VANCOUVER — A man convicted of killing his common-law wife almost 25 years ago has been granted bail by a British Columbia Supreme Court judge.
Wade Skiffington has proclaimed his innocence in the 1994 murder of Wanda Martin in Richmond, B.C.
He was found guilty based on a confession to undercover police as part of a so-called Mr. Big operation that began five years after Martin was shot six times.
Justice Michael Tammen said Wednesday that he agreed with defence counsel that Skiffington would have been released on parole four years ago if he hadn’t continued to claim his innocence.
Martin’s body was found in a friend’s apartment along with the couple’s unharmed 18-month-old son.
The federal justice minister is reviewing Skiffington’s conviction after an appeal by lawyers with Innocence Canada, which is also challenging the credibility of the undercover sting, arguing that police extracted a false confession.
Tammen said that it wasn’t in the public interest to keep Skiffington in prison because his behaviour in prison suggests he is neither a risk to public safety nor a flight risk, adding the justice minister could take years in reaching a decision.
He imposed several bail conditions, including that Skiffington live with father in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Skiffington’s father told the court during the bail hearing that he would put up $100,000 in cash and his home as a surety for his son’s release.
Crown counsel Hank Reiner opposed the man’s release and told a bail hearing earlier this month that Skiffington knew his common-law wife would be alone for at least 20 minutes while she visited her friend and that provided him an opportunity to kill her on Sept. 6, 1994.
Reiner said Skiffington’s anger motivated him to kill Martin because he’d run into a man he believed was having an affair with her shortly before the murder and he also didn’t want her returning to their home province of Newfoundland and Labrador with their son.
The court has heard Skiffington told the boss of a fictitious crime group he shot Martin four, five or six times, emptying the cartridge, and that he changed his clothes in case any gunshot residue ended up on them.
But Tammen said Skiffington’s confession didn’t include details that would have been known only to the killer and didn’t lead police to discover any new evidence.
He said police swabbed Skiffington’s hands for gunshot evidence after the crime but found nothing and a phone number Skiffington had written on his hand was still visible, suggesting he had not scrubbed it clean.