Travis Vader Was 'Desperate' Argues Crown In Murder Trial

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Travis Vader is on trial for the murder of Lyle and Marie McCann. | Amber Bracken/Canadian Press

EDMONTON — A judge has been asked to connect the dots and convict the man accused of killing a missing Alberta couple.

The Crown lacks what are normally crucial pieces of evidence such as the bodies of the victims or what may have been used to kill Lyle and Marie McCann.

But prosecutor Ashley Finlayson summed up his case Wednesday by repeatedly asking Justice Denny Thomas to "consider the totality of the evidence.''

Pleaded not guilty

Travis Vader, 44, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the deaths of the great-grandparents, who were in their late 70s when they vanished while on their way to a family camping trip in 2010.

They were last seen July 3, 2010, as they fuelled up their motorhome in their hometown of St. Albert, a bedroom community north of Edmonton, before they headed out to British Columbia.

Two days later their motorhome was found burning in the bush. The SUV they had been towing was later found hidden in some trees on a rural property.

travis vader
RCMP search a property where Vader was arrested. (Photo: CP)

The Crown is arguing that Vader was a desperate drug user, living in a makeshift camp, when he came across the McCanns and killed them.

The defence has suggested that there's not enough evidence to prove the couple is dead and that police should have looked at other suspects.

In his final arguments, Finlayson went through, one by one, the facts that he said lead inescapably to a finding of guilt.

He pointed out Vader visited a friend on the day the McCanns disappeared and complained he was so broke he couldn't put oil in his truck. The friend testified that Vader showed up later that afternoon with enough cash for a case of beer and an SUV that matched the description of the one the McCanns had been towing.

That same day, several calls and text messages were sent shortly after 2 p.m. from a cellphone belonging to the McCanns. The messages, romantic in nature, were sent to Vader's former girlfriend.

DNA found in SUV

Finlayson reminded court of Crown witnesses who testified that DNA matching Vader's was found in the SUV, including on the steering wheel. His fingerprint was on a can of beer — the same brand that Vader had been drinking with his friend two days earlier.

A hat was also found, punctured with a bullet hole and stained with Lyle McCann's blood. DNA found on the ball cap was also matched to Vader, although court heard earlier the match was less certain.

Phone records show someone made calls, using the McCann phone, from the general area around where the motor home was found, Finlayson said.

Court was also told that police eventually found a truck — burned out and on a remote oil lease — that Vader had been driving. The keys to the SUV belonging to the McCanns were found inside.

No explanation from Vader

Vader's failure to offer an explanation for any of this is damning, said Finlayson.

"Not only do we have other aspects of evidence which puts Mr. Vader in very recent possession of items belonging to the McCanns, you have no explanation provided by Mr. Vader for being in possession of those items.''

Finlayson suggested that Vader "was a desperate fellow. He wanted (the McCanns's) property. He came into contact with the McCanns and there was a violent event.''

Defence lawyer Brian Beresh was expected to offer his closing arguments later Wednesday.

Vader is in custody after being denied bail in May on new charges unrelated to the trial.

The Crown's original murder charge against Vader was stayed in 2014, just a few weeks before he was to be tried before a jury. The Crown said it realized Mounties hadn't disclosed all the evidence.

The charge was eventually reactivated and Vader's trial began March 8.

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