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Charges against alleged Alberta kidnapper span more than a year

Click to play video: 'Court documents show alleged kidnapper kept victim for over a year'
Court documents show alleged kidnapper kept victim for over a year
WATCH: We’re learning more about a man who is facing more than a dozen charges related to the alleged kidnapping, drugging and sexual assault of multiple women. As Elissa Carpenter reports, court documents paint a terrifying picture of Richard Mantha. – Apr 11, 2023

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story identified one of the interviewees who is a sex trade worker as Tracey. We regret the error.

More details are coming to light of the charges against 59-year-old Richard Mantha, the man accused of drugging, kidnapping and sexually assaulting sex trade workers from Calgary.

According to court documents, the charges connected to the property search east of Chestermere, Alta., stem from his interactions with three alleged victims.

For the first alleged victim, Mantha is accused of sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon, assault with a weapon, assault causing bodily harm, unlawful confinement and administering a noxious thing.

With the second alleged victim, he is accused of kidnapping/confinement, administering a noxious thing, sexual assault with a weapon, and threats of causing death or bodily harm.

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Mantha is alleged to have committed the crimes in relation to those two victims in April 2022.

The charges that allegedly stem from interactions with the third victim come from a much wider time range of August 2021 to November 2022. With that victim, Mantha is accused of sexual assault, unlawful confinement, threats of cause death or bodily harm and pointing a firearm.

A charge dated April 8, 2022, alleges Mantha committed a sexual assault while choking, strangling or suffocating the third victim.

None of these charges have been tried in court.

Click to play video: 'Calgary police charge man with kidnapping, sexual assault following rural property investigation'
Calgary police charge man with kidnapping, sexual assault following rural property investigation

These appear to be the only sexual assault-related charges Mantha has faced, according to court documents.

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He has previously been charged with and sentenced for unlawful possession of property obtained by crime.

And in 2016, Mantha was charged with unauthorized possession of a firearm, which he was sentenced for and had a one-year firearms prohibition. On the same date, Mantha was charged with uttering a threat, a charge that was also withdrawn.

His record also contains a trail of charges — some withdrawn — of failing to appear in court on a recognizance.

MRU justice studies professor Doug King wonders if Mantha’s record was caught between police and RCMP jurisdiction.

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“I think it’s something that the police are going to have to answer to: Why didn’t they pursue the individual in terms of outstanding warrants?” King said.

“Many, many people have outstanding warrants. What the general public doesn’t realize is that if (an individual) has an outstanding warrant, the police don’t just go drop everything and start searching for that individual and all those kinds of thing, unless it’s an extraordinarily serious kind of offence.”

Click to play video: '‘Beaten up badly’: Calgary sex trade workers describe increasing violence from clients'
‘Beaten up badly’: Calgary sex trade workers describe increasing violence from clients

Sex workers targeted: police

On Monday, police said Mantha appeared to be targeting sex trade workers.

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CPS Supt. Cliff O’Brien said police started to receive “small pieces of information” about the missing women and checked with partner agencies, who received similar “small pieces of information.”

“These investigations are like jigsaw puzzles,” he said Monday, noting the investigation is ongoing.

One outreach group that works to help women exit sex work said the allegations of abuse and assault of workers isn’t new to Calgary.

Click to play video: 'Calgary police charge man after targeting women working in the sex trade'
Calgary police charge man after targeting women working in the sex trade

“We deal with these kinds of cases on a weekly basis,” Jacquie Meyer of Her Victory told Global News. “We hear of women… being held, being assaulted, being taken outside of the city, being drugged, raped, beaten.

“I was not surprised, unfortunately.”

Meyer said she works closely with Calgary Police Service missing persons investigators regularly.

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“This has been a pattern, especially the last year and a half, that the girls that are involved in sex work and working in the sex trade have been going missing,” she said.

“So this is nothing new. This is why I wasn’t surprised.”

Taylor, a former sex worker, said she’s been abandoned in the countryside without a way to get home.

“The worst thing that has happened to me on stroll, when I used to be a working girl which was two years ago, someone left me in the middle of nowhere with no clothes on,” Taylor said.

“I found a ride. A nice guy to give me a ride home. This was in the middle of nowhere in the area of Chestermere.”

Click to play video: 'Alberta budget doesn’t go far enough to help sexual, domestic violence survivors: Advocates'
Alberta budget doesn’t go far enough to help sexual, domestic violence survivors: Advocates

To add insult to injury, Taylor wasn’t paid for the work she did that day.

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Dez, who still works in the sex trade, has faced similar abuse.

“Last summer I was brought out of town and beaten up badly,” Dez told Global News.

She is concerned about the recent news of her colleagues in the sex trade being kidnapped.

“A little scared that we might be next, I will be the next victim or something,” Dez said.

News like that gets around the sex trade community, a community that tries to look out for each other.

“Just a month ago, we had workers sort of warning us of a possible instance of workers being drugged and kidnaped and to watch out for anybody that was passed out and to not leave anybody by themselves,” Lula Blue, cofounder of the Thrive Hive support group.

Thrive started early in the COVID-19 pandemic with online meetings, and recently moved to in-person meetings at the SafeLink Alberta offices.

“So my colleagues have a really good way of communicating with each other to try to warn each other and keep each other safe. Without being able to talk openly with each other and communicate these safety issues, we’re put at more risk.”

Click to play video: '‘Priority file’: Calgary police search for suspect in four alleged sex assaults'
‘Priority file’: Calgary police search for suspect in four alleged sex assaults

Blue said despite Canada’s use of the “Nordic model” — making the purchase of sexual services illegal while allowing sex workers to sell their services – a stigma persists around sex work, exposing workers to violence and criminal behaviour.

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“Conflating sex work with sex trafficking is what often happens. And by conflating those two terms, we’re doing a disservice to both sex trafficking victims and sex workers as well,” Blue said.

That stigma extends to willingness to work with authorities.

Taylor said many of the sex trade workers she knows are scared of working with police.

“Because the police take things away from them,” Taylor said. “They take away the rights of the women, that we should have those rights and we should be able to make money without being labelled a ‘whore’ or a ‘hooker’ or a ‘slut.’

“But we shouldn’t be labelled, to be honest. It’s still work, it’s still a job.”

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