PICTOU – A Pictou County man made his first court appearance in Pictou Thursday on murder and kidnapping charges in connection with the death of Amber Kirwan. Twenty-nine-year-old Chris Alexander Falconer, who was clean-shaven, wearing a blue shirt, jeans and heavy green jacket, walked through the back door of the Pictou Justice Centre in handcuffs surrounded by sheriffs and RCMP officers.
He was arraigned on a first-degree murder charge that allegedly took place between Oct. 9 and Nov. 5 and a kidnapping charge that allegedly occurred on Oct. 9 at or near New Glasgow.
Falconer was arrested Wednesday at Dorchester Penitentiary where he is serving time for a parole violation in connection with a second degree murder conviction unrelated to the Kirwan homicide. Police also arrested a second person on Wednesday who was released without charges later in the day.
The news of Falconer’s arrest was announced during a highly anticipated press conference at the New Glasgow Police Services at 9 a.m. Thursday, about two hours before the accused stood before Judge Del Atwood in Pictou provincial court for his arraignment.
At the press conference, both New Glasgow Police Chief Delaney Chisholm and RCMP Superintendent Darrell Beaton said they were happy to finally be able to make an announcement in the case.
“Today’s charges are the result of a lengthy and thorough investigation using a wide variety of modern day investigative techniques and forensic science technology,” said Beaton. “We hope that today’s arrest is a step forward in the healing process for Amber’s family and the entire community.”
Police confirmed yesterday that Falconer was a suspect early on in the investigation. He was arrested in November on the parole violation because he had a knife, marijuana cigarettes and a .22 calibre magazine in his possession. However, police would not confirm at the time that his arrest had anything to do with the Kirwan investigation.
Kirwan was reported missing to police on Oct. 9. She had been out the night before with friends at Dooly’s in New Glasgow and was supposed to meet her boyfriend Mason Campbell at Big Al’s. Following an intense investigation and search that involved multiple agencies and members of the public, police discovered Kirwan’s remains on Nov. 5 in a wooded lot in Heathbell.
Police said neither Amber nor Campbell appear to have known Falconer.
"To the best of my knowledge there was no connection," Beaton said.
As word spread through the community that Falconer would be arraigned in provincial court yesterday, about 20 people gathered in the courthouse parking lot at different times to catch a glimpse of the accused. Falconer was escorted to the courthouse by RCMP officers, but was taken to the Burnside Correctional Facility until May 28 by the sheriff’s department.
During his brief court appearance, Falconer asked that he be remanded back to Dorchester Penitentiary, but provincial Judge Del Atwood opposed this request, adding the issue could be looked at again during the May 28 court date.
Falconer is expected to be represented by legal counsel during his next court appearance. Local legal aid lawyer Doug Lloy acted as temporary counsel Thursday, explaining that the accused has been in talks with Halifax lawyer Michael Taylor.
The court had originally set a return date of May 28, but Falconer said he would like more time to work things out with Taylor, so June 18 was marked down. However, after Falconer returned to cells in the back of the courthouse, Lloy informed the court that Falconer had changed his mind and wanted to return to court May 28 after all.
“Upon reflection, May 28 might be OK,” said Lloy. “He had some dialogue started with Mr. Taylor and he may want to finish that.”
Crown attorney Bill Gorman said the matter is adjourned so Falconer can retain counsel, determine whether he will seek a preliminary inquiry and if he will be applying for bail.
He added he doesn’t expect that Falconer will enter a plea on May 28, but that will depend on consultation between the accused and his legal counsel.
Gorman said the case is not complicated by the fact that Falconer is already in prison on another murder conviction.
“A murder prosecution is a murder prosecution,” he said.
As the crowd dispersed from the court, three woman who had gotten to know Falconer while he was out on parole from May to November, said they were surprised to hear he was charged in connection with the Kirwan case.
“I never expected that to come of him,” said Brittany Robson, whose sister Tiffany started dating Falconer a week after Kirwan was reported missing.
Tiffany said she hasn’t had any contact with Falconer since he returned to Dorchester Penitentiary and it was only by chance that she was at the courthouse on the same day that Falconer was being arraigned on these charges.
“We heard it on the radio on our way down here,” said Brittany.
The women described Falconer as a “teddy bear” who they say was always happy and nice, often giving hugs and kisses when they saw him.
Nova Scotia's justice minister says the province will not be reviewing the granting of parole to Falconer after the 29-year old was charged with the murder of Kirwan. Ross Landry said Falconer's parole is a matter of federal jurisdiction. "I will talk on the procedures within Nova Scotia, that if an incident of that nature occurred here we would review all processes," Landry said Thursday. "And I expect within the federal government that their processes would deem that a review of those steps would be taken. To what level (the review) would be is up to them." Falconer was serving a life sentence for the murder of a cab driver in Heathbell in 1998. He was released on parole in May 2011.