Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Ottawa October 24, 2016 - 7:00 am

Police interview Pootoogook’s partner again, still no charges laid in death

“They didn't take my shoe prints or anything. So they don't think it's me, I can tell that”

COURTNEY EDGAR
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at a Sisters in Spirit rally held to raise awareness about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women on Parliament Hill Oct. 4 where many people honoured the memory of Annie Pootoogook, in photograph, bottom left. (PHOTO BY JIM BELL)
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at a Sisters in Spirit rally held to raise awareness about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women on Parliament Hill Oct. 4 where many people honoured the memory of Annie Pootoogook, in photograph, bottom left. (PHOTO BY JIM BELL)

OTTAWA—The partner of the late Annie Pootoogook has been brought before the Ottawa Police Service a second time to be interviewed, but he still faces no charges.

Speaking to Nunatsiaq News from his south Ottawa apartment Oct. 14, William (Bill) Watt said he agreed to speak with police Oct. 13, with the interview lasting a few hours.

That follows another interview Watt gave police shortly after Pootoogook’s body was found on the banks of the Rideau River Sept. 19.

Pootoogook, a renowned and award-winning visual artist, originally from Cape Dorset, had lived in Ottawa for about 10 years. Police have said there were “suspicious elements” to her death but have so far laid no charges. Pootoogook was 46.

Watt said he offered to submit to a police polygraph test to “clear his name” and hopefully quell rumours about his involvement in her death.

“They didn’t take my shoe prints or anything. So they don’t think it’s me, I can tell that,” Watt said.

Despite being convicted of assaulting Pootoogook in 2012, and the many friends and family members who allege that she was afraid of him, Watt said he has been unfairly blamed and wants an opportunity to prove he had nothing to do with it.

He said Pootoogook was not suicidal and that he suspects foul play in connection to her death. But he doesn’t know who would have wanted to hurt her.

“She was with someone, there was someone with her, who is not coming forward,” Watt said. “That’s what I think. That’s what [the police] think too. She wouldn’t have gone down to the water by herself. She didn’t like the water. And why would she go there so late at night? Someone lured her there. Somebody went there with her that night.”

Watt said Pootoogook wouldn’t hurt a fly. She was never angry, he said.

In fact, he said what he liked best about her was how easy it was to get along with her.

“There’s 100 crazy guys downtown there,” he said. “Any one of them could have done it.”

Then, he cried and admitted he carries some blame for her passing.

“Shameful,” Watt said. “Shameful that I could have done more. But then I tell myself she did have that secret life that she didn’t want me to know about, where she would just run off and do her own thing. I couldn’t change that.”

He said he dreams about her still.

“My last dream I had about her was just a dark space. She was hidden in a dark space. It was dark inside this tunnel and I’m like, ‘Annie are you in there?’ And finally some light shone and there she was,” he said, weeping on the couch in his living room in a space he often shared with Pootoogook.

Watt said he’s still struggling to accept that she isn’t coming home again.

Mary Akavak said she remembers seeing Pootoogook the morning of Sept. 17 when she woke up at the Shepherds of Good Hope shelter just before breakfast was served. That was two days before Pootoogook was found dead.

Akavak said they were trying to find time alone because they hadn’t seen each other in a while and they wanted to talk and catch up.

They had fun together that day, Akavak said, but it ended with unanswered questions and concerns.

Pootoogook told Akavak she’d seen Watt the night before but had to run away from him, leaving behind her clothes and drawing materials. Akavak said Pootoogook told her she wanted to go back and get them but mentioned death threats. Akavak became more concerned.

Akavak recalled that Pootoogook had no coat or sweater—she was wearing just tight black jeans and a thin long sleeved shirt—so she tried to find Pootoogook some warmer clothes.

“I told her not to go back there,” Akavak said. “I even scolded her. ‘Don’t go back, don’t go back there alone. If you’re planning to go back there, go with social services or a police constable.’”

OPS Staff Sgt. Bruce Pirt, who is leading the investigation into Pootoogook’s death, told Nunatsiaq News police are still following up with witness interviews on the case but there is still not enough evidence to prove a crime occurred.

Pirt said there are numerous discrepancies between what witnesses are telling police and what close-circuit camera footage actually reveals about the times and places they describe.

Pirt added that police purposefully do not reveal too many details of an investigation for fear witnesses will incorporate those details—consciously or not—into their statements to police.

Pootoogook’s body was flown north to Cape Dorset and laid to rest at a funeral held there Oct. 12.

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