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Text messages from McCann phone included in trial exhibit

Two text messages were sent from a cell phone registered to Lyle McCann less than six hours after he and his wife Marie were last seen in St. Albert.
Telus phone records show text messages from a cell phone registered to Lyle McCann six hours after he and his wife Marie were last seen in St. Albert.
Telus phone records show text messages from a cell phone registered to Lyle McCann six hours after he and his wife Marie were last seen in St. Albert.

Two text messages were sent from a cell phone registered to Lyle McCann less than six hours after he and his wife Marie were last seen in St. Albert.

Copies of those text messages have been entered as part of an exhibit for identification in the trial, and made available to media.

“Hey babe its me how are you doing today you know you can still text my phone i can still recieve text i miss you so much (sic),” reads the first one, sent at 2:28 p.m. Alberta time.

“I have been trying to call you and text you and email you and face book you and I cant get in touch with you its me t (sic),” reads the second one, sent four minutes later.

Crown prosecutor Jim Stewart, in his opening statement at Travis Vader's ongoing murder trial, suggested to Crown would seek to show Vader made several calls and sent two text messages from the McCanns' phone to an ex-girlfriend the day the St. Albert couple disappeared.

“The calls and texts are all to the same person: Amber Williams,” he said on the first day of the trial, now into its fifth week. “Amber Williams will say that, given the nature of what is written in the texts, Travis Vader is the author.”

The McCanns were last seen July 3, 2010, at the Superstore gas bar in St. Albert, filling up their motorhome with their green Hyundai Tucson SUV in tow. Their motorhome was found burning at a campground near Edson on July 5, and the two are presumed dead. Their bodies have never been recovered.

Exhibit DD, which comprises Telus business records provided to police as a result of a court order during the RCMP investigation, were the subject of nearly a full day of questioning on Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning.

Stewart called Joanne Strawson, who worked as a security analyst at Telus when the records were produced and has since taken on the role of security inspector, explained in detail what the records contained: maps of cell phone towers in the Edson area west of Edmonton, records of calls coming to and from several phone numbers including the McCanns', and the content of text messages coming to and from those phone numbers during the specified period, from July 2 to July 13, 2010.

She explained she has given factual evidence in several dozen criminal trials across the country, and has worked on “thousands” of production orders relating to cell phone records.

In his cross-examination, defence lawyer Brian Beresh questioned Strawson on apparent discrepancies within the document, which she explained likely resulted from how Microsoft Excel includes empty cells in its page counts, and how RCMP handled the records and prepared them for disclosure.

Strawson also noted the time stamp on text messages in the record is always given in eastern time.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Crown is expected to call the civilian who found a partially burned Ford F350 truck in a field. Another of Vader's ex-girlfriends, Andrea Saddleback-Sexsmith, has testified she saw Vader driving a similar truck in early July 2010.

Trial extended

Justice Denny Thomas asked both Crown and defence lawyers to report on how much longer might be needed for the trial, which was initially scheduled to wrap up April 8.

Prosecutor Ashley Finlayson said on Monday afternoon that he expected this week to be filled with DNA expert testimony, and said he would still need two to three weeks to finish presenting the Crown's case. This will include: hearing from several RCMP officers about continuity of evidence, voir dire hearings about the admissibility of statements Vader gave to police following his arrests in 2012 and 2014, playing roughly 20 intercepted phone calls taking 10-12 minutes each, and “a number of civilian witnesses that will be somewhat lengthy” including Amber Williams, Bobbi Jo Vader, and several others.

Beresh said he hoped the defence case would take no more than four days after that was completed.

“We'll come back in a week or so and see if we're on targets, and how final argument will play out in this case,” Thomas said.