EDMONTON — A judge has ruled that a trial will go ahead for a man charged with murder after the mysterious disappearance of two Alberta seniors.
Lawyers for Travis Vader had argued that the case should be dropped over alleged abuse of process.
Justice Denny Thomas says Vader’s lawyers failed to adequately prove that his rights were violated by an unreasonable delay in the trial.
Vader was initially charged in 2012 with first-degree murder in the deaths of Lyle and Marie McCann. The McCanns were both in their 70s and were last seen fuelling up their motorhome in their hometown of St. Albert, just north of Edmonton, before heading to British Columbia for a family camping trip.
The Crown stayed the charges against Vader in 2014, days before his trial, after discovering the RCMP had failed to disclose some evidence.
Charges were reactivated nine months later and Vader faces a trial before a judge alone in March.
His lawyers argued the case should be thrown out because the disclosure problem resulted in an extra two years getting it to trial.
“I have decided that Mr. Vader has not made a case for the issuance of a stay based on the abuse of process doctrine,” the judge ruled Tuesday.
“Mr Vader has come close, but ultimately I have decided that unreasonable delay is not shown in all circumstances … A stay is refused on that ground as well.”
The Crown admitted during a hearing that Vader’s charter rights were breached by the “egregious disclosure mess” and said Mounties have since made changes to the way they handle disclosure in major investigations.
However, prosecutors argued that the trial should proceed because of the serious nature of the charges and in the interest of society.
The McCanns bodies have never been found.
Their burned-out motorhome was discovered in a wooded area near Edson, west of Edmonton, two days after they were last seen at the gas station. The SUV they had been towing was also found concealed in another location.
RCMP have said they believe the seniors were killed in the area, near the hamlet of Peers.
Court documents were made public in recent weeks and revealed that RCMP believe forensic evidence, an undercover sting and some of the couple’s personal belongings tie Vader to the crime.
The documents have not been tested in court.
In a pretrial conference memorandum on Dec. 2, 2013, the Crown alleges Vader used the couple’s cellphone on the last day they were seen alive.
It says Lyle McCann’s hat with a bullet hole in it was found in the SUV, along with Marie McCann’s blood.
Media reports say other documents say a beer can in the vehicle had Vader’s DNA and fingerprint on it and that a man told police Vader had given him a ruby ring that belonged to the McCanns.
About two dozen officers posed as members of a criminal organization looking to recruit Vader, the documents say. His sister was also involved in a scenario with officers.
Documents further suggest an RCMP witness who was paid $22,000 offered to tell officers where the couple’s bodies are if he got more money.