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Defence witnesses contradict Crown evidence

Five defence witnesses have testified at Travis Vader's murder trial, giving evidence that contradicts or calls into question elements of the Crown's case. Vader is accused of murdering elderly St. Albert couple Lyle and Marie McCann on July 3, 2010.
Travis Vader
Travis Vader

Five defence witnesses have testified at Travis Vader's murder trial, giving evidence that contradicts or calls into question elements of the Crown's case.

Vader is accused of murdering elderly St. Albert couple Lyle and Marie McCann on July 3, 2010. They were last seen filling their motorhome with gas before a road trip to the west coast.

But defence witnesses have testified they saw a couple in a motorhome similar to the McCanns' and in an SUV similar to the McCanns on July 4, the day after they're alleged to have been murdered.

Debbie Foisy testified Thursday she was at an anniversary party at the Minnow Lake campground July 4, when she saw a couple she later identified as the McCanns pull in and set up camp around 3:30 p.m.

While she didn't get a good look at the woman's face, and got even less of a look at the man, she confirmed it was Marie McCann based on a photo police showed her.

“I didn't recognize her face, but I believed it to be her,” she said.

Foisy said she saw the couple enter the campground in a motorhome with an SUV in tow, driving “too fast” for the area, then saw the woman unhook the SUV before the couple parked both vehicles and set up camp.

Foisy's sister-in-law Gwendolyn Yakimovich testified she was at that same anniversary party, although her testimony did not in every case match Foisy's.

She also testified to seeing the motorhome and SUV pull into the campground, but described it as driving slowly. She said she first saw the motorhome towing the SUV make a tour of the campground around 2:30 p.m. before leaving. Both vehicles came back about a half hour later, but this time the SUV was no longer being towed but being driven by itself. A half hour after that, she said the couple left in the SUV.

Yakimovich testified she did not get a good look at the couple.

Another civilian witness, Barb Gray, testified she saw a motorhome and SUV matching the description of those belonging to the McCanns on July 3, 2010, at the Wolf Lake campground, which is south of Minnow Lake.

She said she noticed the Hyundai Tucson SUV because she was looking to buy a new vehicle for her daughter and looked to see if it had a tow hitch. She recalled the last three digits of the licence plate as 289, which is a match to the McCanns' SUV.

When shown a photo of Marie McCann, she identified her as the woman she saw. She said she saw that motorhome the next day parked unusually, but did not see the couple or the SUV at that time.

Meanwhile, a civilian witness Kim Steffler testified Vader stayed at her house from around 3 a.m. on July 2 until around 2 p.m. July 3, which is around the time the Crown has alleged Vader used the McCanns' cellphone to send text messages to an ex-girlfriend, signing them “T,” and Crown witness Dave Olson testified to seeing Vader at his house in Peers earlier in the day than that.

Defence lawyer Brian Beresh has questioned whether Vader ever actually referred to himself as “T,” suggesting his associate Terry McColman was actually the “T” referred to in those text messages.

Harold Zerb, for whom McColman did casual labour in the summer of 2010, testified that a note found on his door read: “I got your gas. Will be back tonight to replace. T.” was left by McColman, because of a prior arrangement the two had about borrowing gas.

He said there was little chance it was Vader who borrowed the gas and left the note.

“If he did, it would be without my knowledge,” he said.

Another defence witness is expected to testify further about Vader's alibi Friday afternoon.