby
and what had happened and stuff. [Mark] And she admits she
also wanted to believe the Italian mafia theory. We want it to be somebody
from over there because we don’t want it
to be one of us. Why not? Because that would
mean that someone is living amongst us that
does that sort of thing. It would be easier to believe
it was somebody out there than somebody on our island. Tell me about, at the time of
Stefano’s murder, what do you remember about Abby and–
-What I remember? Yeah, and the impact on Abby. She did come here and stay
with me for a couple of days. She was really upset, she was
just broken up and for months afterwards she
was broken, right? Well let me ask you,
because I know you and Abby had a good relationship.
-Mmm-hmm. Had she told you any concern
that she had about Stefano, about…in their relationship? Never. But was he controlling, in terms
of his relationship with Abby? -I think, a little bit.
-Mmm-hmm. But, you know, he came
from a generation that was more controlling. It’s…Abby seemed to… ..be okay with it. I think it bothered her at
times that he was controlling. [♪♪] [Mark] There’s a good reason
we’re asking about Stefano’s relationships. It’s something that we
learned last year. Before he met Abigail, Stefano
lived with a woman named Carla Capelli,
and her young son. [Mark] Our producer, who has a
cabin on Cortes Island, was told to contact her. Yes. [Mark] She says she was
threatened once, because she didn’t make Stefano’s
lunch the way he wanted it. An axe? [Mark] When we come back… Who that young boy grew
up to be, and his current connection to Abigail. Marco is Abigail’s
new partner. [Mark] And what the
neighbors heard that night. There was two people there on
the property when it happened. [♪♪] [♪♪] People are drawn by the sort of
lawless nature of this place. I think it’s the idea that we
can govern ourselves in some small way. And that– and that, there is
sort of a moral law that is here that has to do with
taking care of each other. [Mark] Did Stefano Savioli
violate the island’s moral law? Why did someone kill him in
his clifftop cabin in 2010, and if people here truly
do take care of each other, why has the killer walked free? When you spoke to him
did he tell you that he was concerned about his safety,
he was worried? No, never.
Never, never, never. [Mark] Stefano’s son Cristiano
has come back to Cortes with a $10,000 reward
for information leading to an arrest in the case. What’s the last thing you
remember saying to your dad? He called me at about 9:00. [Mark] This was the
night he died? Yeah. Oh, I didn’t know that. He said to me, “Cristiano,
please, do me a favour, “start to enjoy life. “It’s time to…have fun.” Something like that. And that’s the last thing
he pretty much said to you? Yeah. [Mark] Hours after they spoke,
Stefano was murdered in the loft where he slept. The cause of death has never
been released but it was clearly a brutal attack. Police found blood
splatter on the rafters. [man] I didn’t hear anything,
I didn’t see anything. He had his wallet on him still. Nothing got stolen. [Mark] Leo Templar was living
just down the way the night of the murder. There was two people there on
the property when it happened. Okay, Abigail’s son. And a local kid. Those two guys were in the cabin
next door, when he got killed. Somehow they discovered him. And they didn’t hear anything. [Mark] Samuel, Stefano’s
stepson, was 16 at the time. He was living in the
cabin next to the murder scene. His mother Abigail was
off the island that night. We first contacted both
Samuel and his friend last year. They wouldn’t talk to us. Then we got this
call from Abigail. [Mark] Abigail’s boyfriend
Marco Fisch followed up with unsettling emails
to our producer. “Do you think anyone cares
about the past?” “I will oppose you,” he said,
“with all means necessary and no regards. “If I see you on Cortes, and I
find out you are researching, “I will combat you. “Try me.” He fired off a
shot by text, too. [Mark] We were certainly at the
Fifth Estate told, “Don’t stick your nose into what’s
happened on this island.” Mmm-hmm, there’s the people
you’re not allowed to talk about, it’s none of your
business, you know, and then the other people are saying, “Well
that’s our community, and there was a murder in our community
and we want it solved,” right? The side of the community that
says it’s none of your business and we shouldn’t talk about
it, what is driving that? It’s all about secrecy and you
don’t wanna tell anybody about what you know. But that sounds
like a cover up to me. It does to me too. [Mark] The RCMP spoke to
Abigail, Samuel and others right after the murder, but they
wouldn’t tell Cristiano where their investigation
was heading. I tried to understand if they
have a suspect or not…ugh. And what did they tell you
do they have a main suspect? Do you know? Maybe, but I can’t tell you. Ah, that’s what
they said to you? Yeah, always the same. [Mark] But that was in 2010. We wanted to know where the
investigation stands now. [Phone ringing] [Mark] The RCMP declined our
repeated interview requests. So we took them to court. It took a year, but just as we
arrived on Cortes Island a judge ordered the RCMP to
release these police documents. Redacted, redacted, redacted. I see four witness statements. The 911 call. Samuel called 911
at 8:34 AM, saying he’d discovered Stefano’s
lifeless body. The RCMP also discovered crime
scene evidence at the cabin next door. On a wicker style chair near the
back door they’ve seized a piece of information. This is a piece of evidence that
is found beside the crime scene where Samuel
was sleeping that night. But the documents
reveal much more. What appears to be a
botched investigation, search warrants so sloppy a
judge initially rejected them. Blood, bodily fluids. As well as items seized
at the crime scene that went untested for years. [man] They had evidence with
blood samples on it, and it wasn’t tested for three years,
neither for DNA, hair, or blood. And, you know, to me, those are
pivotal because it could contain the DNA of someone else at the
scene, other than the victim which could lead to an arrest. [Mark] And then we see it… Oh, Mark this is incredible. [Mark] The RCMP stated
they have a suspect. The name is withheld but the
documents point to the suspect being from Cortes Island. But in 2015 the
investigation went dormant. But for several
years nothing was done. [Mark] The RCMP called
it “strategic inactivity”. We pressed the investigator,
Sergeant Kevin McLaughlin, for answers. From the outside looking in, it
almost gives us the impression that there’s just been some
flaws in the investigation. So this isn’t a period of
strategic inactivity, you are currently actively
working on this case? [Mark] So who is
the RCMP’s suspect? Well, it turns out years ago,
Abigail told Bertha who the Mounties suspected. I think when the police accused
Samuel of it, that totally… [She sighs] Okay you’re telling me
something I don’t know, so. Tell me about that. What did the police tell her? They accused Samuel of doing it. -Her son.
-Yeah. She was really offended by that. I don’t think she ever wanted to
talk to the police or anything after that, right? [Mark] So we went
back to Samuel. We emailed him, saying, “We
plan to report that the RCMP consider you the suspect in
the murder of Stefano.” His response? How’d you get my email address? [Phone ringing] So we followed up
with a phone call. [Samuel] Hello? Hi, Samuel, it’s Mark Kelley
calling from the Fifth Estate, how are you? He hung up. [Mark] Samuel’s mother Abigail
has repeatedly refused our requests to talk to her. Her boyfriend Marco
Fisch says they’ve decided to move on. [Mark] Somebody told me the
other day, “We don’t need the RCMP, we take
care of our own”. We, Cortes is not
a separate entity. We are part of Canada, we
abide by the laws of Canada. And it’s not okay to murder
somebody regardless of what has gone on or whatever. A cold-blooded murder like this
is just not okay. I came here to close this file. It is not easy, to live with
this file open. [Mark] For Cristiano Savioli,
justice now seems as remote as this island. It was Cortes that brought him
closer together with his father. And now his fight for justice
is keeping them together. I would like to come back one
day with my son and show him Cortes Island as
I knew Cortes Island. [Mark] We would return
to Cortes island weeks later and in location after location,
the reward posters Cristiano came from Italy to put
up were torn down. [♪♪]

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