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OPP officer wrongfully arrested in Wayne Gretzky hockey stick theft files $6M lawsuit

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A long-time OPP officer is suing the Brantford Police Service (BPS) along with several of its officers after she said that she was falsely accused of stealing a signed hockey stick that Wayne Gretzky reportedly used to practice with in the backyard of his childhood home.

According to a statement of claim, Insp. June Dobson was a “long-time close friend” of Gretzky’s late father, Walter, who had gifted her the memorabilia.

The document says that in 2019 she was in need of additional money to support a family member and decided to sell the piece, known as the “Hespeler Stick,” and several other items she owned, to a Gretzky memorabilia collector.

Brantford police arrested Dobson on Dec. 7, 2020 after receiving a tip about a significant amount of Gretzky memorabilia being sold online. She was charged with fraud over $5,000 and breach of trust.

At the time of her arrest, Brantford police, the OPP, and the RCMP were in the midst of a three-month investigation after more than US$500,000-worth of Wayne Gretzky memorabilia was stolen from the hockey Hall-of-Famer's father's Brantford home.

In the statement of claim, Dobson’s legal team alleges that the joint investigation that led to her arrest, which occurred while she was on medical leave for PTSD, was “negligent” and “woefully inadequate,” adding that it was made “without reasonable and probable grounds.”

“The defendants had tunnel vision right from the beginning of the investigation. They were blinded by the fact that the investigation involved the Gretzky family and Wayne Gretzky memorabilia,” it said.

“The defendants relied solely on statements made by Walter Gretzky, who, by his children’s own admission in police interviews, had at the time been suffering from steadily declining cognitive function for many years, as well as statements made by Walter Gretzky’s children, who had a vested interest in having the Gretzky memorabilia returned.”

Among other things, the statement also noted that the Gretzky memorabilia collector was not interviewed as part of the investigation.

Following Dobson’s arrest, he provided police with a statement that said that he “did not believe then, nor [has he] ever believed that Ms. Dobson committed fraud against [him],” it noted.

The charges laid against Dobson were ultimately withdrawn by the Crown on August 12, 2021.

Nonetheless, she still had to contend with proceedings under the Police Services Act commenced against her by the OPP in the wake of the criminal case. Those charges weren’t resolved until several months later.

The statement of claim said that Dobson’s “wrongful arrest” has left her with “significant physical, psychological, economic and reputational injury.”

Dobson remains employed by the Ontario Provincial Police, but is currently on medical leave, according to her lawyer.

Walter Gretzky and June Dobson are seen in this undated photo.

She is seeking $250,000 in general damages, $5.5 million in damages for loss of income and loss of competitive advantage, $100,000 in special damages, including future care costs, and $500,000 for punitive, aggravated and/or exemplary damages.

Among the damages listed, the statement of claim suggests that Dobson's future job prospects, inside and outside of the OPP, were "compromised" because of the attention the criminal proceedings garnered.

The documents also suggest that she had planned to start an investigative business, after retiring from the OPP, serving the federal government, but halted those plans due to ”how highly publicized the arrest was.”

“Being accused of taking advantage of someone I deeply cared for, is sadly, by far the most traumatizing and devastating experience of my life,” Dobson said in an email sent to CTV News.

Her lawyer Lawrence Greenspon said that his client “had always acted with the highest level of integrity throughout her 30-year police career.”

“This was a seriously flawed rush to judgement,” he wrote.

Co-counsel Tina Hill further noted that Dobson’s “reputation and future was destroyed as a result of criminal charges that should never have been laid.”

CP24.com has contacted the Brantford Police Service for comment, but has not yet heard back.

With files from CTV News Kitchener

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