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UPDATE: William Bicknell receives life sentence

EDMONTON – Convicted killer William Bicknell was given a life sentence on Wednesday for a series of home invasions and a gunfight with police in March 2011.

Justice Eric Macklin sentenced Bicknell to life in prison with no chance of parole for eight and a half years.

“Life is a sentence that is reserved primarily for murder and manslaughter cases and is very rare other than in those circumstances,” explained Orest Yereniuk, Chief Crown Executive Director of Regional Prosecution.

“So the fact that a life sentence was imposed for a home invasion, B and Es, and armed robberies, and escaping lawful custodies, and shooting at police officers, just shows that – in Alberta – we believe in our safe communities, and when you commit these types of egregious offences in Alberta, life is a potential sentence for you, and that’s what happened here.”

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On Tuesday, the 45-year-old pleaded guilty to 14 charges, including unlawful confinement, escaping lawful custody, robbery and weapons offences.

Bicknell made his escape while on an escorted pass from Drumheller Institution in southern Alberta in March 2011. On the ride back from visiting his sister in Edmonton, he feigned a heart attack, pulled out a knife and overpowered the lone guard who was driving.

At various times over the next 10 days, Bicknell held the guard and three other people hostage in their homes.

His run for freedom eventually ended in a car chase and gun battle with RCMP. He was shot twice in the head, but survived.

“This was a horrific nine days in this province when he escaped while armed with a knife,” said Yereniuk.

“The life sentence really explains and shows how serious the series of offences were – and notwithstanding that he’s a serving prisoner for second degree murder – these newest offences committed while he was unlawfully at large after escape have to be recognized. And it has to be a substantive sentence that means something.”

Court heard how Bicknell had already been serving a life sentence after being convicted in 2003 of second-degree murder for the beating death of a woman from British Columbia.

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The Crown, calling it a “horrific series of crimes,” asked that Bicknell receive a life sentence on all charges, with no chance at parole for 10 years. The defence told the judge Bicknell hadn’t physically hurt his victims and suggested a 14 to 16-year term.

In the sentencing decision on Wednesday, the judge explained the latest life sentence would be served concurrently with the previous life sentence.

Yereniuk said he thought the judge handled the case very well, and was pleased with the decision.

With files from Chris Purdy, The Canadian Press

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