Troubled man 'felt like a failure'
Mother says son, raised as a girl, was 'ashamed' of losing $65,000
The Globe and Mail, By BRENT JANG AND GRAEME SMITH, Wednesday, May 12, 2004 - Page A7
DUNCAN, B.C. and WINNIPEG -- A former golf instructor says he was trying to help David Reimer when he hired the famously troubled victim of sexual experiments to work at his golf shop in Winnipeg.
"I took a chance with him, and I was happy that I did," Gary Perch said yesterday. "I'm very sorry about what happened."
But it's still not clear what happened between Mr. Perch and Mr. Reimer in the months before the 38-year-old committed suicide last week.
Mr. Reimer lost at least $65,000. It was part of the money he had earned by publicizing the painful story about how his penis was burned off in a circumcision accident and how doctors tried to make him female.
"He felt like a failure," said Mr. Reimer's mother Janet, describing his despair at losing the money. "He was ashamed."
Mr. Perch said his lawyers have advised him not to talk about what happened to Mr. Reimer's money. He also can't discuss his investments, which resulted in several lawsuits and a warning about his behaviour from the Manitoba Securities Commission.
When asked for an interview yesterday, he wouldn't even leave his room at the Best Western Cowichan Valley Inn, a pleasant motel managed by Mr. Perch's cousin on the northern outskirts of Duncan, B.C.
But speaking by telephone, Mr. Perch expressed regret at Mr. Reimer's death.
"What happened with David was a very tragic thing," Mr. Perch said. "I'm just stricken over what's happened with him."
He says he hired Mr. Reimer for duties such as maintenance of the pro shop at the Transcona Golf Club in east Winnipeg.
"I was aware of his problems," he said.
The strange troubles of Mr. Reimer have been well publicized, with magazine articles, a book and appearances on television programs, such as Oprah. When he was an infant, his penis was so badly burned during a botched circumcision that it dried up and fell off. Doctors tried surgery and hormones to make him into a girl, but he never felt comfortable in that gender.
He went public with his story in the mid-nineties, earning profits from the book and touring television talk shows, but life wasn't easy. Friends say his fabricated anatomy strained his marriage with his wife, Jane. He was also mourning the suicide of his twin brother two years earlier.
Money seems to have been his biggest worry recently, his mother says, but he kept it secret.
"Jane went to the bank and the account was empty," Ms. Reimer said. "We didn't know he was so broke. We would have helped him."
Realizing what happened came as a terrible shock, she said.
"We were horrified. That was his money for living on, you know, he wasn't a rich man. He thought it was a sound investment, that the money would be there for him when he needed it."
Although Mr. Reimer never started any legal action, his widow has contacted a lawyer about reclaiming the debt.
Two other investors have launched lawsuits against Mr. Perch, claiming he touted a scheme that would pay high interest, but didn't make good on his promises. Statements of claim filed in Winnipeg courts say he owes those investors more than $100,000. Several other creditors are also suing Mr. Perch, saying he failed to pay a variety of debts, including balances on three Visa gold cards and two lines of credit.
Mr. Perch hasn't filed responses to the claims, although he said yesterday that he intends to sue the golf club for terminating his contract.
Bob Olien, president of the Transcona Golf Club, said the club's board of directors unanimously voted to remove Mr. Perch from the golf pro job he's had for 24 years after securities regulators issued a warning about him in November.
"Gary Perch has been soliciting money from the public to invest in his Winnipeg-based pro golf shop," said the statement by the Manitoba Securities Commission. "If you have invested your money with him, your money may be at risk."
But Mr. Perch said the whole story hasn't yet come to light. "David was caught in the middle," he said, without elaborating. "I considered him a friend."
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