A man long identified by police as a suspect in the mysterious deaths of an Alberta couple, who were last seen nearly two years ago, has been charged with first-degree murder in the case.
Mounties first named Travis Vader as a person of interest on July 16, 2010 – 13 days after Lyle and Marie McCann were last seen alive and the same day their SUV was found east of Edson.
He has been in custody ever since on unrelated charges. Investigators moved on the murder charges last Friday even though the McCanns’ bodies haven’t been found.
“This is an excellent day. As a family, we’re all relieved. We’ve waited a long time for this arrest,” Bret McCann, the couple’s son, said Monday after RCMP announced the arrest.
He said five officers sat down with his family on Friday to tell them about the charges. Now, they want to focus on finding the couple’s bodies.
“We still don’t know where our parents are,” Bret McCann said. “It’s a constant gnawing at our insides.
“We’re hoping that this will come out and I’m actually hoping that Mr. Vader can in the short term here [provide]some of these answers and maybe help us locate my parents.”
He said a $60,000 reward is still available for anyone with information that leads investigators to their bodies.
The McCanns left St. Albert, a city bordering northeast Edmonton, on July 3, 2010. The couple, both in their 70s, were heading to British Columbia in their motor home and towing their Hyundai Tucson.
Two days later, their burning motor home was found about 200 kilometres west of Edmonton, minus the SUV. There was no sign of the McCanns.
About a month later, RCMP took the unusual step of going public with their suspicions around Mr. Vader. He publicly remained a suspect in the case until Friday, when the murder charges were laid.
Daniel Mol, Mr. Vader’s lawyer, said his client asked him to pass on a message.
“Mr. Vader’s asked me to say that he’s relieved that he finally has an opportunity to face these accusations in court.”
The mystery surrounding the disappearance of the McCanns gripped Alberta and the rest of the country for much of the summer of 2010.
There were emotional pleas to the public for any information about the couple and reward money was raised.
The police investigation faced criticism over delays in getting started.
After the burning motor home was found in the bush near a campground, police found the registration linking the vehicle to the McCanns and later phoned their home. They said they knocked on the McCanns’ door but found nobody there.
Police didn’t begin looking for the couple until five days later, after their daughter reported they didn’t show up in Abbotsford, B.C., for a planned camping trip.
RCMP explained at the time that the case didn’t immediately set off alarm bells because vehicles are often found burning in the bush and it’s not unusual for people to be away from home during the summer season.
Police also faced embarrassment when they said tipsters had come into an RCMP detachment in Prince George, B.C., saying they had seen the SUV. But RCMP then admitted that they hadn’t gotten the tipsters’ contact details and urged them to return again.
Police announced a manhunt for Mr. Vader in July 2010, and arrested him on unrelated outstanding warrants after tactical officers surrounded an isolated home east of Edson.
Mr. Vader’s father, Ed, said in November, 2010, that his son was an “easy pick” for police. He admitted his son has a short fuse and can be physically intimidating. But he also said that his son denies having any hand in what became of the McCanns.
With Mr. Vader identified as a suspect, the McCann family pleaded with him for information.
“They were elderly, very active, loving and vital people. Your actions have devastated my family … everybody who knows Mom and Dad. Please, please tell the police what you know as to where my parents are,” Bret McCann said in August, 2010.
Mr. Vader, 40, is to make his first court appearance on the murder charges in Edson on May 15.
RCMP Staff-Sgt. Shawn LeMay told a news conference the investigation is still ongoing but would not comment on whether there are additional suspects. He also wouldn’t say what finally spurred Vader’s arrest.
The Canadian Press