On September 29, 1987, a break-in occurred in the bedroom of a 15-year-old girl. The perpetrator wielded a knife and was about to assault her when her mother intervened. The victim’s mother saw the assailant for seconds in a dark room as he bolted from their home and drove away in a white car. This eyewitness testimony would lead 19-year-old Anthony Hanemaayer into a nightmare from which he hasn’t fully awakened.
The victim’s mother described her daughter’s assailant as having blonde hair, blue eyes, small ears, and a baby face. Armed with this knowledge she conducted her own investigation. She learned that there was a construction company working in the area and telephoned its office to inquire as to whether they employed anyone who fit the assailant’s description. She was told that the description sounded like it could be Anthony Hanemaayer. She provided the police with the information she had uncovered, and after she identified Mr. Hanemaayer from a photo line-up, the police arrested him at his Newmarket, Ontario home and charged him with break and enter, and assault. Mr. Hanemaayer did not own a white car, and never drove his black Firebird to the construction site, preferring instead to travel with the other workers in a company truck. It is also worth noting that Mr. Hanemaayer quit his construction job five days prior to the assault.
Mr. Hanemaayer was married, but the stress created by the accusation and the prospect of standing trial destroyed his marriage. He was fortunate to have a loving mother, father and brother. However, they did not have any experience with the justice system, and trustingly assumed it would find that Mr. Hanemaayer did not commit such a heinous and violent crime.
Prior to trial, Mr. Hanemaayer had been offered two deals by the crown, but he refused both at that stage of the proceedings. During the first day of his trial, the victim’s mother positively identified him as the individual she prevented from furthering his attack on her daughter. After this testimony, it became abundantly clear that in all likelihood, Mr. Hanemaayer would be found guilty. His lawyer advised him to take the new two-year deal that was being offered, or he would undoubtedly be convicted and face six to 10 years in prison. Mr. Hanemaayer once again refused to accept a deal for a crime he did not commit. When trial proceeded on the second day, he realized that he was doomed. Scared, confused, and feeling hopeless, he accepted the deal and confessed to a crime he did not commit.
After being released, Mr. Hanemaayer tried to move on with his life but the dark cloud of being convicted of a crime he not only did not commit but also couldn’t conceivably ever imagine committing, kept him from attaining happiness in his personal life. He married again, fathered two children, and divorced.
Finally, he got a break. The Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted (AIDWYC), now Innocence Canada lawyers James Lockyer and Joanne McLean were reviewing disclosure in preparation for the second trial of another wrongly accused, Robert Baltovich. They discovered that in 2006 Paul Bernardo had confessed to a break and enter and assault which was precisely the break and enter for which Mr. Hanemaayer had been convicted. Even though police officers had visited Mr. Hanemaayer in 2006, after Paul Bernardo confessed, they never divulged that information to him. And until AIDWYC contacted Mr. Hanemaayer, no one from the Crown’s office had advised him of this information.
Innocence Canada took up Mr. Hanemaayer’s case in early 2008, and on June 25, 2008 in the Ontario Court of Appeal, Anthony Hanemaayer, flanked by his lawyers, family and supporters, was acquitted of a crime he never committed. At a press conference following his acquittal, Mr. Hanemaayer, his mother, father, and lawyer James Lockyer spoke about the tragedy of his case and pleaded for an investigation to be conducted on all cases connected to Paul Bernardo.
James Lockyer also spoke about the unreliability of eyewitness identifications and hoped that the Hanemaayer case would once again alert the Crown of the dangers of building prosecutions on them.
Anthony Hanemaayer was overwhelmed but relieved that finally the truth had been revealed. He described the past twenty-one years of his life as being “one living hell ride.”
Since his acquittal Anthony has tried to move on with his life, however it has not been easy as each day brings new challenges.
Sadly, Anthony Hanemaayer’s beloved mother and staunchest supporter, Wilma passed away of cancer on March 29, 2015.
Anthony, like many of the wrongly convicted has found that the ‘court of public opinion’ is difficult to face as people armed with little knowledge of his case are quick to speculate, judge and convict. The nightmare never truly seems to end.
One of the other harsh realities of Anthony’s life is that he must live with the stigma of having his named linked forever with one of Canada’s most notorious and despised criminals. But he is determined to move on with his life and hopes that the days and years ahead will be far brighter and more rewarding then the painful past.
Anthony finds an outlet to the pain and anguish he has suffered through writing poetry. In the poem below Anthony expresses life after conviction and exoneration.
By Anthony Hanemaayer
How can a “sorry” reverse the damage done?
Within my being, the demons and ghosts haunt my every breath, my every action
A life of irreversible suffering, nightmares, shattered dreams
Faith, a distant hope, an illusion
What will become of me?
How can I look to the future when I have been robbed of all that I was?
All that I could have become?
My life stolen.
Where is the justice? How can a wrong be made right?
Faith and hope no more, separated from society
Withdrawn from the world, so I ask