In late spring of 1999, Michael Wayne McGray sent an astonishing handwritten letter from his prison cell to Moncton Crown prosecutor Tony Allman.

Already charged in the brutal deaths of a local mother and her 11-year-old daughter, the man now claiming to be Canada's worst serial killer was ready to talk about some "other murders" he claimed he had committed.

"I feel the victims' families have a right to know," he wrote, "for whatever closure this might bring them. So if you wish, you send can someone to talk to me."

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The man who sat down with Mr. McGray in the maximum-security prison in Renous, N.B., was RCMP Corporal Adrian Tompkins. Mr. McGray, he said, was "well-mannered" and "articulate." He offered no explanation for the alleged crimes, beyond an uncontrollable "urge to kill."

"I can't explain why he did this," Cpl. Tompkins said. "Obviously he has something in him that you and I don't. I don't see any remorse."

What he told police then was enough to bolster a continuing investigation, and by January, 2000, he had been charged with three more killings -- the stabbing deaths of two gay men in Montreal and the slaying of a former friend after a botched robbery in Saint John.

But that is far from the end of it, Mr. McGray now says. In recent interviews with police investigators, he has implicated himself in as many as 11 other murders across Canada.

While he has been slow to offer details about these alleged crimes, his statements have captured widespread police interest in a man known for being a drifter, who has, at only 34, collected a long and varied criminal record. He has moved in and out of jail since 1984, though for nothing as serious as murder -- until now.

The Halifax RCMP have acknowledged that they are investigating Mr. McGray, who lived in the area about five years ago. The Toronto cold squad has learned that he made his way to Toronto in early 1994, but so far, Detective Sergeant Bob Wilkinson said, investigators are not sure how long he stayed and have not connected him to any unsolved homicides.

Mr. McGray is back in prison in Renous, now serving a life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years, and, yesterday, refusing all visitors. But he has a busy two months ahead of him.

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On Monday, he pleaded guilty to slashing the throat of Joan Hicks, who had moved -- in an unrelated twist -- to Moncton from Newfoundland to pursue a relationship with another convicted killer still in prison.

A second charge against Mr. McGray of murdering Ms. Hicks's daughter, Nina, was stayed. Although he admits to being present when the girl was strangled to death, he has denied killing her, levelling the blame at another man who was in the apartment when the two women died.

In April, Mr. McGray will be sent to Montreal for the preliminary hearing into the deaths of Robert Assaly, a 59-year-old schoolteacher, and Gaetan Ethier, 45, who were found dead in their apartments after Easter weekend in 1991.

Police believe Mr. McGray picked the men up at a gay bar in Montreal on consecutive nights, just two days after being released from a medium-security prison in La Macaza in Northern Quebec on a weekend pass. He never returned to the prison, and was only captured in the Maritimes a month later on April 20, when police arrested him for robbery. He did not get out of prison again until 1993, finishing his jail time back in Renous.

When he got that weekend pass in 1991, he was serving a five-year sentence for assault with the intent to commit robbery, related to the Saint John slaying for which he is now charged. In that case, 29-year-old Mark Daniel Gibbons was discovered stabbed to death on a downtown street after participating with two other men in the botched robbery of a taxi driver.

Mr. McGray pleaded guilty to the robbery offence, and the third man involved was tried for the murder, with Mr. McGray serving as the key Crown witness. The man was acquitted. Mr. McGray's preliminary hearing in the case is set for May.

Mr. McGray was born in Ontario, Halifax police now say, but moved to Yarmouth, N.S., when he was 3.

His lawyer Alan Schelew had planned to argue in the Moncton case that Mr. McGray allegedly suffered from a rare form of Tourette's syndrome that gave him an irresistible urge to kill people -- a defence never tried before. Mr. McGray dismissed Mr. Schelew in late 1999.