Irish man fled B.C. before being sentenced for filming women with hidden cameras in bathrooms.

Michael Gordon Lowry robbed Leah Brown of her privacy in a way that makes the Campbell River, B.C., woman shudder when she thinks about it: by placing a hidden camera in a bathroom.

Brown says she’s a victim. But she refuses to act like one.

The 54-year-old went to B.C. provincial court last month along with a number of Lowry’s other victims to ask a judge to lift a publication ban they claim was doing more to protect the offender than the women he surreptitiously filmed.

Lowry allegedly left for England between the date he pleaded guilty to voyeurism and the day last spring when he failed to show for sentencing; Brown says it’s important for others to know about the man who preyed upon her family.

“We are not embarrassed. We may be victims but we are not embarrassed. We did nothing wrong,” Brown told the judge, who ultimately decided to lift a ban on the publication of most of their names.

“It is all of our mission to protect others.”

In Manchester instead of court

Lowry pleaded guilty to voyeurism in November 2020; he placed a hidden camera in the bathroom of Brown’s mother — whom he had dated since 2015.

Danica Armbruster (left) and her mother Leah Brown spoke to CBC after asking a judge to lift a publication ban on their names in relation to Lowry. Both women were captured on a hidden camera Lowry placed in a bathroom (Submitted by Leah Brown)

Crown counsel Nicholas Barber told a judge last month that police found images and videos of victims disrobing and doing “all the things you can imagine in a bathroom” on Lowry’s laptop.

A judge issued an arrest warrant in May after the 69-year-old’s lawyer told a judge his client was in Manchester, receiving treatment for a fungal infection instead of where he was supposed to be: in court being sentenced.

Lowry’s guilty plea came with the understanding a charge of possessing child pornography would be dropped on sentencing. Because he didn’t show, the charge is still on the books.

A judge agreed last month to lift publication bans on the names of Brown and five other adult victims. The identity of a minor is still protected by a court order.

The situation highlights confusion around bans that scare those involved out of speaking publicly for fear of breaching a court order designed to protect victims.

Even Barber told the judge that it was “quite complicated trying to figure out what you can and can’t do in these circumstances.”

‘Nothing was being done about it’

Both Brown and her 22-year-old daughter Danica Armbruster — also a victim — spoke about the case.

“We felt that we weren’t being heard. We felt that nothing was being done about it,” Armbruster said.

“And just the fact that other families could have been involved in being hurt by him at the same time. And the fact that we weren’t able to speak on it.”

Leah Brown holds a picture of Michael Gordon Lowry that she found on her mother’s phone. (Submitted by Leah Brown)

Brown says her mother met Lowry on a dating website in 2015. 

She says the camera in question was hidden inside a small digital clock. Brown says she was stunned to find videos of herself in the shower on Lowry’s laptop. She felt like vomiting when she saw them.

Brown and her mother went to the RCMP. They feel like the authorities have not taken the case seriously enough, culminating in Lowry’s ability to slip out of the jurisdiction after his guilty plea.

Brown believes he travelled on an Irish passport.

She says her mother has been traumatized by the violation of her trust. Brown says none of the victims know enough about the dark web to have any idea if the images have a life beyond Lowry’s laptop.

Armbruster sobbed as she described the ongoing impact of the offence.

“It’s kind of hard,” she said. “It’s definitely hard because you honestly have no idea if he has them or what he did with them.”

‘Not really any end in sight’

According to court records, Lowry was originally supposed to be sentenced on April 29, but his lawyer told a judge his client showed up the day before “looking horrible and announced he’d been diagnosed with meningitis.”

At that time, Barber expressed skepticism about Lowry’s sudden illness.

“My only pointed question — based on Mr. Lowry’s reports and everything I know about him — is whether this is mentally induced or a bit of malingering?” Barber asked.

The sentencing was moved to May 26. By then, Lowry was allegedly in England.

“He never attended, and we never heard from him again,” Barber told the judge at the August hearing on the publication ban.

“There’s not really any end in sight to this file.”

While Lowry has been absent from B.C.’s criminal courts, Crown counsel noted he has been active in the civil courts, filing documents in relation to a legal battle over a hotly contested land deal on Vancouver Island.

Brown’s mother told the judge he had also filed a claim against her in relation to the collapse of their relationship: “He sued me out of revenge … for being caught committing this crime in my home.”Barber told the judge that had Lowry shown up for sentencing, he might have been looking at a non-custodial sentence, but “that has changed now.”

A spokesperson for the RCMP Tuesday insisted that police have taken the allegations against Lowry seriously.

Brown says she wants Canadian authorities to contact Interpol.

“I know that he is out there. He’s a predator,” Brown told the judge last month.

“He doesn’t work. He’s never worked. He uses women to survive … he looks for widows and divorced women and he uses them that way. Unfortunately in our case that was what happened to my poor mum.”

Lowry is shown in an undated photograph provided by Brown. Lowry pleaded guilty to a count of voyeurism, but has not shown up for sentencing. (Submitted by Leah Brown)

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