Basil Borutski had a lengthy criminal record dating back to 1977. A significant portion of these records were marred by incidents of domestic abuse, threats of violence and uncontrolled drinking. Over the years, the vast majority of these charges were dropped and obscured from public view. That was until three women - Anastasia Kuzyk, Nathalie Warmerdam and Carol Culleton - were brutally murdered within a matter of hours near the quaint town of Wilno, Ontario in September of 2015. The new documentary Why Didn't We Know?, produced by CBC News, examines the failures of the justice system in protecting these women from a known menace.
Each of these women were lured by Borutski during vulnerable and uncertain periods in their lives, and were largely unaware of his previous skirmishes with law enforcement. Two of them were savagely beaten by him on occasion, and all three were fearful of him. When his victims found the courage to press charges against their abuser, the courts did little to penalize him for his crimes. The lack of follow-through on these charges inadvertently placed even more women in danger by empowering him to continue in his reign of abuse. These failings set the stage for a ticking time bomb that each player felt powerless to stop.
The filmmakers interview the family members and close friends of each victim, and their emotionally raw testimonies expose a system that abandoned the very same citizens it was formed to protect. We also learn the horrifyingly twisted mindset of Borustiski himself through a telephone conversation conducted with CBC News reporter Gillian Findlay. Though he doesn't deny his perpetration of their murders, he nevertheless chastises the reporter for failing to understand how he has been the victim of vindictive women who were out to soil his name.
Domestic violence is a troubling and widespread cancer that afflicts every corner of society. The horrifying narrative that informs Why Didn't We Know? shows the need for greater sensitivity when recognizing the warning signs that lead up to these incidents of abuse, and the urgency of judicial reform in stopping their escalation.