EDMONTON – A key Crown witness in the Travis Vader trial told court on Thursday he saw Vader driving a green SUV in early July 2010.
Lyle and Marie McCann were last seen driving their motorhome and pulling behind it their green Hyundai Tucson SUV as they set out on a camping trip on July 3, 2010.
Under heavy police security the Crown called witness David Olson to testify on Thursday.
Olson, also known to locals in Peers, Alberta as “Bandana Dave” was escorted into the courtroom, with two sheriffs standing behind him during his testimony.
Olson told the court he saw Vader twice on July 3, 2010. He said Vader first showed up to his mobile trailer driving a grey dually pick-up truck with a tidy tank in the back.
“He told me he was broke,” Olson said. “He needed some oil for the truck he was driving.”
Olson said Vader would often drive stolen vehicles and testified Vader also told him how he would burn them.
A Ford dually pick-up truck was found abandoned on an oil lease on July 17, 2010 with the interior burned out. On Aug. 16, 2010, investigators found the McCanns’ SUV key in the back of the truck.
Olson said he gave Vader some lawn mower oil and Vader left, only to return hours later driving a green SUV.
“He was driving a little green SUV, Hyundai,” said Olson. The witness added it was “really clean, it looked like new.”
TIMELINE: The key events in the Travis Vader case
On July 16, 2010, RCMP announced the McCanns’ SUV was found off a bush trail near Edson, Alberta.
Olson told the court that Vader had mentioned Amber a lot and wanted to reach her by phone.
“That visit he was extremely agitated and he really wanted to reach Amber,” Olson said.
Olson said Vader sent him to the nearby store to buy a $25 phone card and a case of beer. He told the court he prefers to drink Kokanee, but that day he picked up a 12-pack of Boxer beer cans because it was cheaper.
After drinking a few beers with Vader, Olson said Myles Ingersoll pulled up and asked Olson to go to the lake.
Ingersoll testified for the Crown on Monday, April 4. He said when he pulled into Olson’s driveway he saw Vader driving a green SUV.
The Crown alleges Vader was in the truck and the SUV.
Witnesses, including Vader’s sister Bobbi-Jo, testified Vader was driving a dually pick-up with a tidy tank when he came to see her in Edmonton on July 4, 2010.
Vader’s DNA was discovered inside the McCanns’ SUV: on the steering wheel, console and passenger seat. DNA and his fingerprint were discovered on a Boxer beer can in the cup holder.
On Thursday morning, Olson also told the court he often smoked meth with Vader, along with Amber Williams and Willy Nikolyuk.
Before July 2010 Olson told the court Vader wasn’t working and he saw his last paycheque. He said that paycheque was $100,000 and three months later it was all gone.
During cross-examination, Vader’s lawyer questioned Olson about a scheduled court appearance on July 20, 2010. Olson, who was charged with cultivating and producing marijuana, said he was growing the plants to make money to fix up his mobile home.
Brian Beresh suggested Olson was worried he could go to jail and tried to curry favour with police.
“Absolutely not,” Olson said. “I spoke up because it was the right thing to do.”
Beresh said a police “endorsement” kept him out of jail but Olson was adamant that his “light criminal record” was the reason he didn’t spend time behind bars.
Vader’s lawyer also suggested Olson drew his friend Myles Ingersoll into his story.
Beresh played a portion of a wiretap phone call in which Ingersoll told a friend he didn’t know anything about the McCanns and their vehicle and that Bandana Dave was going to get people in trouble. Ingersoll had testified he was lying during that phone call.
“The one that started all this was Travis, when he brought that vehicle to my house,” said Olson.
During cross-examination, Olson admitted he was unsure about the specific date Vader came to his home. He old the court he saw July 3 in media stories.
Olson’s testimony will continue later in Thursday afternoon.