WINNIPEG — The driver who witnessed a schizophrenic behead a fellow Greyhound bus passenger last summer has been gripped with panic attacks, while those who mourn the victim say they can’t sleep and have developed a deep sense that justice hasn’t been done, a review board heard Monday.
In a victim impact statement read before Manitoba’s Criminal Code review board, the bus driver who witnessed Vince Li’s brutal murder of Tim McLean said he replays the scene over in his head between “five and 50” times a day.
“A body laying on the floor and Vince Li thrusting his knife into the limp body over and over again,” said Bruce Martin’s statement, read out at the hearing by a lawyer.
“Sometimes I can over-ride those visions in my mind and go on with my day. Many other times, I feel numb all over . . . I become very angry knowing that Vince Li will be reviewed on a year-to-year basis and may one day run free among us.”
Li was found not criminally responsible for killing McLean in front of horrified passengers near Portage la Prairie, Man. A judge ruled in March that Li suffered from untreated schizophrenia and did not realize that killing the 22-year-old carnival worker was wrong.
The review board is to decide whether Li should stay institutionalized, be given a conditional release or granted an absolute discharge. Its ruling is expected later this week.
Li’s treating psychiatrist testified that the man has made a lot of progress in care.
Psychiatrist Stanley Yaren said Li is no longer bedevilled by voices in his head but still needs to be locked up under the “highest level of security possible.”
When Yaren first met Li after the bloody attack last July, the man was incoherent, hallucinating and suicidal.
“Now his thought processes are organized. He is no longer tormented by voices and he is beginning to understand what his illness is all about,” said Yaren, the only expert witness at Monday’s hearing.
Li has been taking his medication and hasn’t had a psychotic episode in three months, Yaren said. Still, the doctor recommended that Li be kept under lock and key at a mental hospital while he undergoes further treatment.
“Up until this point, he has been in a very tightly controlled, structured environment,” Yaren said. “He has not had the opportunity to demonstrate whether he is capable of handling any greater degree of liberty.”
Li has been fairly withdrawn in the institution where he is currently housed, Yaren said. He watches movies and plays cards, but for the most part keeps to himself. A Chinese immigrant, Li asked for a Chinese edition of the Bible and reads it frequently, Yaren said.
Li was brought into the hearing shackled at the wrists and ankles. He listened to the evidence with his hands crossed in his lap. His eyes were fixed on the floor, expressionless, even when McLean’s family addressed him directly in their victim impact statements.
As he was led out of the hearing, McLean’s aunt, Sandra Andrews, yelled, “Hey, Vince, rot in hell, you filthy bastard!”
“We all feel the same as she does,” another relative said.
McLean’s mother, Carol deDelley, told the hearing she wished she had died the night she found out it was her son brutally murdered on the bus heading toward Winnipeg.
She said she can’t sleep, she can’t eat and she can no longer earn a living driving a school bus. She sees Greyhound buses on her way to therapy sessions and wonders if that was the bus her son died on.
“There is no medication that can treat the wound inflicted upon a person’s soul,” she said in a statement that was edited by the board.
It’s possible that the details of the board’s decision will not all be made public.
The board’s chairman initially said government lawyers had advised that releasing the information could violate Li’s rights under the province’s privacy and personal health information acts.
However, after objections from the McLean family’s lawyer, John Stefaniuk said the board will make its basic decision public within several days. Specific reasons for the ruling that could refer to Li’s history and treatment may not be released.