An undercover Calgary police officer testified about how a sting operation helped find the bodies of the victims at Robert Leeming’s trial on Thursday.
Leeming, a 36-year-old U.K. citizen, has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Calgary mother Jasmine Lovett, 25, but not guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Lovett’s daughter, 22-month-old Aliyah Sanderson, in 2019.
Leeming arrived at court in a grey sweatshirt, his full beard poking out of his blue mask and his eyes downcast.
The undercover officer, who cannot be named due to a publication ban, detailed Operation Highwood, the 4.5-hour sting where Leeming led two undercover officers to Lovett and Sanderson’s bodies.
Court listened to hours of audio from the operation and heard the officers first made contact with Leeming on May 5, 2019, at around 7 p.m. near Sobeys Liquor at Cranberry Road and Cranston Avenue S.E.
The sting’s premise was a nosy neighbour found a bag of evidence, and the undercover officers offered to help Leeming take care of it. The officers told Leeming they recognized him because of his interviews with journalists and thought the evidence might be important to him.
As Leeming waited to cross the street, the officer and his partner approached him and started talking.
Leeming appeared sober and alert, the officer said.
“He was very engaged in our conversation and provided intelligent answers,” the undercover officer told court.
The three visited a variety of locations in Calgary and west of the city.
The officer said on the tapes: “You’re the dude from the news. You’re like a f***ing rockstar.”
Leeming replies: “Hardly… There’s nothing rockstar about my f***ing life right now, I’ll tell you that.”
They invited Leeming to sit on a bench outside a coffee shop and talk. Leeming asked if they were police officers, which they denied.
“I’ve had my life turned upside down,” Leeming said.
The officers offered to take Leeming for a ride in their truck, and he agreed to go for a beer.
To build trust, officers shared stories that showed police in a negative light and advice on how to stay inconspicuous.
Leeming was “relaxed” and “jovial,” the officer told court.
“We were sharing stories back and forth, and having a bit of a laugh throughout,” he said.
They left the pub and took the truck to a “covert location” — a warehouse — arriving there about one hour and 15 minutes after meeting.
They tried to work out a deal and “figure out how to garner trust,” the officer told court.
Leeming gave one of the officers a handmade knife as a gift — something of value to him.
The officers showed Leeming their arsenal of guns to build trust, though they noted the weapons did not work. He told court they were not trying to intimidate Leeming but instead trying to show him their criminal background.
It’s a “dirt on dirt mentality,” the officer told court.
Leeming said: “I don’t know how it works here in this country or… if I ask if you’re cops, you have to tell me, right?”
“Yes,” one officer responded, though that is not a law in Canada.
Leeming explained to the officers that he put bacon in his basement for misdirection.
“Pork is the closest thing to people in the way that dogs react to them,” he said, “and that’s why they’re pissed off.”
“Not to throw ‘em off, just (indiscernible) they said, ‘We’re going to come in with cadaver dogs,’ so I thought, ‘Well, that’s interesting.'”
They made a deal, shaking hands and agreeing to share information with each other.
Leeming said: “They are looking very, very far away from where they should be.”
The trio looked at a map on a phone.
“What are we looking for? Them?” an officer asked.
“You’ll never have to worry about it again,” the officer said.
Leeming shook hands with both, and they agreed to drive to where the bodies were.
When asked why he picked that specific place in Kananaskis, Leeming said: “Never been there before. That’s why.”
The trial continues Friday morning.