30 years later
Rick Madonik, Staff Photographer
This week, the Sweet family stepped forward. For 30 years they remained silent, but the day parole of a murderer - a cop killer - brought four women out in front of the cameras.
They are the daughters (Nicole, Kim and Jennifer), and wife (Karen (Sweet) Fraser) of Toronto Police constable Michael Sweet who died when he attended a robbery call at George's Bourbon Street Bistro on Queen West in early 1980. The two robbers, the Munroe brothers, were both convicted. The younger of the two brothers, James Munroe was paroled in the early 90s after serving his time on a 2nd degree murder conviction. The other, Craig, remains within the system on a life sentence for 1st degree murder. But he was recently granted some day parole excursions which brought a family which lived out of the media spotlight, back towards it.
Thirty years ago I was still trying to figure out what I would do with my work life. But the news junkie in me remembers this case, along with some other high profile crime cases which transpired decades ago. I remember the controversy which arose from the stand-off. I remember the fact three young girls (ages between 1 and 5 or 6) would have to come to terms with a missing dad. I remember how the tragedy grew when the public later learned PC Sweet bled to death (his captors refused to allow him to be taken to hospital) while police tried to negotiate with the two brothers who were now holed up.
Had proper medical attention not been delayed, perhaps 3 kids and a young wife would have led a very different life. It was a tragedy that spun into something worse. Today, it comes back - if not to haunt them - but surely to revisit long held wounds.
The press conference was a bit surreal. Here, for the first time, the women spoke out. They spoke about the Parole Board's decision and a little about the murder 30 years ago. All of them remained on-script, as difficult as it may have been.
It was one of those moments I couldn't help but think how these women's lives could have been different if just a few factors were different. Through my lens I saw four strong, composed women who carried the past and now faced the task of going public to keep one of the men who drastically changed their lives, behind bars. In my head, I kept seeing four young girls and a young widow.
As I sat through the end of the press conference I had only one thought. I hope the family can steal their way back out of the limelight. For three decades they have dealt with their pain, and loss, in private. Perhaps, they can slip back to it sometime soon.