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Drug dealers harassed N.L. premier's family: documents

Premier Dwight Ball speaks with reporters at Confederation Building on Wednesday.
Premier Dwight Ball

Dwight Ball tipped police to killer

Less than two months before the election that would make him premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, Dwight Ball tipped police that the prime suspect wanted for murder in a botched robbery could be his daughter’s boyfriend.

Ball was then leader of the Official Opposition and was preparing for the biggest political moment of his life.

According to court documents released Tuesday, he told police on Oct. 8, 2015 — five days after the killing — that his tires had recently been slashed and his credit cards fraudulently charged for tens of thousands of dollars.

He went to police three days after his daughter, Jade, had reported she was being harassed by a drug dealer for about $40,000 allegedly owed by her then-boyfriend, Brandon Phillips.

“Ms. Ball states since the harassment has started, the persons responsible have now been harassing her father for the money, and at one point, bought a car using her father’s stolen credit card number,” according to the documents.

Dwight Ball tipped investigators that Phillips could be the masked man shown on TV during a week-long manhunt. A jarring detail had caught his eye: the suspect on security images at the Captain’s Quarters hotel’s bar in St. John’s was wearing a black windbreaker matching one stolen from Ball.

Phillips also lived close to the crime scene where former firefighter Larry Wellman, 63, was killed Oct. 3, 2015, as he tried to stop the robbery. Wellman died of massive blood loss from a single gunshot to the groin.

A jury found Phillips, 29, guilty of second-degree murder earlier this month. He is due back in court Feb. 22 for a sentencing hearing.

Related stories:

Brandon Phillips guilty of second-degree murder

The murder trial of Brandon Phillips: what you need to know

Details leading to Phillips’ arrest, which did not come out during his trial, are part of information related to a search warrant that Ball went to court to keep secret. He has said through his lawyers the documents should be kept private to protect his daughter, who was not charged with any crime.

Ball argues in his application for a publication ban that his daughter’s “privacy and personal health interests outweigh in importance any right of access to the information” sought by media.

Ball was granted an interim injunction Dec. 4 for a publication ban until the matter could be heard in Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court. Lawyers for Ball, the CBC and other media agreed Tuesday to a partial lifting of the publication ban.

Arguments for keeping remaining details under wraps will be heard when the case is back in court Feb. 12.

Phillips was charged with first-degree murder the day after his apartment, a short walk from the Captain’s Quarters hotel, was searched on Oct. 10, 2015.

Ball’s application notes Jade Ball “was not the target of the investigation.” Neither Jade Ball nor the premier were called as witnesses at the trial held earlier this fall.

Dwight Ball told investigators on Oct. 8, 2015, that his daughter, then 29, had known Phillips for four or five years, and that they moved in together soon after meeting.

“Mr. Ball said at that point Jade and Brandon had a very serious drug problem” — particularly opiates, says the document, an Information to Obtain the search warrant. “Mr. Ball paid all outstanding bills (Jade and Brandon) had. Mr. Ball’s concern was to make them safe.”

Less than two months after reporting Phillips to police, Ball led the Liberals to a majority win on Nov. 30, 2015.

He was characteristically even-keeled in victory.

“I don’t overreact too much in my life,” he told reporters that night. “I try and remain steady as things go.”

More to come.

Full coverage in tomorrow's online and print offerings.

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