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Surrey Six witness describes hectic scene in wake of gangland slayings

Eileen Mohan, mother of Surrey Six murder victim Christopher Mohan, walks out of the B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, Thursday, November 28, 2013. Quang Vinh Thang (Michael) Le, one of three suspects on trial for murder in the 2007 Surrey Six case, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder in the death of Corey Lal.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

A man suspected of being a gangster wrote the words "people died" on a dry-erase board after a mass killing in the Vancouver area, his former girlfriend testified, as she painted a chaotic scene of cellphones being boiled and a bag of clothes set aflame in a secluded location.

The woman, who is referred to only as K.M., told the B.C. Supreme Court trial of Cody Haevischer and Matthew Johnston on Tuesday what she remembers from Oct. 19, 2007 – the day the bullet-ridden bodies of six people were found in a 15th-floor condominium in Surrey.

The Crown alleges the execution was carried out by the Red Scorpions gang. The victims included fireplace repairman Ed Schellenberg and 22-year-old building resident Chris Mohan, who had no connection to gangs or drugs.

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K.M. said Mr. Johnston and another man, whose name is banned from publication, arrived early in the afternoon at the apartment she and Mr. Haevischer shared.

When she walked into the living room, K.M. said, she saw two automatic handguns on the table and used window cleaner to clean the bullets, as she had done before, while Mr. Johnston and the other man, who were wearing gloves, cleaned the guns.

The trio left after about 15 minutes, and Mr. Haevischer and Mr. Johnston returned an hour later, she said.

The trial has already heard that the men's comings and goings were monitored by a police surveillance team watching the apartment complex as part of a separate investigation. The Crown contends the men's time absence corresponds with when the six men were murdered.

By the time Mr. Haevischer and Mr. Johnston returned, Mr. Haevischer's brother, Justin, was also in the apartment, K.M. said.

What happened next, she said, was a hectic flurry of activity.

Mr. Johnston emptied a garbage bag that contained cellphones and several thousand dollars in cash, which she was assigned to count, K.M. testified. She later walked into the kitchen, where she saw Mr. Haevischer standing over a pot containing the cellphones and boiling water, she said.

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K.M. said she did not see the handguns again. The two handguns used in the murders were found in the unit with the bodies, the trial has heard.

She said she saw Mr. Haevischer write something on a dry-erase board for his brother to read. She testified earlier that members of the Red Scorpions gang used dry-erase boards to communicate in an effort to avoid being recorded.

"He wrote, 'People died,'" K.M. testified, as Mr. Haevischer listened with a stern face.

"Was this the first you learned about people dying?" asked Crown lawyer Geoff Baragar.

"Yes," K.M. replied.

The cellphones and some clothing were tossed into a laundry bag. K.M. and Justin Haevischer then drove from the apartment, taking the laundry bag with them.

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They picked up a gas can full of gasoline and went to a spot where, a week earlier, members of the gang badly beat another man, she said. Before they could burn the laundry bag, two local residents walked by and warned them about the beating. They quickly left, leaving the gas can behind, K.M. said.

They went to another gas station and bought more, she said, before driving to an empty lot surrounded by trees.

"I was freaking out," K.M. said.

She stayed in the car while Justin Haevischer burned the laundry bag, she said, before the pair drove back to K.M.'s apartment. She said Cody Haevischer was still there, alone.

"He was still hectic," K.M. said.

"He told me to just go pack some bags. We were going to go."

The trial began in late September with three men in the prisoners' box. Cody Haevischer and Mr. Johnston were initially standing trial alongside Quang Vinh Thang (Michael) Le, but he pleaded guilty last week to conspiracy to commit murder.

Another man has also pleaded guilty, while a fifth suspect, alleged gang leader Jamie Bacon, is expected to stand trial next year.

The Crown's theory is that Mr. Le and Jamie Bacon, who are both alleged to have been the leaders of the Red Scorpions, ordered the killing of a rival drug trafficker named Corey Lal.

The Crown alleges Mr. Haevischer, Mr. Johnston and a third man went to the Balmoral Towers condominium complex to murder Mr. Lal, and killed five more people to eliminate potential witnesses.

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