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Court hears of audio recording made to Vader at RCMP request

In the weeks after his parents, Lyle and Marie McCann, disappeared, their son Bret McCann made an audio recording for RCMP to "utilize to appeal to (Travis) Vader's better nature.
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In the weeks after his parents, Lyle and Marie McCann, disappeared, their son Bret McCann made an audio recording for RCMP to "utilize to appeal to (Travis) Vader's better nature.

Defence lawyer Brian Beresh entered a document containing a transcript of that recording as Exhibit 10 during his cross-examination Tuesday at Vader's murder trial. He's accused of killing Lyle and Marie in July 2010.

The document briefly describes the McCann family, and in it Bret suggests he believes Vader had a nice family life at one point, and is deep down a "decent man," and asks him to come forward with any information about his parents' whereabouts.

"I'm just appealing to you … you know cause I know you're a decent man and please Travis …please just tell us," the transcript concludes.

Beresh focused on a part of the document that says Bret received contact from some of Vader's relatives, including his sister. When pressed, Bret said he definitely had contact from someone claiming to be Vader's son, but couldn't specifically remember contact from his sister.

"If I said I did, I must have," Bret told Beresh. "I don't know why I would make that up; I must have received it."

Beresh also confirmed with Bret that Lyle was an "expert driver," who would know about safe road conditions and would be able to park a large vehicle like a motorhome fairly easily in a tight space.

Beresh also noted that while Bret said it was unlikely his father would ever stop to pick up a hitchhiker, he had no specific knowledge of whether he would or would not, not having driven on a long trip with his father for several decades.

"I said likely not," Bret said. "It's unlikely he would stop to pick up a hitchhiker."

At several points, Bret seemed to take issue with the premise of Beresh's questions, and pointed that out.

"Mr. McCann, I'm not trying to fight with you. I'm just trying to get to the facts," Beresh said.

Beresh also focused on the family dynamics between the siblings, and Bret said he would see them at family gatherings, during holidays for example, but otherwise rarely spoke with either his brother or his sister.

He said he was aware of concerns surrounding his brother's alcohol consumption, but had not had any specific conversations about it with his parents or his brother.

Beresh continued his cross-examination Wednesday morning, suggesting the memory problems Bret had identified his mother as having could have contributed to his parents taking their phone with them into a rest stop and forgetting it there.

Bret said he had no knowledge of their practice with respect to the cellphone, except that they used it rarely.

He also addressed the issue of firearms in the house, and possibly in the motorhome. Beresh asked specifically if Bret knew of conversations with a neighbour about taking a handgun on trips in the motorhome and hiding it in a flowerpot. Bret replied he knew nothing about that.

Beresh indicated that, based on transcripts of interviews Bret did with police, there was some confusion about his recollection of the carpet the McCanns used to line the basement storage compartments in the motorhome, and what they used to lay on the ground as a carpet when the motorhome was stopped; Bret said he remembered it as a light-green Astroturf.

Referring to an August 2014 interview with police and his wife present, Beresh said Bret had only recalled the light-brown shag carpet after his wife mentioned it.

Bret disagreed, noting he had an independent memory of that carpet lining, and said he felt Beresh was mistaken in his reading of the transcript, although he conceded Astroturf might not have been the right word.

Once Beresh was finished, Crown prosecutor Jim Stewart showed Bret a photo from Exhibit 1, a large binder of photographs, and Bret identified the light-green carpet on the ground in one of the photos.

Earlier Tuesday afternoon, Stewart concluded his questions by showing several videos to court, including surveillance videos from the Superstore where the McCanns were last seen and a video police took at the McCanns' house after their disappearance.

One section of the video showed a calendar in Lyle McCann's study, showing the word "Kelowna" on July 5 and "Cultus Lake" on July 8.

Mary-Ann McCann

Wednesday morning finished with Bret's wife Mary-Ann McCann taking the stand.

Stewart established the relationship between the McCanns and their daughter-in-law was a very close one.

"They were my parents as much as my parents were," she said. "We had a loving, caring relationship.

She described a standing Friday-afternoon appointment, where she would pick up her mother-in-law to have lunch, then go shopping at garage sales, and pick something up for supper. Meanwhile, she said, Bret would go right to his parents' house after work, play nine-ball in the basement with his dad and then they would all eat together.

She said the last time she saw the McCanns was July 2, when they ate fried chicken. She said she had purchased several gifts for her grandson, which Bret and Lyle loaded into the motorhome, along with some pottery her son had inherited from her mother, who had recently died.

At one point, Beresh objected when Stewart referred to the fact the McCanns had died because no evidence had been entered to establish that fact.

"I object to the manner he describes this," he said. "This is a live issue before the court."

Thereafter, Stuart said the McCanns "were disappeared" instead of that they died.

When questioned by Beresh, Mary-Anne downplayed the significance of her mother-in-law's forgetfulness, noting she had not been diagnosed by a doctor.

"I said I thought she might have the beginnings of Alzheimer's because she was beginning to repeat her stories," Mary-Ann said. "Or was that old age?"

Wednesday afternoon's testimony is expected to include several witnesses including a relative of the McCanns, and someone who saw the motorhome at the Minnow Lake campground.