Tanya and Kari Henry were young girls in the summer of 1982, when their father, Ivan Henry, was arrested in 100 Mile House and slapped in jail on suspicion that he'd committed a string of rapes in the Lower Mainland.
Yesterday, they stood teary-eyed outside a courthouse where three judges of the British Columbia Court of Appeal agreed to reopen an appeal their father filed in 1984, after being convicted of rape and assault the year before.
Mr. Henry, who defended himself at his 1983 trial and maintained his innocence through a blizzard of motions of appeals over the past decades, has been in jail since the day he was arrested.
"He's been excited and waiting for this moment, and he's felt it since the day he was put in there," said Tanya Henry, now 35. "He knew it was coming and this time he did it."
As of yesterday, Mr. Henry remained in custody, but his lawyers said they would be seeking his immediate release - putting him at liberty for the first time in more than 26 years and potentially adding another name to Canadians who have been wrongfully convicted.
Calling it an "extraordinary application," Madam Justice Mary Saunders said it was extremely unusual for a case to be reopened on a second request. But questions relating to evidence and testimony at Mr. Henry's original trial, his lack of counsel at the time and new evidence - including some that came to light as a result of the Robert Pickton investigation - mean it is in the interests of justice to reopen the case, she said.
Mr. Henry, who had a criminal record at the time, was arrested in 1982 in connection with a string of Vancouver attacks in 1981 and 1982. A knife-wielding assailant was breaking into women's homes, mostly ground-floor and basement suites, and attacking and raping his victims.
At his trial, he cross-examined the traumatized women he was accused of attacking and behaved in a way the trial judge, in his ruling, described as "peculiar."
In 1983, Mr. Henry was convicted on 10 counts of rape and assault involving eight women and named a dangerous offender.
He appealed, but didn't have enough money to pay for transcripts and his appeal was summarily dismissed in 1984 for "want of prosecution."
He then made several unsuccessful requests for legal help and fired off more than 50 submissions maintaining his innocence.
His break came in 2006, when the province, citing new evidence, appointed special prosecutor Leonard Doust to review Mr. Henry's case as a possible miscarriage of justice.
"That moment gave new hope that perhaps this could be reopened and finally get what he's never had, which is a review [of the case]on its merits," Cameron Ward, Mr. Henry's lawyer, said yesterday.
The new evidence focused on a man - whose name is under a publication ban - who was tried and convicted, in 2005, of attacks similar to those for which Mr. Henry had been convicted. The man had been targeted in an investigation dubbed Project Small Man and launched as police were working on the Pickton case. Mr. Pickton was convicted in 2006 on six counts of second-degree murder and still faces trial on 20 cases.
Evidence that was not previously disclosed and problems with eyewitness testimony should all get an airing at Mr. Henry's appeal. When he made his report to the government last year, Mr. Doust recommended that the Crown not oppose an application.
Asked whether Mr. Henry will seek compensation for his time in jail, Mr. Ward said that is not a priority.
"That's an issue that will be dealt with at a later time. It is not at the forefront of his mind. He is concerned with getting vindicated, getting cleared of these convictions and getting out of jail," Mr. Ward said.
His daughters, who grew up without knowing their father and now have children of their own, said their entire family has suffered. Mr. Henry spent his first 12 years in jail in Saskatchewan.
"We were kicked out of neighbourhoods, moved around many times to try and hide who we were," Tanya Henry said.
"My father has been without love. He's been denied of affection and family. We have children who don't know their grandfather - 26 years is a long time."