Other times, the danger came from within. Feeling sold out and alone, Manning says he placed his service handgun in his mouth and thought of pulling the trigger.
In an extraordinary lawsuit, Manning and his wife, Sabina, are seeking $6.75 million in damages, including $4.5 million from Hamilton police, alleging the service failed to protect him and his family, effectively ending his career. Sabina Manning claims the police had a “duty of care” to her husband that should have been “extended to her.” The couple is also seeking $2.25 million from the OPP.
Manning, an experienced undercover officer trained in England, alleges his cover team during an infiltration of illegal gambling lacked proper training and there was no “structured exit strategy” for him and his wife.
Those failures, he alleges, led to mental health issues and suicidal thoughts he shared with peers and superiors – yet no one asked him to turn in his gun.
Manning is unable to work due to chronic post-traumatic stress and is unlikely to return to police work.
He is also suspended due to pending police act charges stemming from a threat he allegedly made to a lawyer for the Hamilton Police Association, the police union.
Manning also alleges his identity was revealed by a high-ranking police colleague to a Hamilton crime family because Manning’s undercover work was close to exposing the officer’s criminal activity. The officer, Manning alleges, asked the crime family to “scare off” Manning.
Manning’s lawsuit includes a long list of explosive allegations of police corruption in Hamilton, which Manning claims to have learned about from his police duties and undercover work, including his network of informants, two of whom have since died violently.
It is highly unusual for police officers in Ontario to sue their own service and just as unusual for officers to make public allegations about the misbehaviour of colleagues.
“This is a way of punishing them,” Manning said in an interview, “because there is no other way I can punish them.”
His wife, Sabina, supports the allegations.
“He was born to be a cop, he was born to help people,” she added. “And they destroyed it.”
None of Manning’s allegations have been proven in court and many of his claims cannot be independently verified. He and his wife are representing themselves without a lawyer.
The Star and the Spectator have elected to remove many of the names in the suit, because of the serious and personal nature of the unproven allegations.
Lloyd Ferguson, chair of the Hamilton Police Services Board, said he could not comment on Manning’s statement of claim because the matter is before the court.
“The board has given legal counsel direction to vigorously defend it,” said Ferguson, councillor for Ancaster.
Neither Hamilton police nor the OPP have yet filed statements of defence. Reporters sought comment from the Ministry of the Attorney General in regards to the OPP allegations but did not receive an immediate reply.
Hamilton’s police services board is attempting to have the suit tossed out, arguing his claims should be dealt with as union grievances. In its motion, Hamilton police call Manning’s allegations “scandalous, frivolous or vexatious or are otherwise an abuse of the process of the court.”
The board also alleges Manning’s claims of “injury to reputation” are an attempt to “dress up a defamation claim.”
Among Manning’s claims in his lawsuit:
Hamilton police officers fraudulently claimed reward money from Crime Stoppers, and others were involved in “ripping off” drug dealers and marijuana grow operations.
Two officers “have been ‘on the take’ since the ’80s.” They would pay reward money to a relative and then split the proceeds.
A senior Hamilton officer sold information about the investigation into the unsolved 1998 murders of criminal lawyer Lynn Gilbank and her husband, Fred. It’s believed Gilbank may have been the subject of a gangland hit at her Ancaster home.
Several Hamilton police officers have ties to organized crime and the Hells Angels. Manning also names a Toronto officer he alleges was selling guns to Toronto gang members.
He and his wife were falsely detained and their rural home subject to an improper search by Hamilton police, who told him they had received a tip and came looking for a marijuana grow op.
More than 20 officers showed up but no grow op was found. What police did find and took from his safe without issuing a receipt, Manning alleges, were personal notebooks detailing his undercover activities.
Manning has applied to have the search warrant unsealed and his notebooks released.
An off-duty Hamilton police officer frequented an illegal “booze can” operated by a member of the Hells Angels, where cocaine was openly “snorted off the bar.”
Manning says his mental health has suffered and that he has engaged in some reckless and self-destructive acts since 2006, when his cover was compromised.
Once, during a routine traffic stop, Manning admits pointing his handgun at the driver as he experienced a flashback and thought the driver was one of the men who had tried to kill him. On another occasion, he pointed a gun at the head of an officer from behind a partially closed front door.
While Manning’s allegations are unproven, he has clearly been damaged by his police work, according to psychologists’ reports. And what is also true is that, in filing such a lawsuit, Manning has broken a police code of not speaking out.
What follows is based on medical letters, documents, interviews, news reports and Manning’s unproven allegations in his lawsuit.
Paul Manning, 42, grew up in Accrington, a suburb of Blackburn, in northwest England.
He began his policing career in the U.K. in 1993 and, according to his lawsuit, he worked for numerous law enforcement agencies, including the Metropolitan Police Service in London.
He says he worked in special squads, including a stint in Belfast combating IRA terrorism.
In 2004, Manning interviewed for jobs in Hamilton and Toronto, and accepted an offer from Hamilton police.
The couple moved to Canada in early April 2005. Manning went to Ontario Police College, where he won an award for highest grades, and then, after a half-day use-of-force training, stepped right into the role of undercover officer.
Almost immediately, according to his lawsuit, he was buying drugs from the likes of brothers Thomas and Shane Riordan, who in 2006 would kill a man over a drug deal.
Manning was quickly assigned to infiltrate the Hamilton Mob and investigate illegal gambling. Using the alias Paul Wright, Manning says he gained the trust of crime family members as well as members of the Hamilton Hells Angels chapter.
In a November 2005 memo to Hamilton police human resources, the suit states, a supervisor called Manning “one of the best” undercover officers.
In one incident, he was put to the test. In an interview, Manning said one of his targets made it known he had a “job” for him and asked him to come to a house. Manning feared that might mean the Mob was preparing to kill him, and warned his police team.
When Manning entered, the door was bolted behind him. Two large men he had never seen before were there.
He was told to head to the darkened basement, followed by three men, and that he’d find a light switch.
“My knees are going, legs are going,” Manning said. “I think I’m going to get done in the back of the head.”
He switched on the light to reveal a freshly renovated basement apartment.
“We want you to live here. Come and live with us,” he recalls being told.
When he left, he spotted his cover team in a nearby parking lot, ready to storm the house, fearing he was going to be killed.
Instead, Manning told his police handler: “We’re in.”
While Manning, for safety reasons, never did move in, he had passed the Mob’s test with flying colours.
According to the suit, on March 24, 2006, while undercover, Manning was standing outside a bar on James St. N. when he was approached by four men, including the Riordan brothers, Thomas and Shane.
“Hey cop,” Thomas said to Manning, the suit states, and then “without warning” the four men started hitting Manning.
Manning, according to the suit, ran to his undercover apartment, called his police handler and was told to “wait there for extraction.” The handler called back to say the men were gone and that a marked cruiser was on scene.
When Manning emerged, there was no police car, the suit states. The four men were there, armed with knives, one of them “purporting to have a gun in his pocket.” The suit states he fought them for about 10 minutes before getting back inside. One attempt to stab him cut through his T-shirt. Manning alleges a member of his cover team drove by during the second attack and did not stop to help.
The suit alleges an OPP officer kept the ripped T-shirt as evidence of an attempted murder, but no charges were ever laid.
Manning remained undercover. “I stayed because I wanted to. I knew the risks,” he said in an email. He said he was very cautious, but “I also know this was the undercover job of the decade.”
According to the suit, he “immediately began to have night terrors.” Manning, in an email, said he felt he’d been sold out but was told “I was being a little paranoid.” He told no one of the night terrors, he said. At one point, he claims his cover team “lost” him and phoned his wife to see if he had returned home.
In fall 2006, Manning, according to his claim, learned an OPP officer had lost a laptop and notebook containing details of the police operation looking into illegal gambling, including Manning’s involvement and his personal details.
With that, the operation was over. Manning and his wife fled their home and received spotty “armed protection” from police. For his own protection, police provided Manning with his service pistol to carry at all times, his lawsuit states.
It was also around this time that Manning, “on at least three separate occasions … put his service firearm in his mouth with intent” to kill himself, the suit states.
Manning, the suit states, shared his thoughts of self-harm with both the service and the Hamilton Police Association. The service, according to the suit, ordered Manning to see a Toronto psychologist, but Manning alleges the sessions made his condition worse because it appeared the service had been briefing the psychologist.
No one, the suit claims, “relieved him of his firearm.”
Manning took to sleeping at the front door, with his service pistol in his hand and his feet planted against the bottom of the door, his suit claims.
At the end of October 2006, Manning says in his suit, he learned the Riordan brothers were suspected of killing Michael Walsh.
Walsh, 22, had been clubbed with a candlestick, stabbed and shot on Oct. 11, 2006. In 2009, the Riordan brothers admitted their involvement in what the judge called the “assassination” of a helpless man. Thomas Riordan received a life sentence for second-degree murder, while Shane received seven years for manslaughter.
Manning alleges Hamilton police are “indirectly responsible” for Walsh’s death, since they never charged the Riordans with attempted murder in the attack on him six months earlier.
In April 2007, Manning started as a uniformed patrol officer in Stoney Creek. His depression and nightmares worsened and twice he placed his gun in his mouth, he says in his suit.
Not long after, Manning claims he met a high-ranking police officer and a police association representative.
Near the end of the meeting, Manning says in his suit, he raised Walsh’s murder because he felt guilt over it and “how he wanted to tell the Walsh family the same.”
The suit claims the senior officer told him to be “careful what you say, because one day you might call 10-78 and nobody comes” — a reference to the radio code for an officer in need of assistance.
Manning wanted to find out how the Riordans knew he was a cop. He alleges he met one of his informants, Lou Malone, a former Hells Angels enforcer who would be gunned down on a Hamilton street in 2013.
In his lawsuit, Manning alleges Malone told him that Insp. Rick Wills, the disgraced former head of Hamilton’s vice and drugs unit, had “sold him out” to a Hamilton crime family, which led to the attack by the Riordans. “Wills was worried about Mr. Manning’s infiltration turning up aspects of his years of criminal wrongdoing,” Manning alleges in his suit.
Wills pleaded guilty in 2010 to fraud for stealing $60,000 of drug-bust money and ultimately served time in jail. Wills, the suit alleges, wanted the crime family to “scare off” Manning so he wouldn’t delve into Wills’s activities.
Wills declined to comment about Manning’s allegations.
By 2010, Manning’s mental health continued to deteriorate.
On Aug. 9, 2010, Manning was alone on patrol in a marked cruiser, at a time, according to his suit, when he was “constantly” thinking of killing himself, and of harming others.
“I turned left on to King St., I took my seatbelt off and I just accelerated,” he said.
The speedometer rose past 70 km/h when the cruiser mounted a curb and, according to the suit, drove directly “into a large hydro pole,” shearing it in two. His head struck the windshield.
Manning was charged with careless driving — and remained on the job.
In October 2013, Manning was diagnosed with “severe post-traumatic stress disorder directly linked” to the 2006 attempt on his life.
On March 2, 2014, Manning alleges he had a lawyer serve a “notice of intent” to sue on then-chief Glenn De Caire.
About three weeks later, Manning claims, 21 uniformed officers came to his house with a warrant for a “grow op.”
Police searched the house but left without searching outbuildings and much of his large property, the suit states. No grow op was found.
In May 2014, the suit states, the police association asked for any paperwork relating to his workplace woes to ensure the union had done its “due diligence.” He later received a letter from an association lawyer “full of intentional factual errors.”
In February 2015, Manning sent an email demanding an apology. The email said if no retraction was received, “I will attend” the lawyer’s Toronto home and “obtain one under duress.”
Manning was arrested and charged with threatening bodily harm to the lawyer and unsafe storage of a firearm.
In June 2015, the criminal charges against him were withdrawn. In exchange, Manning signed a peace bond and was banned from owning a firearm for five years.
On Sept. 30, 2015, Manning’s suit says he was officially “informed by WSIB that he would never be returning to policing.”
“He is — well, he was — a good cop,” said Sabina. “He knew his job, he knew exactly what he was doing, he was confident.”
She has a name for the part of him that feels compelled to speak up: “Stupid Paul.”
With that, Paul Manning shares a regret. In speaking up to superiors, he broke the police code.
“All of these years,” he says, “I should have kept my mouth shut.”
Author: Jim Rankin, Peter Edwards, Steve Buist