NEWS
01/26/2016 00:00 EST | Updated 01/25/2017 00:12 EST

Judge to rule if murder case involving missing Alberta couple should be tossed

EDMONTON — A judge is to decide today whether a trial will go ahead for a man charged with murder after the mysterious disappearance of two Alberta seniors.

Lawyers for Travis Vader have argued the case should be dropped over alleged abuse of process.

Vader was initially charged in 2012 with first-degree murder in the deaths of Lyle and Marie McCann.

The couple, in their late 70s, was last seen two years earlier fuelling up their motorhome in their hometown of St. Albert, a bedroom community north of Edmonton.

The Crown stayed the charges against Vader in 2014, days before his trial was to begin, after discovering the RCMP had failed to disclose some evidence.

Charges were re-laid nine months later and Vader is scheduled to go to trial before a judge alone in March.

His lawyers have argued the case should be thrown out because the disclosure problem resulted in an extra two years getting it to trial.

If Justice Denny Thomas decides the trial must go ahead, they want all evidence collected after the charges were stayed in 2014 to be excluded.

The Crown has admitted Vader's charter rights were breached by the "egregious disclosure mess" and says Mounties have since made changes to the way they handle disclosure in major investigations.

Prosecutors argue that the trial should proceed because of the serious nature of the charges and in the interest of society.

The McCanns, whose bodies have never been found, had been on their way to a family camping trip in British Columbia.

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.