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Jailhouse information motivated by money

The man who acted as a jailhouse agent for police investigating Travis Vader was motivated by money and acted outside his instructions, court heard Monday. RCMP Cpl.

The man who acted as a jailhouse agent for police investigating Travis Vader was motivated by money and acted outside his instructions, court heard Monday.

RCMP Cpl. Mark Sloan testified Monday afternoon that Elmer Cardinal “volunteered his services to help,” in the spring of 2011, and was looking for a payout.

“Mr. Cardinal's motivation was always financial,” he said. “His goal was to discover the bodies of Lyle and Marie McCann and then to claim the $60,000 reward (offered by the family).”

Seven conversations Cardinal recorded have been played during Vader’s ongoing trial for the first-degree murder of elderly St. Albert couple Lyle and Marie McCann on July 3, 2010. Their bodies have never been found.

In those recordings, taken Oct. 11-12, 2011, at the Red Deer Remand Centre, Vader can be heard describing how he would set a truck on fire, and the two also discuss Vader's alibi for July 3, with Cardinal offering to help provide a story as to Vader’s whereabouts that day.

Court also heard Cardinal contacted the McCann family offering to sell them phony jewelry said to have belonged to Lyle and Marie, for which Sloan had to reprimand him.

“I told him not to be so stupid, for lack of a better term, and not to have contact with the family again,” he said.

Sloan also said Cardinal’s instructions were to be a passive listener and report what he heard, and not to specifically ask about the alleged offence.

Beresh noted offering to assist with an alibi, as Cardinal did, was beyond the scope of his instructions.

Crown prosecutor Ashley Finlayson told court the main reason for calling Sloan to testify was for defence lawyer Brian Beresh to be able to cross-examine him, but he did elicit some information from the witness.

Sloan said Cardinal first approached police around April 2011.

“Essentially he volunteered his services to help with the RCMP,” he said. “I assisted him in becoming an agent.”

Cardinal received financial benefit through the witness protection program, including money to maintain his phone even inside the remand centre, and “anything he needed to ingratiate himself to the target.”

Sloan explained that theirs was not a typical handler/agent relationship, as contact with Cardinal was sometimes limited because of his incarceration, and as such a typical debriefing never took place.

“He could call me only when he thought it was safe to make contact and when he could get to a phone,” Sloan said.

Finlayson noted Cardinal is since deceased.

Beresh raised several questions about Cardinal's character and motivations, entering several documents into evidence in the process.

Sloan said he and Cardinal had been in contact at least 34 times that were recorded between March 24, 2011, and Feb. 27, 2012, and it's possible there were as many contacts that weren't recorded. A list of those contacts was entered as an exhibit.

Beresh also entered three court orders Sloan sought to remove Cardinal from his place of incarceration, along with attached affidavits, suggesting he was brought to police stations for interviews.

Sloan said the purpose of those meetings was to discuss Cardinal’s relationship with the RCMP as an agent, rather than any specifics of the investigation.

Cardinal’s criminal record was entered into evidence and discussed and Beresh suggested Cardinal was a “career criminal.”

“He had a lengthy criminal record, for sure,” Sloan replied.

Beresh spoke about three agreements Cardinal made with police, which Sloan said he had never personally seen. An exhibit slot was reserved for those, but they have not yet been entered as exhibits and therefore are not available to media or the public. Those documents likely contain information about specific compensation the RCMP offered Cardinal.

He did enter a document that appears to be an internal memo within the remand centre where the author claims Cardinal referred to a $50,000 reward police had offered him; Sloan said he knew nothing about a reward from police.

Beresh suggested one of Cardinal’s motivations for helping police, further to the financial gain, was to help with his own criminal charges; in October 2011 he was charged with assault causing bodily harm and sexual assault. He was later convicted of assault causing bodily harm but the sexual assault charge was withdrawn.