EDMONTON – Travis Vader’s lawyer seemed to name an alternative suspect for the murders of Lyle and Marie McCann in court Thursday.
Brian Beresh pointed to similarities between the McCann case and the alleged crimes of Terry McColman, who died in 2011.
In his opening statement at the start of Vader’s murder trial, Beresh promised to reveal other suspects police failed to pursue because he said their investigation was “tunnel visioned,” and focused only on Vader.
Thursday, he questioned the Crown’s witness William Nikolyuk, about McColman.
Nikolyuk, a friend of Vader’s, said he was with McColman when he stole vehicles and picked up stolen copper wire. He said McColman was involved in a lot of thefts.
“You saw McColman hot-wire vehicles?” Beresh asked.
“Break ignition, yes,” said Nikolyuk, “start a vehicle without a key.”
Nikolyuk said McColman would stash stolen vehicles, and said he once saw McColman light one on fire.
“I seen him burn a truck. Doused it in diesel in the interior. He said always leave the window open a crack so the air could get in.”
Nikolyuk said McColman poured diesel fuel under the seat, “lit some paper towel on fire, closed the door and left.”
He said McColman “wouldn’t bat an eye,” when it came to stealing things or torching a vehicle.
Nicolyuk also testified his deceased friend drank Boxer beer.
Nikolyuk was back on the stand Thursday after Justice Denny Thomas ruled there were inconsistencies in Nikolyuk’s testimony from last Friday and a police interview recorded on July 26, 2010.
During the July 2010 interview, Nikolyuk was asked about how he knew Vader.
In 2010, Nikolyuk told police he and Vader “started stealing trucks together and smoking speed (methamphetamine).”
In court, Nikolyuk told a different story. He testified he never saw Vader do drugs. Nikolyuk said he bought meth about 100 times from Vader’s then girlfriend Amber Williams and often smoked it with her.
Vader’s lawyer, Brian Beresh, asked Nikolyuk if he’d had ever personally seen Vader so drugs.
“Never,” Nikolyuk told court.
Nikolyuk told court Vader tried to convince him to get help for his drug problem but he couldn’t say when that was.
Beresh suggested, and Nikolyuk agreed, he substituted what someone else told him instead of what Vader said to him.
Beresh also asked Nikolyuk if he felt frightened during the 2010 police interview after an investigator brought up the “Cheeseman/Hennessey” case in Mayerthorpe.
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Beresh read from the interview transcript in which an officer told Nikolyuk “we don’t want you to be in the same boat as them.”
The investigator then told Nikolyuk the pair was in jail for their role in the case.
“That must have scared the hell out of you?” Beresh asked.
“It did,” Nikolyuk replied.
When questioned by the Crown about his fear in that interview Nikolyuk said it “turned his stomach” because he bought food for Vader to help him out.
Vader is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of Lyle and Marie McCann, who disappeared after they were seen fuelling up their motorhome at a St. Albert gas station on July 3, 2010. Their bodies were never found.
The trial is expected to last until mid-April.
With files from Caley Ramsay, Global News.