The family of a senior attacked with a machete in downtown Courtenay has been told by RCMP that without more evidence, there may never be charges laid in the case.
Eighty-nine-year-old Bob Plumb was viciously assaulted in the early morning hours of July 31, 2019, as he waited for his newspaper bundle to arrive so he could do his daily deliveries.
According to the police report, Plumb was inside his vehicle parked on the 400-block of 5th Street at approximately 4:15 a.m., when he was approached by a man on a bicycle who asked him for a cigarette.
Plumb told the man that he did not have any cigarettes before the man assaulted him with what appeared to be a machete.
The attack resulted in numerous surgeries over the course of a three-month stay in hospital. Plumb lost sight in one eye, and lost the use of his right hand, due to severed tendons.
On June 12, 2021, Bob Plumb died. His family has no doubt that the attack played a part in his passing.
“It definitely had a lot to do with it; it took years off of his life,” his granddaughter, Janelle Karatsikis told the Comox Valley Record. “He never fully recovered. He was very independent before that attack. He drove down to Qualicum the day before the attack, to visit me and his great-grandkids. But he needed home care four times a day after that attack, and in the last year of his life, (family) was there multiple times a day, on top of the private support we were paying for, just to keep him safe.”
Shortly after Bob’s death, the family received some crushing news from the RCMP.
“They told us that at this time, no arrests will be made,’ said Karatsikis. “My feeling is that the door is (closing on the investigation). There’s not enough evidence.”
The lack of closure for the family is the hardest thing to handle.
“There’s definitely a lack of closure, and the timing of the news was hard because we had recently lost Bob, but they explained why everything took so long. Everyone is traumatized and I feel even the police department is because they wanted to close the case too.”
Karatsikis said the police told the family there was a person of interest in the case, but not enough evidence could be gathered to present a solid case.
“It goes beyond them (the police),” said Karatsikis. “It goes to the Crown, and they decide. So you need quite a bit (of evidence). It’s tough, it’s very disheartening because what Bob always wanted was just to have that person off the street.”
Comox Valley RCMP media liaison, Const. Monika Terragni, told the Record they did make an arrest in the case.
“A suspect was identified during this investigation and in July 2020 the Comox Valley RCMP Major Crime Unit prepared a report to Crown counsel recommending criminal charges,” said Terragni. “Unfortunately, the evidence gathered did not meet the charge approval standards and charges against this individual were not approved.”
Terragni said the investigation forged on, in search of additional evidence.
“Over the last two years, investigators have examined surveillance footage from 39 locations, interviewed over 20 people, explored over 25 tips from members of the community, conducted surveillance, obtained multiple judicial authorizations including four search warrants, had key evidence examined by two separate forensic laboratories, and utilized the assistance from a specialized interview team from RCMP Headquarters in Surrey upon the eventual arrest of the suspect.
“Unfortunately, at this time, investigators have exhausted all known avenues of investigation. This does not mean that the investigation is closed forever; if new tips or new evidence and/or information is discovered it will be thoroughly investigated, whether that information is received tomorrow or years from now.”
Karatsikis said the family holds no ill-will toward the RCMP for not bringing anyone to justice. They understand that without solid evidence, there is no case.
“We totally respect them and their investigation. They have been great with us. It’s just unfortunate. It’s just the way things happened. We don’t blame them at all. We feel that they did everything they could, with what they had.”
Plumb’s family said everyone can learn from this tragedy.
“For us, it really shows that the community itself really needs to step up, and have video surveillance, because it’s not just for protecting yourself and your business, it’s for protecting members of the community,” said Karatsikis.
Terragni concurred, saying video surveillance data can contain crucial evidence when it comes to solidifying a case to the point of satisfying the courts.
“Video surveillance has proven very helpful in countless recent investigations here in the Comox Valley,” she told the Record. “It is very helpful to have a surveillance system with a clear image of people and/or vehicles and to know how to use your surveillance system so it does not become complicated if there ever comes a time when you need to provide video surveillance footage.
“Additionally, it is crucial to report suspicious activity to police – the more pieces of the puzzle we have, the easier it will be to put the entire puzzle together. Sometimes people think their piece of the puzzle is too small to report when in fact, it might be the last piece required to advance an investigation.”
Although the case has not produced a conviction, RCMP are grateful to the community for assisting in the investigation.
“The assistance received from local residents and businesses was extraordinarily helpful,” said Terragni. “It has been evident that it was not only the investigators who were invested in solving this crime but the entire community.”
Karatsikis said while they know the chances of resolution have dimmed, the family still holds out some hope that a conviction will occur.
“Nobody should have to go through what Bob went through, and it is really disheartening to have people either not come forward because they are scared, or whatever,” said Karatsikis. “I am sure that there are people who know names, but it’s just a matter of not having enough to convict somebody.
“But we just have to have faith that in one way or another, it will happen one day.”