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'Life was not fair to him': Daughter of N.B. man exonerated of murder remembers him as a kind soul

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The daughter of a New Brunswick man recently exonerated from murder, is remembering her father as somebody who, despite a wrongful conviction, never became bitter or angry.

Walter Gillespie died last week at the age of 80.

“His only wish was that people would know for a fact that he did not commit that heinous crime,” says his daughter, who only wants to be identified by her first name Patricia, in a statement. “He finally got that wish.”

In 1984, Gillespie and his friend Robert Mailman were wrongfully convicted for the 1983 homicide of George Leeman in Saint John. Gillespie spent 21 years in prison, and Mailman spent 18 years in prison. Both men received full parole in 2000.

A full exoneration of Gillespie and Mailman occurred in January, with a judge apologizing for a “miscarriage of justice.”

An undisclosed financial settlement was reached between both men and the provincial government in February.

Mailman has terminal lung cancer, and has been told he only has a few months to live.

Gillespie’s daughter says her father died after an accidental fall at his residence on Friday.

“My father was a kind-hearted man,” says Patricia in the statement. “He did not have a mean bone in his body. I have never heard him speak ill or disrespectfully of anyone. He kept to himself and never caused trouble or drama. It has touched my heart, seeing comments from people who knew him, stating that he was a good man and will be greatly missed.

“Life was not fair to him, but he never let that turn him from a kind soul into a bitter or angry person. That is saying a lot because, ‘unfair’ doesn’t even begin to cover what his life was.”

Gillespie’s daughter says a private memorial will be held at a later date.

In a CTV News interview, Innocence Canada co-president Ron Dalton says Gillespie’s exceptional integrity as a person is one of the things he’ll remember most about him.

“For me, he stands as a picture of faithful friend and somebody who was very devoted to his principles,” says Dalton. “For 40 years he stood by his friend Mr. Mailman, when he could’ve walked away from this situation. He refused to say he saw something he didn’t see, or heard something he didn’t hear. And he paid dearly, with his freedom for those 40 years.”

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page.  

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