Conspiracy of Silence

May 19, 2005

The Pas, Manitoba, Canada.

Lee Colgen (Michael Mahonen) is a spoiled Momma's boy, who always wants his own way. Lee convinces his parents to let him use the family car on a  snowy, Friday night in November, 1971.  When Lee and three friends get drunk and go joy riding they come across a lone Cree Indian girl walking home. The four drag her into Lee's  car, expecting her to drink with them, and do what ever they wish. The girl, Helen Betty Osborne, resists all of their efforts and is brutally beaten, and then killed.  Her body is taken to a pump house,  deep in the woods where she is dragged and left...hoping that no one will find her.

The four go home to sleep off their drunk, not knowing that the next morning  her body has been found, by a small boy and his father.. At first, Lee, feeling guilty  and not knowing how to deal with it ; tells friends at school what happened.  But in time, all four  go to a lawyer, because the police are questioning them. Their lawyer advises them to keep quiet, and say nothing. Since no one witnessed the crime; if they keep silent they will remain free. People in the town , also, know many details of the killing, but all remain quiet in a ...conspiracy of silence...


The years pass, and three of the killers move to other parts of the country, marry and start families putting the killing behind them.  Lee stays in The Pas, marries and has a son. The killing weight heavily on Lee's mind, and he sinks deeper and deeper into alcoholism. He eventually looses his family, his job and all self respect  and, finally,  is forced to move back into his parents house. It is at this point , that a new RCMP officer comes to town, and re-opens the murder case. Enough years have passed, that the people who feared telling what they knew about the murder have had a change of heart...they  begin, one by one, to  tell the police what they know... and are surprised that "... the police didn't already know what everyone in town had known for years..."

Lee is arrested, and the police find and arrest the other three. After, being sent to a sanitarium for alcoholics to "dry out". Lee becomes the Crown's star witness. Two of the four men are put on trial, Dwayne Johnston and Jim Houghton ( Lee's best friend and neighbor) , with Norm Manger and Lee Colgen testifying against them. Houghton is found "not guilty" of the murder and is  released ; but Johnston is found guilty of the girls murder, and is sent to prison.

It took more than sixteen years, but the police finally broke... the conspiracy of silence...

Lifetime has a Conspiracy of Silence page, and a short quiz.
Click  here  and let them know that MM appeared on "Strong Medicine"

Lee finding blood on the car, the morning after the murder...

Lee Colgan and Jim Houghton, after the murder.

Lee and bride ... just after the wedding

Lee and his wife, Sandy ; having marital problems. Lee's drinking and feeling of guilt, destroy their relationship...

                          1991 video....................................................1990 book.....................................Lee in school

Shirley Bighetty posted in my guest book again, and I thought I'd share it with all of you ... and, Thank You , Shirley, for posting this lovely poem.

4379  Date: 2005-05-11 00:04:30
shirley bighetty  wrote:

tansi kitty
I wrote a poem for my native sister betty

Sparkling spirit

I hear the drums, in the distance a women singing loud and clearly for everyone to hear in the nation
why! Racism took my precious life from my precious mom
life is so precious
like a mother rocking her baby
My skin might be brown , like a brown eagle in the sky
My hair might be black , like the raven circling the sun
I hear the drums, in the distance-crying women, no more whispers in the air
By rejoicing loud and clearly and strong like an Eagle circling towards the heavens
A beautiful sparkling spirit finial at peace.

Date: 2005-05-15 22:49:28

Michael Mahonen  wrote:

Thank you for the poem, Shirley. I saw a touching film at a film festival in Indiana a couple of months ago, called, "Spirit Riders". It was made by
 a very nice man named James Kleinert. It is about long distance spirit rides on horseback that have been organized by Native Americans in order
to help with healing and forgiveness. Viggo Mortenson from "Lord of the Rings" participated in one of the rides. The website for the movie is:

Someone posted the following  in my guest book ... from her last name I am guessing that she might be related to Cornelius Bighetty , who was Helen Betty Osborne's boyfriend in 1971. Mickey was notified of her post and  responded...
2825  Date: 2003-03-07 17:38:28
Shirley Bighetty wrote:

Tansi Kitty (conspiracy of silence) No body can't keep quiet. I am native from Pukatawagan Manitoba. Many of us suffer under the hands of
the white man. I was one of Betty friend in The Pas Manitoba. Still today I am very mad at the Justis System that fail the natives. Someday
their children will hear about what happened in The Pas Manitoba. No matter were they go and live happly ever after. They will hunt them for
ever and ever. Their childrens childrens what my great grandfather said don't worry. This will always catch up to them they can't hide.

a friend from the past

2830  Date: 2003-03-08 23:20:28
Michael Mahonen

Hi all

I hope everyone is doing well.  I agree with what Shirley said about not being able to conceal the truth     and what was said about good being met with good and evil being met with evil until the balance has been met in full.

I have chosen to forgive those who I thought had done me wrong in the past. This has not  been easy in certain instances, but I feel that things will balance in time without my  encouraging the cycle to continue.


                                    Conspiracy of Silence (miniseries)
 In a small Canadian town in 1971, four young men brutally murdered Cree teenager, Helen Betty Osborne. They take a vow of silence and never speak of the murder again. But, sixteen years later, a new member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police cracks the case and reveals the murderers. Michael Mahonen, Jonathan Potts, Ian Tracey and Diego Chambers. 1992/Drama

CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE (TVMS) * * * *  setting: Man.
(1991) Michael Mahonen, Carl Marotte, Stephen Ouimette, Ian Tracey, Jonathan Potts, Dawn Greenhalgh, James B. Douglas, Brooke Johnson, Catherine Disher.....Fact-based story of the murder of Native teen Helen Betty Osborne and the town that, for 16 years, wasn't interested in helping the police solve the crime -- despite the fact that many knew who had done it. What should be a schlocky,"based- on- the- shocking- true- story" affair turns out to be a searing, riveting, disturbing drama, expertly put together with a strong script and a great cast, especially Mahonen as one of the troubled killers. Made-for-CBC TV, and subsequently aired in the U.S. on CBS. Won 7 Geminis including Best Mini-Series, Screenplay, Actor (Mahonen), Supporting Actress (Johnson) and Director. Four hours. sc: Suzette Couture. dir: Francis Mankiewicz. - violence.- (video)
Produced for Canadian television, Conspiracy of Silence was based on  true-life murder case. The crime takes place in Manitoba: the victim is a Cree woman. Everyone in town knows the identities of the four young men responsible, but keep their secret for 16 years. Only when mountie Stephen  Ouimette takes on the case are the townspeople willing to speak up. A blistering indictment of racism and legal chicanery, Conspiracy of Silence was originally presented in two parts. Part One first aired in the US on July 26,  1992. -- Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

Actor and the role ...

                         Michael Mahonen .... Lee Colgan
                         Carl Marotte....  Const. Mike Hall
                         Stephen Ouimette .... Const. Steve Frishbilski
                         Ian Tracey .... Dwayne Johnston
                         Maury Chaykin ....  D'Arcy Bancroft (Dwayne Johnston'slawyer)
                         Jonathan Potts .... Jim Houghton
                         Diego Chambers ....  Norm Manger
                         Neil Munro .... RCMP Sgt. Murchison
                         Steve Mousseau .... Const. Robert Dubeck
                         Jani Lauzon .... Marie
                         Dawn Greenhalgh ....  Joyce Colgan
                         James B. Douglas .... Harold 'Bud' Colgan
                         Michael Ball.... Sgt. Thomas Doyle
                         Catherine Disher ....  Sherrie Linder
                         Brooke Johnson ....  Angie ( Road to Avonlea's David Fox's wife)
                         Monique Mojica ....  Justine Osborne
                         Michelle St. John....  Helen Betty Osborne
                         Paula Barrett ....  CBC reporter
                         Richard Blackburn ....  Ed Kirkby
                         Mary Ann Coles ....  Raylene Kubiak
                         Roger Dunn ....  George Kubiak
                         Deni DeLory .... Lisa
                         Gillian Doria ....  Soap actress #2
                         Diane Fabian .... Dee #2 (singer at Rick's wedding)
                         Colin Fox .... George Dangerfield
                         Peter Graham .... Curtis
                         Alyson Green ....  Shannon Houghton
                         Louise Kidney ....  Sandy Purdy Colgan
                         Kirsten Kieferle  ....  Lori
                         François Klanfer ....  Mel Freidman
                         Bill McDermott ....  Government minister
                         Dean McDermott ....  Const. Dutton
                         Kim Nelle ....  Patricia Johnston
                         Sharon Noble.... Marge
                         Nicholas Pasco ....  Gary
                         Jennifer Podemski ....  Cecilia
                         Maggie Pringle ....  Dee #1 ( singer at Rick's wedding)
                         Jonathon Whittaker....  CTV reporter
                         Lenore Zann .... Soap actress #1
                                         rest of cast listed alphabetically
                         Andrew Arcand .... Cornelius Bighetty
                         Lawrence Bayne ....  Jordan
                         Chris Benson ....  Const. Lambert
                         John Boylan ....  Crown Attorney (1972)
                         Tracey Brett ....  Linette
                         Michael Caruana .... Forensics expert
                         Allan Clow  ....  Donnie
                         Christopher Earle .... Const. Cousins
                         Craig Eldridge .... Const. Langley
                         Donna Farron....  Mrs. Benson
                         John Friesen ....  McGillivary
                         Steve Lucescu .... Constable
                         Christopher Marren....  Const. MacKenzie
                         Bruce McFee ....  Const. Myles
                         Leon Pownall .... Donald MacIver (as Leon Powell)
                         Richard Sali ....  Priest
                         Joseph Scoren.... Rick Colgan (as Joseph Scorsiani)
                         Tia Smith .... Cecilia Osborne
                         Glyn Stephens  ....  Bar singer

                         Directed by ...Francis Mankiewicz
                         Writing credits (in alphabetical order)
                         Suzette Couture.... script
                         Lisa Priest ... novel
                         Bernard Zukerman... Producer
                         Ralph Brunjes ... Editor
                         Glen Mac Pherson ...Cimematographer