EDMONTON — Accused killer Travis Vader’s fingerprint and DNA were on a beer can found in Lyle and Marie McCann’s SUV, RCMP say in newly released court documents.
Two dozen RCMP officers posed as criminals to build the case against Vader, who’s accused of the murders of the St. Albert couple, missing since 2010.
Three played major roles in the fabricated plot designed to draw in the prime suspect and coax damning evidence from him; 20 more made cameo appearances. All pretended to be part of a criminal organization looking to recruit Vader, according to documents that became public Monday when a judge granted a request from several local news organizations, including Global Edmonton, to lift a publication ban. The documents have not been presented or proven in court.
In part, the documents read like a sort of laundry list of leads and theories to tie Vader to the 2010 crime.
A paralegal working with the lead prosecutor even made a “things to do” list. On it was a note about Sheri Lynn Campbell, who used to share a home with Vader and whom he described to RCMP as his alibi.
Text messages between the pair indicate that Campbell told police Vader was at the home from 2 a.m. on July 2, 2010, to 2 a.m. July 3, the day the McCanns were last seen as they gassed up their motorhome in preparation for a trip to B.C.
READ MORE: The disappearance of Lyle and Marie McCann
Two days later, the burned-out motorhome was found at a campground near Edson. Then, on July 16, the Hyundai Tucson SUV the couple had been pulling was found concealed about 25 kilometres east of the town. Inside, RCMP found the beer can, Marie McCann’s blood and Lyle McCann’s hat with a bullet hole in it. They say Vader used the couple’s cellphone at about 2 p.m. that day.
Vader was arrested on July 19, but he wasn’t charged with the murders until April 2012. The bodies of the McCanns have never been found.
In March 2014, a month before his trial was to begin, Crown prosecutor Michelle Doyle stayed the charges, citing a huge gap in disclosure provided by the RCMP to the defence. Doyle said she was confident Vader would be convicted, but was concerned he may not receive a fair trial. Nine months later, the stay was lifted and the first-degree murder charges applied again.
Vader is fighting to have the case thrown out, accusing the Crown of trying to buy more time to collect evidence. A judge is expected to rule on the abuse-of-process claim at the end of the month. If Vader’s trial goes ahead, it is scheduled to start March 7.
The paralegal jotted notes about the disclosure set-back, writing “2 years fought to keep in Vader. MD feels betrayed.”
The documents released Monday also recount evidence from a man who said Vader gave him a “gold ruby ring” that belonged to the McCanns. The man said Vader took it from the motorhome and kept it at a cabin near his father’s place, along with “a lot more stuff.”
The documents reveal that, as well as mounting the sizable undercover case, RCMP paid a jailhouse informant for information against Vader.
In a sworn affidavit among the documents, an RCMP sergeant said as many as 10 undercover operations are going on in Alberta at any given time, lasting from several weeks to several years, with some remaining open indefinitely.
It’s a dangerous job, said the sergeant, who coordinates undercover operations in Alberta.
“I am aware of situations where suspects or targets have clearly indicated the intention to kill an officer upon discovery of an undercover operator’s true identity.”
In one case, an operation was terminated because the suspect became suspicious, the sergeant said. RCMP intercepted audio of the suspect’s girlfriend reading newspaper coverage of the Jason Dix murder trial, when he realized he was the target of the same strategy used against Dix.
RCMP spent months on an elaborate, undercover “Mr. Big” operation to gather evidence against Dix for the 1994 deaths of Tim Ordzyk, 33, and James Deiter, 24, whose bodies were discovered at a paper recycling plant in Sherwood Park. RCMP first thought they had been electrocuted, but both had been shot in the head three times.
Dix spent nearly two years in jail and the case was eventually thrown out because of lack of evidence. He sued the Crown and RCMP for malicious prosecution and was awarded $765,000 in 2002. The case remains unsolved.
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