Circumstantially Compelling Murder Most Foul
"At first, we though they had a breakdown or something. Or mom went for a walk by the river. She had a weak ankle and dad would never leave her.
"We thought we would find them -- their [SUV] was missing. Maybe they were stopped, someone tied them up. That there would be a ransom note or something."
"Waiting is very difficult. It will be a relief to have it over."
"I'm convinced that [Vader] did it. It's just a question of ... I don't know what the judge thinks."
Bret McCann, Alberta
Bret McCann speaks to media outside court on Thursday after the guilty verdict was delivered in Edmonton. (CBC)
"I love you. I did not do this. I didn't have anything to do with this. I don't know what they or, or, or, what they're trying to f---in' dream up for fickin' -- what they're trying to do."All the evidence gathered, albeit compelling, is of a circumstantial nature, relating to the mysterious disappearance of Lyle and Marie McCann, both in their late 70s, and avid RV campers.. They disappeared in July of 2010. They were driving their recreational vehicle with the intention of vacationing south of Chilliwack, British Columbia. They set out on their journey and that was the last anyone heard from them again. Missing, presumed dead, their bodies never found.
"But I did not do this, Mom."
Travis Vader to his mother
But their possessions were found. Their recreational vehicle was found, abandoned, not all that far from where they set off from, and it had been set on fire. The SUV they were pulling was found in the possession of a 44-year-old down-and-outer, accused a year later, of their deaths. He has insisted on his innocence. RCMP were alerted, two days after the couple left for their trip, to a campsite two hours from the McCanns' home, that a RV was afire.
They discovered no human remains in the ruins of the burnt-out recreational trailer and their green Hyundai SUV being towed along was nowhere to be seen. Then, about a week later, the SUV was found in the brush, a few kilometres north of the burnt-out RV. The man with numerous run-ins with the law seemed an early suspect. He was known for auto thefts, drugs and weapons offences, and he was perpetually broke.
The portrait of Lyle and Marie McCann sits at their memorial service in 2011. (Photo: The Canadian Press)
During the trial that followed Crown prosecutors spoke of their theory that high on drugs, Vader came across the elderly couple and attempted to rob them. A confrontation ensued where he killed them. Soon afterward five phone calls and text messages were recorded on the McCanns' cellphone, going to Vader's girlfriend. Witnesses testified that Vader appeared at a friend's house that very afternoon of July 3 driving a Hyundai SUV, with a wad of cash.
En route to their destination the McCanns had stopped at highway store to pick up laundry detergent, cookies and tins of No Name food. All of those things were unloaded from the SUV Vader was driving when he arrived at his sister's home. His DNA was found on the steering wheel, armrest and passenger seat of the SUV; found on the brims of two of Lyle McCann's baseball caps, one of which had a bullet hole in it, stained with drops of Mr. McCann's blood.
Traces of Vader's DNA were found on an empty can of beer in the vehicle and drops of Mrs. McCann's blood were on the tins of No Name food. In a truck that Vader had been driving, a stolen truck, before he took possession of the SUV belonging to the McCanns, keys to the their green SUV were found by the RCMP. The defence lawyer for Mr. Vader said at trial: "The RCMP not only had the opportunity to plant the SUV key in the truck, but, at that time, they also had the means and a strong motive to tie the vehicle to Mr. Vader."
The verdict of guilt of second-degree murder was brought down in a first-ever televised courtroom address by Justice Denny Thomas yesterday. Two counts of second-degree murder, live-streamed. But Justice Thomas cited a law that is no longer in the Criminal Code; it does appear still in the Code, but it was rendered obsolete when the Supreme Court struck it down in 1990 as being unconstitutional.
It appears a retrial will be in order.