Demeter, real-estate developer (b at Budapest,
Hungary 19 Apr 1933). The son of a wealthy family impoverished as a
consequence of WWII, Demeter immigrated to Canada in 1956 and by 1962
had embarked on a successful career as a property developer in Toronto.
In 1967 he
married Christine Ferrari, an Austrian-born model. The marriage was not
successful, and when in 1973 Christine was murdered he was charged with
hiring an unidentified person to kill her.
the longest in Canadian history, attracted international attention,
exposing bizarre elements of the Hungarian Canadian underworld and the
possibility that husband and wife had been simultaneously plotting to
kill each other in order to collect a $1 million insurance policy.
Demeter was convicted, although the actual killer was never found.
(April 19, 1933, Budapest, Hungary) is a Canadian murderer.
In 1956, Demeter immigrated to Canada and by 1962 he
had started a successful career as a land developer in Toronto.
He married an Austrian-born model, Christine Ferrari,
in 1967. The marriage was strained, and on July 18, 1973, 33-year-old
Christine Demeter was found murdered in the garage of their family home
in Mississauga, Ontario.
Demeter was arrested for arranging the murder of his
wife. The trial, one of the longest in Canadian history, attracted
international attention as it exposed elements of the Canadian/Hungarian
underworld. The Crown claimed that Peter had attempted to murder
Christine on more than one occasion—in one case, staging an accident by
sabotaging Christine's car. Demeter was quoted as saying that he never
knew that Christine had "so much brains" until he saw the photos of
Christine's battered body on the garage floor. Demeter's defence team
claimed that Christine Demeter also had motive to kill Peter in order to
collect a $1 million insurance policy. Demeter was convicted in 1974.
While in prison, Demeter has been weakened by stroke
and a heart attack, and he has had chemotherapy administered three
Demeter was convicted again, while still serving his
sentence, for trying to arrange the murders of his cousin's son and a
In May 2006 a judge ordered Demeter to provide a DNA
sample to the country's DNA data bank.
Demeter is currently serving his term at the medium-security
Bath Institute in Ontario. In a CBC interview on May 30, 2006, he said
conclusively that he will be in prison for the rest of his life.
Wife killer Peter Demeter gives up
August 18, 2009
Once-moneyed murderer Peter Demeter, a killer who "oozes
evil," has given up on freedom. For the fifth consecutive time in the
past 10 years, the imprisoned psychopathic senior citizen has told the
National Parole Board not to bother holding a hearing at which he could
beg for release.
A hearing had been scheduled for this month, but
Demeter waived his right to plead for freedom. It appears that the
former real-estate developer, now 76, has accepted that he'll die behind
bars, in part, because he refuses to admit that he hired an assassin who
split open his wife's skull on July 18, 1973, in the garage of the
couple's upscale Mississauga, Ontario, home.
Christine Demeter, a lithe, athletic Austrian-born model, was alone at
home on Wednesday evening, July 18, 1973, for less than two hours. When
her husband of slightly less than six years, Peter, returned home from a
shopping trip at 9:45 p.m., Christine, wearing an ankle-length,
sleeveless plush brown gown, was sprawled on the concrete floor of the
garage, face down, her hands folded beneath her body. Her left foot was
bare, a silver slipper a few inches away. A stream of blood, double the
width of her tanned body, had flowed from a gaping wound in her head,
across the floor. She had been struck at least half a dozen times,
perhaps with a tire iron or crowbar, that cleaved her skull, allowing
some of her brain to spill out. Blood was spattered on the grey Cadillac
parked inside the garage, beside her body.
Seventeen months later, after
a sensational trial in London, Ontario, Peter Demeter was convicted of
non-capital murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. Demeter did not
testify and still maintains his innocence. He had hoped to collect a $1
million life insurance payout on his dead wife. The hired killer who
prosecutors contended bashed the 33-year-old mother's skull open was
never found, though suspicion fell on several shady characters,
including Imre Olejnyik (right), a small time Hungarian crook also known
as the Duck. Though police named him, at one time, as the probable
killer, he was never brought to trial. He died in Hungary in March 1975.
Demeter was on parole in
Peterborough, Ontario, by 1983. Two years later, he was convicted of
counselling to commit murder in a plot to have his nephew killed and two
life sentences were added to his sentence. In 1988, he amassed two more
life sentences (for a total of five), for conspiracy to kidnap and
murder the daughter of his lawyer. Demeter was angry that lawyer Toby
Belman had frozen some of his stocks because he had not paid her legal
John O'Driscoll sentenced Demeter in the Belman kidnap plot in 1988,
leaving no doubt how he felt:
"Your evil knows no bounds. It never rests.
It never ends ... In my opinion, this man should never, ever, ever be
released on parole. Whether or not you are inherently evil, I do not
know, but you ooze evil out of every pore and contaminate everyone
scheduled to go before the parole board this month, but he waived the
hearing, as he did four times previously since 1999, the date of his
last hearing. At that hearing, he was denied a chance to leave prison
for four hours, in shackles, with two escorts. He was deemed too
dangerous. Demeter maintained that he did not arrange his wife's murder
reiterated, you are hardly likely, after twenty-five years, to admit any
involvement in your wife's death as you have consistently maintained
In 1995, a
psychiatrist who assessed Demeter in prison described him as "insightless,
manipulative, self-exculpatory and psychopathic." The doctor said
Demeter "continues to represent a significant risk to cause trouble to
others should be be unsupervised in the community." Two psychiatrists
concluded he wouldn't benefit from any programs or treatment. One
psychiatrist said Demeter exhibited "narcissistic personality traits,
rationalizations and intellectualizations." His credibility was
described as "so little."
1996 parole hearing, Demeter flirted with responsibility for his wife's
"Up until today,
you have always claimed innocence with respect to the murder of your
wife, and minimized the severity of your other offences. At the
beginning of the hearing, when pressed, you accepted 'unqualified full
responsibility' for all of your offences. As the hearing progressed
however, you kept on alluding to the conspiracy theory and yourself as
victim. By the end of the hearing, when asked directly if you arranged
the murder of your wife, your answer was 'no.'"
is a crippled old man living in a special housing unit, a small cottage-like
building for aged and disabled convicts at medium-security Bath
Institution, located just west of Kingston, Ontario. He has survived
several bouts of cancer, a stroke and several heart attacks.
Supreme Court of Canada
Demeter v. R.,  1 S.C.R. 538
Peter Demeter (Plaintiff)
Her Majesty The Queen (Defendant)
1977: February 28; 1977: March 1;
1977: May 31.
Present: Laskin C.J. and Martland,
Judson, Ritchie, Spence, Pigeon, Dickson, Beetz and de Grandpré JJ.
ON APPEAL FROM THE COURT OF APPEAL
evidence—Admissibility of alleged confession by deceased declarant—Whether
statement adverse to declarant’s interests—Criminal law—Decisions
relative to sequestration of jury—Not a question of law.
Appellant was charged with murder.
The Crown case was that appellant had procured some unknown person to
kill his wife. Appellant sought to introduce evidence that a person
unconnected with him had confessed to the murder of the wife. That
person was an escaped convict who had died prior to the trial and the
witness, Dinardo to whom he had confessed indicated that he would not
have given the evidence implicating his friend had the friend still been
alive. The trial judge excluded the confession as hearsay evidence. At
the commencement of the trial and thereafter during the course of the
trial, the trial judge refused application by the defence that the jury
be sequestered but subsequently on his own motion ordered that the jury
be sequestered. Appellant was convicted and his subsequent appeal was
dismissed. Leave to appeal to the Supreme Court was granted in respect
of two questions, First, whether the Court of Appeal had erred in
holding that the trial judge had not erred in initially refusing to
sequester the jury and later doing so rather than declaring a mistrial
and, second, whether the Court of Appeal had erred in holding that the
trial judge had not erred in ruling that the evidence of the confession
by the deceased Eper was inadmissible.
Held: The appeal should be
Per Laskin C.J. and Spence J.:
In the circumstances the alleged confession by Eper, since deceased, was
not admissible. The question of whether or not a statement made against
the declarant’s penal interest rather than his pecuniary or proprietary
interest should be admissible can be left open as to its total tenor to
be dealt with on another occasion. There could well be circumstances
when the whole intent in adducing
such a statement is to show that the declarant and not the accused had
committed the physical act where the statement should be admissible and
of very considerable probative weight despite the fact that in his
statement the declarant might advance justification for his act.
Per Martland, Judson, Ritchie,
Pigeon, Dickson, Beetz and de Grandpré JJ: Appeals to the Supreme Court
under s. 618(1)(b) are limited to questions of law. The decision
of the trial judge was not on a question of law and the judgment of the
Court of Appeal did not raise a question of law. The Supreme Court was
therefore without jurisdiction to consider that issue. The Court is not
precluded from reaching such a conclusion by the fact that leave to
appeal was granted in respect of the question.
The confession by Eper did not meet
the necessary requirements for admissibility. Even on the assumption
that it is not necessary that the interest to which such statement is
adverse must be a proprietary or pecuniary one, there was nothing in the
evidence to show that when Eper made the statement it was contrary to
his interest either penal or pecuniary. It was a statement by an escaped
criminal under sentence of life imprisonment to a man with a long
criminal record who had been his accomplice in crime for many years.
[R. v. Warner,  S.C.R.
144; The Sussex Peerage (1844), 11 CI. & Fin. 85, 8 E.R. 1034;
Scolari v. United States (1969), 406 F. (2d) 563; Ward v. H.S.
Pitt & Co.; Lloyd v. Powell Duffryn Steam Coal Company,  2 K.B.
130; Lloyd v. Powell Duffryn Steam Coal Company,  A.C. 733
APPEAL from a judgment of the Court
of Appeal for Ontario
dismissing an appeal by the appellant from his conviction on a charge of
noncapital murder. Appeal dismissed.
Edward L. Greenspan and Mark
Rosenberg, for the appellant.
J. David Watt, for the respondent.
The judgment of Laskin C.J. and Spence
J. was delivered by
SPENCE J.—I have had the opportunity to
consider the reasons for judgment to be delivered by my brother Martland.
I agree with him that the
appeal should be dismissed and, in the
main, I am in accord with the reasons which he expresses.
Particularly, I agree that under the
circumstances which existed in the present case the alleged confession
by Eper, since deceased, which Dinardo testified Eper had made to him,
is not admissible. I shall be dealing on another occasion with the
general question of whether or not a statement made against the
declarant’s penal interest rather than merely his pecuniary or
proprietary interest should be admissible but, for the present purposes,
I desire to leave open the question as to the total tenor of such
statement. I can well understand occasions when the whole intent in
adducing such statement from the witness who heard it from the lips of
the deceased declarant is to show that the declarant and not the accused
had committed the physical act and that therefore a statement made by
the deceased declarant that he had committed the physical act should be
admissible and of very considerable probative weight despite the fact
that in his statement the declarant might advance some allegation, for
instance, an allegation that he acted in self-defence.
I, therefore, agree that the appeal
should be dismissed.
The judgment of Martland, Judson,
Ritchie, Pigeon, Dickson, Beetz and de Grandpré JJ. was delivered by
MARTLAND J.—This appeal is from the
judgment of the Court of Appeal for Ontario, which dismissed the
appellant’s appeal from his conviction on a charge of non-capital murder.
Leave to appeal to this Court was granted in respect of two questions,
which are defined in the order granting leave to appeal, as follows:
(1) Did the Court of Appeal of
Ontario err in holding that the trial Judge did not err in refusing to
sequester the jury as sought on several occasions by defence counsel and
in sequestering the jury after the trial had gone on for about six weeks
instead of declaring a mistrial?
(2) Did the Court of Appeal of
Ontario err in holding that the trial Judge did not err in holding that
a confession by the deceased Eper to the witness, exonerating the
accused, was inadmissible?
The trial lasted for 51 days and a great
deal of evidence was presented. The facts are set forth in the reasons
for judgment of the Court of Appeal, which are reported in (1976), 10
O.R. (2d.) 321. It is not necessary to review them save insofar as they
relate to the questions in issue.
1. Sequestration of the Jury.
At the commencement of the trial
application was made on behalf of the appellant that the jury be
sequestered. This application was refused. Similar applications were
made during the course of the trial on a number of occasions. They were
unsuccessful. Subsequently the trial judge, on his own motion, ordered
that the jury be sequestered.
The relevant provision of the
Criminal Code is s. 576(1):
The judge may, at any time before
the jury retires to consider its verdict, permit the members of the jury
The trial judge exercised this
discretion by permitting the jury to separate, until the time when he
decided no longer to permit them to do so. His failure to sequester the
jury at the commencement of the trial was raised as a ground of appeal
before the Court of Appeal and was rejected.
In my opinion the decision of the trial
judge on this question was not a decision on a question of law. If the
Court of Appeal had considered that this decision by the trial judge had
resulted in a miscarriage of justice, it would have had the power to
deal with the matter under s. 613(1)(a)(i) of the Criminal
Code, but the Court did not so find. On an appeal to this Court
under s. 618(1)(b) the Court is limited to the consideration of
“any question of law”. In my opinion the decision of the trial judge as
to sequestration of the jury was not on a question of law, and the
judgment of the Court of Appeal confirming that decision does not raise
a question of law. This Court is, therefore, without jurisdiction to
consider that issue. The fact that leave to appeal was granted in
respect of this question does not preclude the Court from reaching this
conclusion. (R. v. Warner).
2. Refusal to admit the confession of
the deceased Eper.
The facts giving rise to this issue are
as follows. The case for the Crown was that the appellant had procured
some unknown person to kill the appellant’s wife. The appellant sought
to introduce evidence through the witness Dinardo that one Eper, who was
apparently unconnected with the appellant, had confessed to the murder
of the appellant’s wife. Eper was an escaped convict, who had been
serving a sentence for life at the time of his escape, and who had died
prior to the trial. Dinardo was his friend and testified that he would
not have given evidence implicating Eper in the murder if Eper had still
been alive. The trial judge excluded the alleged confession as being
The submission of counsel for the
appellant is that this evidence was admissible by reason of the
exception to the hearsay rule in respect of declarations against
interest. The Court of Appeal defined the issue thus raised in the
following passage from its judgment:
At common law an oral or written
declaration against pecuniary or proprietary interest by a deceased
declarant has been long held to be admissible to prove the fact declared.
In excluding that part of Dinardo’s evidence the learned trial Judge
followed The Sussex Peerage (1844), 11 CI. & Fin. 85, 8 E.R.
1034, where it was laid down by the House of Lords that a declaration
against penal interest is not admissible. The appellant argued that this
Court should not follow The Sussex Peerage and should follow some
earlier English decisions of Courts lower than the House of Lords where
declarations against penal interest had been held to be admissible.
Alternatively, the appellant argued that the declarations in question
were admissible as against pecuniary interest on the basis that
admission of the killing subjected Eper to a possible action under the
Fatal Accidents Act.
All that has usefully been said to
date in denial or support of the appellant’s first contention can be
found by referring, on the one hand, to The Sussex Peerage and
the very thoughtful and learned judgment of the South Australia Supreme
Court in Frits van Beelen (1974), 9 S.A.S.R. 163, and, on the
other hand, to
Wigmore on Evidence, 3rd ed.
(1974) p. 349, para. 1476; Hines v. Commonwealth (1923), 117 S.E.
843, and the dissenting judgment of Mr. Justice Holmes in Donnelly v.
U.S. (1913), 228 U.S. 243.
It has generally been accepted as the
law of England since The Sussex Peerage case that the exception
to the rule excluding hearsay evidence in respect of declarations made
against interest is confined to statements made against pecuniary or
proprietary interest and does not permit evidence of a statement by a
deceased person against his penal interest.
The leading authority in the United
States is the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in the
Donnelly case, referred to above, in which the majority of the
Court followed The Sussex Peerage case. Mr. Justice Holmes, who,
along with two other members of the Court dissented, pointed out in his
reasons that the confession of the murder by the deceased which was
sought to be put in evidence was “coupled with circumstances pointing to
its truth”. Counsel for the appellant has cited to us a number of cases
in which State Courts have extended the exception to the hearsay rule to
include statements against penal interest. On the other hand, the United
States Court of Appeal, Ninth Circuit, in Scolari v. United States,
when requested to exercise authority to decline to follow the
Donnelly case refused to do so.
The Court of Appeal in the present case,
while pointing out that it was not bound by The Sussex Peerage
case and thus would be free to choose between the two opposing
contentions, was of the view that the facts of the present case did not
make it necessary or propitious to settle the law. The Court held that,
even if a declaration against penal interest was not necessarily
inadmissible, the confession of Eper in question here was not a
declaration against penal interest. The reason for so holding is stated
At the time of both the alleged
declarations in question in this case Eper was an escaped convict under
sentence of life imprisonment. In the result, he could not be sentenced
to a consecutive sentence so that there could be no penal consequence
for the crime admitted to
which he was vulnerable: R. v.
Sinclair (1972), 6 C.C.C. (2d) 523. The completely uncertain
effect on his prospects of parole in the event of another conviction is
too remote and uncertain to be regarded as a penal consequence. In
addition, at the time of the declaration to Dinardo he and Eper had been
accomplices in crimes for many years and Dinardo, on his evidence, was
acting as an accessory after the fact in assisting concealment of
evidence of the crime declared. Dinardo testified he would not have
given his evidence if Eper were alive.
The Court of Appeal enunciated a number
of principles which would have to be applied in determining whether a
declaration is against penal interest which, in its view, would have to
be applied in addition to those applicable in determining whether a
declaration is against pecuniary or proprietary interest. They are as
1. The declaration would have to be
made to such a person and in such circumstances that the declarant
should have apprehended a vulnerability to penal consequences as a
result. In Sussex Peerage the Lord Chancellor would not have
admitted the declaration in any event of the rule because it was made to
the declarant’s son. In ordinary circumstances where a declaration is
made for instance to an unestranged son, wife or mother, the
psychological assurance of reliability is lacking because of (sic)
risk of penal consequences is not real and the declarant may have
motives such as a desire for self‑aggrandizement or to shock which makes
the declaration unreliable.
2. The vulnerability to penal
consequences would have to be not remote.
3. “…the declaration sought to be
given in evidence must be considered in its totality. If upon the
whole tenor the weight is in favour of the declarant, it is not against
his interest”: Re Van Beelen, p. 208; R. v. Agawa
(1975) 11 O.R. (2d) 176.
4. In a doubtful case a Court might
properly consider whether or not there are other circumstances
connecting the declarant with the crime and whether or not there is any
connection between the declarant and the accused.
5. The declarant would have to be
unavailable by reason of death, insanity, grave illness which prevents
the giving of testimony even from a bed, or absence in a jurisdiction to
which none of the processes of the Court extends. A declarant would not
be unavailable in the circumstances that existed in R. v.
These furnish a valuable guide for
consideration in the event that this Court should determine that a
declaration against penal interest is not to be held inadmissible under
the rule against the reception of hearsay evidence. In the present case,
however, it is my opinion that the confession by Eper did not meet the
requirements necessary for the admission of a declaration made against
pecuniary or proprietary interest.
Those requirements were stated by
Hamilton L.J. in Ward v. H.S. Pitt & Co.; Lloyd v.
Powell Duffryn Steam Coal Company,
at p. 137. The judgment of the Court of Appeal was reversed on other
grounds by the House of Lords in Lloyd v. Powell Duffryn Steam
but on this issue the views of Hamilton L.J. were supported by two of
the Law Lords and no dissent therefrom was expressed by the other two
Law Lords who sat on the appeal. The requirements are listed as follows:
1. It is essential that the
deceased should have made a statement of some fact, of the truth of
which he had peculiar knowledge. The rule applies only to statements as
to “acts done by the deceased and not by third parties” (per Sir R.
Phillimore in The Henry Coxon (1878) 3 P.D. 156, 158). It does
not extend to cover statements made by a deceased person of what others
had told him (Tindal C.J. and Lord Campbell in Lord Trimlestown v.
Kemmis (1843) 9 CI. & F. 749, 780, 785).
2. It is essential that such fact
should have been “to the deceased’s immediate prejudice,” that is
against his interest at the time when he stated it. If it may be
construed for his interest or against it (Massey v. Allen)
(13 Ch. D. 558) or may only be against his interest in certain future
events (Ex parte Edwards) (14 Q.B.D. 415) it is inadmissible.
3. It is essential that the
deceased should have known the fact to be against his interest when he
made it, because it is on the guarantee of truth based on a man’s
conscious statement of a fact, “even though it be to his own hindrance,”
that the whole theory of admissibility depends. It is “a necessary
element, that the subject-matter of the declaration…must have been
within the direct personal knowledge of the person making the
declaration” (per Lord Selborne L.C.
in Sturla v. Freccia (1880) 5 App. Cas. 623, 633); “to
support the admissibility it must be shewn that the statement was, to
the knowledge of the deceased, contrary to his interest” (per Fletcher
Moulton L.J. in Tucker v. Oldbury Urban Council (1912) 2
K.B. 317, 321).
4. It has long been held that the
interest to which the statement must be adverse must be a pecuniary one
or, which is only a species of the same genus, a proprietary one. A
statement would not be against interest if only generally criminatory;
one “which might in some way or other injuriously affect the interest of
the party” (per Lord Lyndhurst L.C., Lords Brougham and Denman in the
Sussex Peerage Case (11 CI. & F. 85, 110, 111)), or which might be
prejudicial to reputation or social consideration.
Even on the assumption that it is not
necessary to meet the requirement numbered 4, the confession in this
case does not meet the requirement numbered 3. There is nothing in the
evidence to show that when Eper made his statement to Dinardo that he
apprehended or had any cause for apprehension that it was contrary to
his interest, either penal or pecuniary. This was a statement made by an
escaped criminal under sentence of life imprisonment to a man with a
long criminal record, who had been his accomplice in crime for many
years. In fact Dinardo stated in evidence that he would not have given
his evidence if Eper were alive.
In these circumstances the confession
did not meet the requirements for admissibility of a declaration by a
deceased person, and in my opinion the Court of Appeal was right in
holding that it was properly rejected as evidence by the trial judge.
I would dismiss the appeal.
Solicitors for the appellant:
Greenspan, Gold & Moldaver, Toronto.
Solicitor for the respondent: The
Attorney General for Ontario, Toronto.
(1976), 10 O.R. (2d) 321.
 S.C.R. 144.
(1969), 406 F. (2d) 563.
 2 K.B. 130.
 A.C. 733.