ST. THOMAS – Boris Panovski’s son told police he “might have someone in mind” who may have shot Donato Frigo and his wife.

But a retired police detective who interviewed Panovski’s son Tony three days after Frigo, 70, died in a fatal shooting where his wife, Eva Willer Frigo, 56, was wounded, said that the son didn’t want to say who it was until he did his own “poking and find out if this person was willing to come forward.

“He did indicate that someone that resembles him,” said retired OPP detective Michael Waechter who was called to testify by the defence at Boris Panovski’s retrial.

Waechter admitted that his memory of what he did after the Sept. 13, 2014, shooting at the Hullett Provincial Wildlife Area is a bit fuzzy.

“I’m flying a bit blind here 10 years hence,” he said to Superior Court Justice Marc Garson.

Panovski, 80, pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder of Donato, a Toronto-area businessperson, and not guilty to attempted murder of Eva Willer Frigo, 56, who was wounded. The couple were on horseback and training a field dog when they were ambushed.

Panovski, a former dog breeder who won two national championships, was arrested a week after the shooting when he returned to Canada from Macedonia, and has been in custody ever since. In 2018, he had a jury trial in Goderich. In 2021, he successfully appealed the guilty verdicts after the Ontario Court of Appeal found that the presiding judge’s charge to the jury was unfair.

The retrial was ordered moved to St. Thomas a year ago. Six weeks before the trial started, Panovski opted for a trial by judge.

The Crown argues that Panovski had a grudge against Frigo that began in 2005 after Panovski was arrested at a field dog event in Georgia. Frigo changed the name of a champion dog from Panovski Silver to Belfield Silver.

Defence lawyer Margaret Barnes questioned the police investigation tactics and suggested the OPP had “tunnel vision” and focused on Panovski, ignoring other possible suspects.

Waechter and another detective interviewed Panovski’s son in Mississauga on Sept. 16, 2014, three days after the shooting, and a day after Panovski left Canada for Macedonia.

Waechter was given his notes to refresh his memory. He said he was sent to interview Tony Panovski to do a “work-up” on the Frigos and find out family history and “anyone who had a grudge or who had a bone to pick with the Frigos.”

Garson has heard that Tony Panovski worked for Frigo and the families were heavily involved in the field dog world.

Panovski’s son told them “in a covert way” that he had a suspect in mind but he didn’t want to give any specifics, except that he looked like him, before he found out if the person was willing to come forward.

The officers told the son that it would be risky to do his own investigating. Panovski’s son said “he’s aware of a person with a grudge against Mr. Frigo in the past,” and “he indicated he feared for the safety of his family.”

The grudge was “a result of a bird dog training incident in the past,” Waechter said, but Panovski’s son wasn’t sure if the man was capable of murder. He told the officers he suspected the man was “mentally capable” but unsure if he was “physically capable.”

“This person he had in mind was involved in a domestic against his wife several years prior, not resulting in prosecution as the wife could not express herself and did not speak English well, Waechter said.

But, Panovski’s son told the officers, the man didn’t have a car matching the vehicle of interest in the early stages of the investigation.

Waechter said that after the interview, he would have relayed the information up the chain of command.

Before Waechter testified, retired OPP Det. Sgt. Randy Wright completed his testimony. On Monday, Barnes had shown him one of his notes that described an anonymous “middle-aged” male who called the OPP and claimed the Frigos were victim of “a hit with a shotgun,” that “the wife was not co-operating” and the police had intelligence about the attack ahead of time.

Wright said the tip would have been followed up; however “the police did not have any intelligence at the time and the wife was co-operating.”

Barnes also showed Wright photos of Panovski’s blue Toyota, some taken at the Mount Forest OPP detachment and others from the Scarborough apartment parking lot where Panovski lived.

The trial continues on Wednesday.

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