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Documents link Vader to McCann murder

The son of a St. Albert couple presumed murdered was given a glimpse into the evidence against the man charged with the crime this week.

The son of a St. Albert couple presumed murdered was given a glimpse into the evidence against the man charged with the crime this week.

Bret McCann said while it was nice to finally see what kind of evidence the RCMP and Crown have, the material itself was difficult to read.

Justice Denny Thomas lifted a publication ban on the documents Tuesday morning. According to media reports, the documents, which include a Crown summary, reveal key elements of the case against Travis Vader, who is charged with the murders.

According to the documents, RCMP investigators believe they have DNA evidence linking Vader to the murder of St. Albert couple Lyle and Marie McCann.

In the summary, police say items found inside the SUV were "consistent with trauma to the McCanns, including the blood of Marie McCann and Lyle McCann's hat with a bullet hole in it."

The summary also states, "Forensic evidence ties this SUV to Vader."

"Needless to say this information was disturbing and distressing to our family, but we as a family are eager for this to go to trial so that finally we can find out what happened on July 3, 2010, and move us all toward closure," Bret said.

He added the entire ordeal has been exhausting, and the family is hoping it will soon be over.

"It has been a marathon, that's for sure," he said.

The documents also indicate police orchestrated several sting operations to gather evidence, including several targeting Vader's sister, Bobbi Jo. During one of those stings, the documents state she revealed to investigators she believed Vader may have been involved in the murders because he possessed guns wrapped in blankets she believed may have come from the McCanns' motorhome.

Crown prosecutor Ashley Finlayson said the summary of the case that was unsealed amounts to an index to the documents outlining the Crown's case.

He added the documents refer to material filed prior to the stay of proceedings in March 2014, and contained examples of documents that came in with the late disclosure that ultimately prompted former Chief Crown Prosecutor Michelle Doyle to stay the proceedings.

"Without showing the document, it was just a one- or two-line summary," he said.

Finlayson said he had no concerns about what lifting the publication ban might mean for a fair trial, since Vader has elected for a trial by judge alone with no jury.

"I think one of the reasons they had that material sealed ... is because a jury shouldn't hear about the evidence prior to trial," he said. "A judge, of course, is able to disavow himself. It's not a concern if a judge hears it."

The McCanns were last seen July 3, 2010, around 9:30 a.m. Less than six hours later, at approximately 2 p.m., police believe Vader used the couple's cellphone.

The motorhome was found, burned, near Peers, Alta., a short time later. The Hyundai SUV the McCanns were towing behind the motorhome was found 13 days later.

McCann said the $60,000 reward for information leading to the return of his parents' remains is still available, and he hopes someone will claim it.

"We want this trial to happen, but it's really important to us to find my parents," he said.

Hearing continues

Meanwhile, the hearing that could decide if Vader is tried for the McCanns' murder continued this week. Doyle spent the morning back on the stand defending the way the prosecution handled Vader's case prior to the stay of proceedings in 2014.

She is a key witness in an abuse of process hearing launched by defence lawyer Brian Beresh, who represents Vader.

Beresh has argued the stay of the murder charges relating to the McCanns amounts to an abuse of process, because prosecutors and RCMP used the extra time to continue gathering evidence relating to the trial.

Doyle told the court she did have concerns with amount and contents of the disclosure, but repeatedly denied Beresh's suggestion that meetings with police involved her specifically directing further investigation.

She did concede she had raised concerns about the disclosure with RCMP investigators and knew the police were continuing to investigate.

"I was aware of the police using certain investigative techniques, and an ongoing investigation was a certainty," she said.

Beresh suggested this investigation was meant to gather further evidence against Vader.

Doyle said any evidence gathered could have supported either the defence or the prosecution.

The two went back and forth like this for most of the morning. Beresh would ask specific questions about meeting notes that suggested Doyle was directing an investigation to gather evidence to use against Vader. Doyle would counter to say she had no specific agenda for any gathered evidence.

"It could be evidence that exonerated Mr. Vader," she said.

She stated earlier in the hearing the reason she stayed the proceedings was that because of the problems with disclosure, she was concerned that Vader might not get a fair trial. She insisted the stay was not a tactic to give the Crown more time to build its case.

Several police investigators took the stand in the afternoon. Details of those proceedings were not available by press time, but Doyle's testimony finished Tuesday.