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Phoenix's stepfather too angry, inquiry told

Probation officer feared being alone with him

Kim Edwards: conflicting testimony

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Kim Edwards: conflicting testimony (BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES)

Phoenix Sinclair's stepfather/murderer was such a volatile and angry man, his probation officer didn't want be alone in a room with him.

"My concern was he might be violent in my office," Miriam Browne testified Wednesday at the inquiry into the death of the little girl in care.

Request to subpoena welfare records denied

A request to subpoena the welfare records of the woman who cared for Phoenix Sinclair during most of the little girl's short life was denied by the man heading the inquiry into her death.

Justice Ted Hughes Wednesday turned down the lawyer representing several child-welfare authorities. Kris Saxberg asked for the information last week after Kim Edwards' testimony conflicted with testimony from her ex-husband, Rohan Stephenson.

The couple who cared for Phoenix most of the time since she was born in 2000 separated in 2002. Edwards said she lived in their Selkirk Avenue home when Winnipeg Child and Family Services approved it as an official place of safety for Phoenix in 2003. Stephenson told the inquiry earlier he was living in the home at that time and Edwards was not but she still picked up her mail there, including welfare cheques.

Saxberg told the inquiry last week he wanted to see her welfare records to clarify who was living in the home. On Wednesday, Hughes said Edwards' employment and income assistance records were irrelevant to the purpose of the inquiry.

"...More importantly, this inquiry is not a trial and neither Kim Edwards nor Rohan Stephenson are on trial," Hughes said.

The former probation officer with the domestic violence unit is now the registrar-executive director of the Manitoba Institute of Registered Social Workers. Browne testified about legislation to regulate the social work profession in Manitoba and her role as Karl McKay's probation officer in 1999.

In 2011, the province ordered an inquiry to examine how Phoenix fell through Manitoba's child welfare safety net. Phoenix's mother, Samantha Kematch, and her boyfriend, McKay, killed Phoenix in 2005 but her death wasn't discovered until 2006. They were convicted of first-degree murder in 2008.

Long before meeting Kematch, McKay was a violent man known to Child and Family Services, said his former probation officer, who recalled meeting him more than a decade ago.

"I certainly felt that day that he was a very angry person and that my safety was at risk, and that it would not be safe for one individual to meet with him in the future," said Browne.

She wrote a warning letter to Child and Family Services about McKay, who was on probation for beating his former spouses.

It said he was at a "high risk to reoffend in a violent fashion" and that children have been present when he was violent.

"We have serious concern for the safety of (the woman) and her children," the letter said.

The inquiry has heard that when Phoenix's mother resumed caring for the four-year-old in 2004, Kematch told a CFS social worker her boyfriend was a trucker who stayed with her when he was in Winnipeg. That man was McKay, but the CFS intake worker didn't ask for his name or check to see if he had any prior involvement with the agency.

Browne testified she wrote the letter to CFS about McKay because he was such a threat and she wanted to make sure CFS knew that.

"Its purpose was to formally document our concerns to the child-welfare agency responsible for dealing with his significant other and their children."

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 9:53 AM CST:
replaces photo, adds fact box

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