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Vader's lawyer questions investigation

Travis Vader's defence lawyer Brian Beresh has again raised the possibility a key found in a stolen truck wasn't there when investigators first examined the vehicle.

Travis Vader's defence lawyer Brian Beresh has again raised the possibility a key found in a stolen truck wasn't there when investigators first examined the vehicle.

RCMP officer Jason Young was called back to the stand Tuesday morning after testifying last month about his role in investigating a Ford F-350 which was eventually found to have a key to Lyle and Marie McCanns' SUV.

Court has heard the key was not found upon initial inspection, but rather was found nearly a month later when forensic investigators thoroughly examined the vehicle at the St. Albert RCMP detachment.

Vader is accused of murdering the McCanns, who were last seen July 3, 2010.

Previous testimony in his trial, now in its eighth week, has tied Vader to both the SUV and the Ford F-350.

Young explained when he first examined the F-350 at an impound yard in Edson, he did not see the keys tucked behind a fuel tank, even though he did specifically make note of a trailer hitch found about a foot away.

"In 2010 did you have problems with your eyesight?" Beresh asked him. Young explained he did not, but that his was a visual inspection and not a thorough inventory of the vehicle.

"I'm being totally honest and truthful here," he said. "I did not see those keys."

"I'm suggesting you are being truthful, and the keys weren't there when you looked," Beresh replied.

Crown prosecutor Jim Stewart clarified with Young how the process of towing the vehicle from Edson to St. Albert worked, and Young explained the vehicle was put at different angles to load it onto the flat-bed tow truck, and the tow truck accelerated, decelerated and braked at several points during the trip, implying the SUV key could have been jostled.

Court also heard from Telus electrical engineer Giancarlo Pamponi, who gave expert evidence about how the Telus cellphone network worked west of Edmonton in 2010.

He explained, in much the same way as previous witnesses have, how cellphone calls will go through the nearby tower with the strongest signal, to a typical maximum range of 30 km.

Beresh asked if that range could go up – Pamponi said it was possible in limited circumstances for the signal to go up to 50 km from the tower.

He testified a phone call coming from inside Edmonton could not have gone through the tower near Wabamun.

Crown prosecutors have previously entered a binder full of cellphone records from early July 2010 as evidence, which includes text messages and calls made from a phone that belonged to Travis Vader during the week after the McCanns disappeared. Phone records also indicate which cell-phone tower any specific call would have been routed through, allowing investigators to establish a geographical area from which a particular call was made.

Motorhome scene mishandled

While defence lawyer Brian Beresh has suggested during the trial that RCMP have mishandled scenes and evidence during the trial, specific details have now come to light.

A CBC News report dated April 25, citing RCMP documents and a disciplinary hearing in Hinton in late March, puts some of the responsibility for these errors on Const. Liam MacNeil.

He was reportedly the officer in charge of the scene where the McCanns' motorhome was found burning on July 5, 2010, and the initial investigative steps he took were deemed "inadequate" according to a 2013 disciplinary decision cited in the report.

He seized limited amounts of evidence and took photos, but left the scene before the tow truck driver arrived. He also failed to investigate footsteps leading off into the bush near the burnt motorhome.

Court has previously heard that by the time investigators thoroughly scoured that scene, the motorhome was gone and the debris has been cleaned up with a front-end loader.

The CBC report also indicates although MacNeil knew the motorhome belonged to the McCanns, he did not adequately follow up in trying to reach them, making a single phone call and falsely claiming to have sent a digital message to St. Albert investigators.

Investigators didn't begin to question the McCanns' neighbours until nearly a week later when the McCanns' daughter Trudy Holder reported them missing.

MacNeil is expected to testify later at the trial. On Wednesday morning, civilian witness and former Vader associate "Bandana Dave" Olson is scheduled to take the stand.

Testimony recap

Evidence given Friday afternoon and Monday included much testimony along the lines of what court has previously heard in the trial.

The St. Albert Gazette was unable to attend the trial Friday afternoon or Monday, but Crown prosecutor Jim Stewart provided a recap.

Friday afternoon included more testimony from an RCMP officer, Chad Fournier, who was involved with handling DNA exhibits and sending them to the laboratory for analysis.

Another RCMP officer testified he went to try to interview the brother of Terry McColman, who defence lawyer Brian Beresh has suggested could be an alternate suspect.

The officer testified he found a note on the door, written by an unknown author but signed as "T," which referred to the author having borrowed gas and a plan to return it. Vader's ex-girlfriend Amber Williams has testified text messages signed "T" sent to her from the McCanns phone July 3 were sent by Vader. Beresh has suggested the messages could have come from McColman, who has since died.

Court also heard from a clerk at the Peers liquor store who testified about using a digital system to purchase minutes on a pay-as-you go Virgin Mobile phone. Crown expects a civilian witness to connect that purchase to Vader.

Monday began with more testimony about the process of using the Easy Pin system to put minutes on a mobile phone, and explaining how the company's records show where and when transactions were made for a particular number.

Court also heard from RCMP blood spatter expert Sgt. Adrian Butler, who concluded the blood spatters found on Lyle McCann's hat inside his SUV were consistent with Lyle McCann being subject to some force that caused him to bleed.