RCMP in central Alberta have laid charges against a massage therapist after video of his female clients was allegedly discovered on a laptop computer.
Didsbury RCMP launched an investigation on Monday after being contacted by an IT professional who said he discovered files of concern while repairing a laptop for a client. The computer technician gave RCMP the laptop to inspect.
Two days later, RCMP charged Mark Henning Oliver Blessmann with two counts of voyeurism.
Then, on Thursday, RCMP executed a search warrant on the massage therapy clinic Blessmann operates in Carstairs, Alta. called Blessmann’s Day Spa.
In a news release, RCMP said it’s believed that the video recordings were made “without the knowledge or consent” of the clients.
Global News spoke with Glen Harrison Thursday, who said he is the tech who found the files on Blessmann’s computer.
“From what I saw, it looked like it was recording from beginning to end of massage sessions. Both people would be in the room, they’d talk and do paper for a little bit and then the guy doing the massage would leave the room.”
Harrison said the person getting the massage “would get undressed in front of the camera — not knowing there was a camera there obviously.
“Then the light would go out, the massage would happen and an hour later, everyone would leave and that was the end of the video.”
According to RCMP, “specialized investigators from the RCMP Tech Crimes unit will continue to analyze the computer files and clinic records to identify those clients who were victimized. Investigators will be in contact with any identified victims.”
RCMP said additional charges may be laid as the investigation continues.
Harrison estimates between 900 to 1,000 videos were on Blessmann’s computer.
The computer tech told Global News he was not sure what to do when he first saw the files.
“I guess my first reaction as trying to rationalize why somebody would do this – I was thinking maybe he had done it for his own protection in case somebody accused him of something.”
Harrison said eventually he came to a conclusion.
Jim Walker said he and his wife were both clients at Blessmann’s Day Spa and are concerned.
“We wonder if there are pictures of us and what’s going on there?
“Honestly, it makes me sad,” friend and neighbour of Blessmann, Tracie Verbruggen, said.
“I can’t honestly say my first emotion was anger — it was just abject sadness.”
The Massage Therapist Association of Alberta says it has been notified of the allegations and has suspended Blessmann’s licence to practice.
Blessmann is scheduled to appear in Didsbury Provincial Court on Nov. 6.
The town of Carstairs is located about 45 kilometres north of Calgary.
With files from Tony Tighe