The hearing on an application for a judicial stay of proceedings against accused murdered Travis Vader will stretch into the new year.
Originally scheduled for four days at the beginning of the month, the hearing stretched into extra days in December. Witness testimony concluded Dec. 15, and arguments have been scheduled for Jan. 12-13.
Justice Denny Thomas said he is scheduled to be out of the country for a month early in the new year before Vader’s trial begins in March, and cautioned he might not be able to render a decision before he leaves.
“I’m not giving any guarantees I’ll get this decision done before I leave the country,” he said. “I’ll do my best.”
Depending on that decision, the trial may or may not go ahead in March as scheduled.
While the big revelation arising from the Dec. 15 court date was the lifting of a publication ban on documents that outline the Crown’s case against Vader – including forensic evidence linking him to the McCanns’ vehicle and phone records showing he used their cellphone shortly after they were last seen – the afternoon’s testimony clarified the extent of the RCMP’s investigation.
Vader is accused of murdering St. Albert couple Lyle and Marie McCann, who were last seen at a St. Albert gas station filling up their motorhome July 3, 2010. He was quickly named a person of interest in the disappearance, but wasn’t charged with their murder until two years later.
Crown prosecutor Michelle Doyle entered a stay of proceedings in the weeks before a trial scheduled for April 2014, a move defence lawyer Brian Beresh is arguing was a deliberate attempt to delay the trial and gather more evidence. She has testified she entered the stay because with all the late disclosure, she was concerned about Vader’s right to a fair trial.
The court heard from three officers involved with the investigation, who described a monumental effort involving hundreds of officers from dozens of detachments across the province.
Cpl. Jason Zazaluk explained one of the reasons for having bigger and bigger disclosure packages each time more information was provided to the Crown had to do with the computer system police were using: every time new disclosure was included, in order for everything to be properly searchable in the database, all the other previous disclosure had to be included in the new file.
After Doyle entered a stay of proceedings, he explained RCMP continued to follow up on their investigation, including clarifying some points that may have been ambiguous in the disclosure, prompting some follow-ups.
“I felt we now had more time to fix this and make it better,” for both the Crown and the defence lawyers, he said.
Sgt. David Brink, who was the lead investigator on the file for a portion of the investigation, said investigators struggled with some of the inefficiencies in the process, specifically having notes and files coming in from officers all over the province, and outside the province as well and having the lead investigator in Peace River while having the file co-ordinator in Edson.
“It’s always been a very challenging investigation,” he said.