Convicted murderer admits strangling missing B.C. woman

CBC News has learned Jack Woodruff, the man sentenced last week to life in prison for murdering a couple in Mission, B.C., has also confessed to killing his girlfriend, Karen Batke, who vanished five years ago in Surrey.

But B.C.'s criminal justice branch has decided not to prosecute Woodruff for Batke's death, citing a lack of evidence for a conviction.

The RCMP identified 53-year-old Woodruff as a suspect in Batke's disappearance almost a year ago, when he was arrested for the Mission murders. Batke's brother Lorne told CBC News that a week before Woodruff was sentenced, two RCMP investigators and a representative of B.C.'s criminal justice branch paid him a visit. They told him that last August while Woodruff was in custody, he confessed to killing Karen Batke in their Surrey basement suite.

"He came home one night," Batke told CBC News in an exclusive interview. "Karen was losing it in some sort of drug induced rage, swinging a baseball bat at him."

Claim of self-defence

Batke said police told him Woodruff insisted what happened next was self-defence.

"Somehow she supposedly ends up falling into a glass coffee table, and she lacerates her leg on one of her major arteries ... even though she's bleeding out heavily she comes at him one more time to attack," Batke said.

"But this time he grabs her around the throat with his hands, and he keeps squeezing tight until she goes limp and dies."

Batke said Woodruff then claimed he panicked, bundled the woman's body in blankets, and intended to bury it near Chilliwack.

"He borrowed a truck and he places Karen's body in the back of the truck and for some reason he decides he's gonna go back into the house and sleep for a couple of hours," Batke said police told him.

But while Woodruff was sleeping, the truck's owner drove the vehicle to a waste disposal site.

"He went right to the transfer station and he emptied the back of the truck, including the body," Batke learned.

No prosecution

While the story of his sister's death was difficult to hear, Batke said just as disturbing was the decision delivered by Senior Crown Andrew MacDonald that Woodruff would not be prosecuted.

"He stated that with only having Jack's confession and no body and no forensic evidence of any kind, no witnesses, he said there's no court or jury in the world will hold him accountable for anything more than concealing a dead body."

Batke said he felt like his sister's case was being swept under the carpet.

"They're trying to tell us that just be happy because he's already been nailed on two other murders, and he'll never get out of jail and we should be content with that, and accept that as closure, " he told CBC News.

"That's exactly what they were trying to tell us. That's exactly their words. And that's bullshit."

Batke believes Woodruff killed his sister but he doesn't believe his version of events. He points out that RCMP forensic specialists were unable to find even a speck of blood in a basement suite in which Karen Batke allegedly bled profusely.

"They did a complete forensic identification, they tore out all the carpet, all the underlay, they took out chunks of concrete, they went into the crawlspace," Batke says.

"The staff sergeant told me they found no forensic evidence whatsoever. So when he told me that, I said doesn't that throw Jack's confession right out the window?"

RCMP Sgt. Jennifer Pound, speaking on behalf of the Integrated Homicide Investigation team that's handled the case since 2008, declined to discuss the case.

"As this is an open investigation, the details I can provide are limited," Pound wrote in an email. She referred questions about charge approval to Crown Counsel.

A spokesperson for B.C.'s criminal justice branch was also reluctant to go into detail about Woodruff's confession. But Neil McKenzie told CBC News that prosecutors were not convinced they could win a conviction for murder or manslaughter.

In an email, McKenzie wrote that "while the Crown might have proceeded on a charge of offering an indignity to a human body, the Crown chose not to pursue such a charge." McKenzie added the fact Woodruff was expected to plead guilty to two counts of first degree murder and would receive the maximum sentence of life in prison was a factor in the decision.

Loss of faith

But Lorne Batke said it feels like he's being told his sister's life isn't worth the trouble and expense of a prosecution.

"I believe I can speak for the family in this. We've lost absolute faith in the RCMP in our policing system. And at this point also the justice system."

Batke added that he won't give up trying to hold Woodruff accountable for his sister's death.

"That's not going to happen", he said. "Not as as long as Karen has family and friends."