New details about Soli’s death were revealed in a Fifth Estate episode that aired on CBC-TV in January 2019. Through a year-long investigation, the CBC obtained more than 1,500 pages of never-before-seen documents, including police notes, eyewitness statements, hundreds of photos and the names of correctional officers that shed new light on what happened to Soleiman and exposed serious flaws with the Kawartha Lakes police investigation.
The episode included an interview with eyewitness John Thibeault, the man who was across the hall from Soleiman’s cell at the time of his death. “Blood flying, limbs — it was brutal,” Thibeault described, as he recalled watching four guards repeatedly punch Soli in the face. All the while, Thibeault states that Soleiman didn’t deliver any blows of his own. Even as Soleiman lay motionless on the ground, one of the guards continued to press his knee against the back of Soli’s neck, while yelling at him to “stop resisting!” When the guard noticed he was being watched, he immediately closed the shutter on Thibeault’s cell.
At first, Thibeault said he was too afraid to speak to investigators because he still had time left to serve and he feared that the guards could retaliate if they knew he had spoken out. After his release, Thibeault tried to contact police to tell them what he had seen, but he was never interviewed.
The Fifth Estate also sought out an expert review of the case. Leading forensic pathologist Dr. John Butt, who was previously chief medical examiner for both Alberta and Nova Scotia, voluntarily pored over hundreds of autopsy photos, the post-mortem exam, toxicology reports, medication lists, police notes, 911 transcripts, and inmate and jail staff interviews.
Dr. Butt concluded that Soleiman’s death was likely due to strangulation caused by the guards piling on top of him while he was restrained: “the evidence of this case is that this is a restraint-related death due to neck and other compressive forces, notably on the chest and abdomen.”
Furthermore, Dr. Butt found that Thibeault’s eyewitness account lined up with specific injuries found on Soleiman’s body during his autopsy, including deep hemorrhaging of the strap muscles in his neck.
The Fifth Estate also obtained police notes that made reference to a “blow or pressure on the neck,” but none of these details made it into the coroner’s report.
“A thousand pounds of weight on top of him, on top of his lungs with pepper spray down his throat. There’s a guard with a knee on his neck. There’s his head being smashed off metal, his head being kicked off concrete. Punches, numerous punches…They beat him to death. I don’t I don’t know how else to describe it. At all. There’s no other answer. They viciously beat him to death.”
Thibeault’s account to The Fifth Estate