Skip to content

Murder suspect deleted texts, photos the day mother, daughter reported missing: court


CALGARY — The trial of a Calgary man who admits he killed his girlfriend and is accused in her young daughter's death has heard that he deleted texts and photos from his cellphone the same day the two were reported missing. 

Robert Leeming is on trial for second-degree murder after pleading not guilty in the death of 22-month-old Aliyah Sanderson. He earlier pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of her mother, Jasmine Lovett. 

Former Calgary police constable Ian Whiffin testified Tuesday that all texts between Leeming and Lovett, as well as over 30 photos of her and her toddler, were found in the recycle bin of Leeming's phone on April 23, 2019. 

Whiffin, who had worked with the police digital forensics team, said he was able to retrieve the photos. 

"The photographs hadn't actually been deleted. They were marked for deletion and placed in the recycle bin," said Whiffin, who left Calgary police last year. 

"They stay in the trash can for 30 days before they get completely wiped, so I was able to recover those images." 

That same day, Lovett and Aliyah were reported missing by a relative after they failed to show up for a family dinner. 

It was just two weeks before Lovett's 26th birthday. 

Their bodies were found a few weeks later buried in a shallow grave in a day-use area in Kananaskis Country, west of Calgary. 

A medical examiner has testified that both suffered blunt force trauma while Lovett was also shot in the head. 

Whiffin said most of the photos were of Lovett and her daughter but court also saw photos of the little girl, with a soother in her mouth, being held by Leeming. There were also three photos of a pistol. 

"There are 36 photos in total I thought were relevant to the case," he said. 

"Many photographs were deleted at the same time. Many of those photos were of Jasmine and Aliyah or both. Three of the photographs were of firearms." 

The Crown also entered media interviews into evidence of Leeming speaking separately with Global TV and CBC after he was initially arrested as a suspect on April 26, 2019. At that time, he was released without charges.

In the interviews, Leeming repeatedly refers to Lovett and Aliyah as his "tenants," although he admits he and Lovett also had an on-and-off relationship.

He says he and the mother and daughter had driven to Kananaskis Country for a picnic before they were reported missing. He tells reporters he doesn't mind talking about the case.

"I have nothing to hide ... (police) have it wrong as far as I'm concerned. Of course they do."

Leeming says he's traumatized Lovett and Aliyah are missing but assumes they are visiting family.

"I don't know. Like, if you have tenants, do you keep track of them?"

The trial heard earlier that Leeming, a 36-year-old British citizen, told police he and Lovett had been in a relationship after meeting online in 2018. A month later, Lovett and her daughter moved in with Leeming, but she paid him for rent and groceries. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 19, 2021. 

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press