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Slow Justice: The Adam Anhang Murder Mystery

I've produced a lot of crime stories, but few have the sensational elements of what I called "A Father's Justice," reported and narrated by 16x9 chief correspondent Carolyn Jarvis.


At the heart of the story is Aurea Vazquez-Rijos--blonde, irresistible and relentless. And by all accounts, ruthless. While a fugitive in Italy, she was known as the "Vedova Nera"--the Black Widow. Now she is in prison in Puerto Rico, awaiting what is certain to be a headline-grabbing murder trial.

Aurea is accused of masterminding the murder of her husband, Canadian millionaire Adam Anhang, on the streets of San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 2005. She's charged with promising a hitman $3 million to kill Anhang, fearing that an imminent divorce would leave her penniless.

After the murder, Aurea fled Puerto Rico and flew to Italy where she started another family. I spent several days in Florence, tracing her movements and meeting the Italian banker who was financing her defence.

Carolyn conducted interviews in Puerto Rico and in Winnipeg, where Abe Anhang, the victim's father, was determined that Aurea would be brought to justice. He tracked her every movement. However, it would take  years, and the intervention of an Italian detective, Interpol and the FBI before she was arrested in Spain and extradited to face trial in San Juan.

That trial will soon unfold.

The Pain of Unexplained Loss: the Legacy of MH370

By Claude Adams

On the evening of March 7, 2014, Steve Wang turned on his smartphone and found a voice message from his mother, who was vacationing in Nepal. “I’ll be landing in Beijing at around 6:30 tomorrow morning,” she told him. “Please come and get me. And bring a coat. I don’t have one with me.”

Wang was tired, so he asked his father if he would pick her up. Then he went to bed.

He awoke the next morning to the sound of a key in the door. “They must be back,” he said to himself. He looked at his phone. It was shortly after 8 a.m. Then he checked flight arrivals on his laptop. MH370, it said, had been delayed. “That’s odd,” he thought.

“Something is wrong.”

Wang got up and found his father sitting at the computer. “I think something happened,” his father said. “I waited at the airport until 8:00, but there was no information so I came home.”
“My brain suddenly went empty,” Wang said in a recent interview with 16×9. “I never heard of such a thing. A plane going missing!” He spent the next few hours on his laptop, with a growing sense of dread. He found a special emergency support number on the Internet. “I called it dozens of times. But nobody answered.”
Much the same thing was happening with hundreds of family members in Beijing and Kuala Lumpur—the Malaysian capital where Flight 370 had originated. A pattern of evasive or non-answers and sympathetic shrugs from officials was creating a panic among the next-of-kin who had gathered at the two airports. People were crying. Chain-smoking. Begging anyone in a uniform for news. “Everybody was helpless,” Wang said. “It was chaos.”
WATCH BELOW: American pilot Michael Exner of Boulder, Colorado, gave 16×9 access to a simulation of what would happen to a Boeing 777 jetliner in the event of a loss of fuel when flying at 35,000 feet. This scenario is what some experts believe may have been the final moments of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 as it flew over the South Indian Ocean on March 8, 2014.
That chaos, as he called it, has never completely gone away, at least, for the families. The aviation mystery of the ages is about to enter its second year—a mystery even more compelling than the disappearance of famed flier Amelia Earhart in the Pacific Ocean in 1937. The official search for Earhart lasted 17 days. The search for MH370 never really stopped. And there’s no end in sight.
So what do we know? The last human communication from MH370 was a terse “Good night, Malaysia 370” at 1:19 a.m. local time on the morning of March 8. Then, a yawning silence. Someone switched off the plane’s communications systems two minutes later as the Boeing 777 entered Vietnamese airspace. A satellite then traced its inexplicable flight south over the Indian Ocean. Presumably, after several hours, the fuel tanks emptied and the 200-ton aircraft—with one of the best safety records in the skies—plunged into the water.
To the anxious family members, like Steve Wang, and Sarah Bajc, who lost her partner Philip Wood, this scenario is all conjecture. The next-of-kin are all living in a world of “ambiguous loss,” as psychologists call it. A world where nothing is certain and everything, however awful, is possible. Wang still clings to the infinitesimal possibility of a hijacking—his mother held hostage somewhere, waiting for rescue. Bajc thinks the plane may have followed a northern, rather than a southern route, with a landing on the Asian landmass. She talks darkly about a cover-up.
“There’s no other explanation,” she says, “for the behaviour of the investigation team and the government and how they’ve treated the families.”
WATCH BELOW: Even after a year, Sarah Bajac rejects some of the more likely scenarios of what may have happened to the plane. 
Wang rejects the widely-held idea that the pilot or co-pilot may have mounted a bizarre suicide mission. “I don’t believe people could do such things,” he says. “Why did he just keep flying for more than 8 hours, and fly into a place where people cannot be found? I don’t believe it. It makes no sense.”
But suicide flights by disturbed pilots are not unknown. Investigators say it’s happened at least four times since 1997. The most serious one was Egypt Air Flight 990 in October, 1999. A U.S. National Transportation Safety Board investigation suggested that moments after the captain left the flight deck on takeoff from JFK Airport, a relief first officer sent the plane into a rapid descent and crashed. The reasons are unknown. All 217 aboard were killed. Egyptian authorities strongly disputed the suicide story.
For some victims of ambiguous loss, no possibility is too outlandish.
“When something terrible happens that you don’t understand, your mind dwells on it until you come up with a solution,” Toronto psychologist Jordan Peterson said. “A lot of the systems in our brains that are responsible for negative emotion . . . hold on to things we don’t understand and then repeat them to other parts of the brain, which is what you feel as involuntary thinking—over and over again—until there’s a solution generated.”
So the families of the missing experience endless fear, endless grief and endless frustration. In their minds, to acknowledge that a loved one is dead might even seem a kind of betrayal.
WATCH BELOW: As a crash investigator for the US National Transportation Safety Board, Greg Feith spent years studying the causes and effects of airplane disasters. 16×9 spoke to him on the occasion of the anniversary of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. 
Peterson’s advice: “Narrow your timeframe. Don’t be thinking what your life is going to be like six months down the road or three years down the road. Pay attention to today, tomorrow and next week . . . Make this day as good as you possibly can and then the next day as good as you possibly can and then over time you’ll be able to stretch that out again.”
Steve Wang, however, doesn’t buy that prescription. He says he is ready to wait “for my whole life” for a resolution. And he believes his children, grandchildren and even his great-grandchildren will be looking for the truth, if they have to, making flight MH370 a mystery resonating through the generations.

The Myth of the "Vegetative" Brain

Of all the stories I've produced for Global 16x9, one of my special favourites is a piece we first broadcast in the spring of 2013, called "Waking the Brain."


It's the story of three individuals--Leonard Rodrigues, Rohan Pais and Kate Bainbridge--who were all diagnosed as vegetative or "brain dead" after a catastrophic accident or illness. But the doctors were wrong. As their families discovered, all three did in fact have some brain function, and two of them are on the road to recovery. Kate, who lives in Cambridge, England, has actually written a book and paints watercolours.

In the case of Rohan and Kate, their brains were unlocked through the work of a remarkable Anglo-Canadian scientist--Dr. Adrian Owen of Western University in London, Ontario. Owen discovered that as many as one-fifth of all patients diagnosed as vegetative may  have some detectable brain function, and that this enables them to communicate with their doctors and loved ones.

And that may be the first step to recovery from brain injury once thought to be incurable.

In conversation with 16x9 executive producer Laurie Few, I talked about the making of this story. YOU CAN SEE THAT CONVERSATION HERE.

In Muhammad Ali's Orbit

A Letter to the Editor, Globe and Mail, June 8, 2016

I grew up in awe of Muhammad Ali as a fighter and quipster, but the memory I will cherish the most is when Ali arrived in Baghdad 26 years ago to negotiate with Saddam Hussein for the release of a group of American hostages.
I was a CBC reporter staying at the Al Rasheed hotel when Ali’s convoy arrived on a blistering hot November day. The hotel staff – bellboys, waiters, front-desk staff – swarmed him from the moment he stepped into the lobby. In the hotel restaurant, they lined up for autographs and photos, and Ali, exhausted and already visibly stricken by Parkinson’s, obliged them all.
His staff tried to get him to his room for a rest, but he refused to leave until every Iraqi staffer had his moment in Ali’s orbit.
Ali had to wait in Baghdad for a week, but his “rope-a-dope” statesmanship worked. He finally got his meeting with Saddam, and came home with 15 hostages.
Claude Adams, Surrey, B.C.