Suspect in death of seniors late for trial again

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EDMONTON – A judge is to review bail conditions for a man who has been late four times for his murder trial in the deaths of two Alberta seniors.

A lawyer for Travis Vader told court Wednesday morning that his client was a half-hour behind because a vehicle he was using was “borrowed by someone else and not returned.”

“I apologize,” Brian Beresh told the court.

Justice Denny Thomas ordered a bench warrant be held for another half hour but vacated it after Vader showed up a few minutes later.

Vader has been tardy three times before — he twice told court he had vehicle trouble and once said he slept in.

The trial judge had warned Vader last week not to be late again.

Thomas said it’s inappropriate for him to review Vader’s bail and ordered him to appear before another judge later in the day.

Vader, 44, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the deaths of Lyle and Marie McCann, great-grandparents in their late 70s, who vanished while on a camping trip in July 2010.

They were last seen fuelling up their motorhome in their hometown of St. Albert, a bedroom community north of Edmonton, as they headed out for British Columbia.

Two days later their motorhome was found burning in the bush west of Edmonton near Peers. The SUV they had been towing was later found hidden in some trees on a nearby rural property.

Their bodies have never been found.

The Crown is arguing that Vader was a desperate drug user on the run from police, and living in a makeshift camp in the area, when he came across the McCanns and killed them. The defence has suggested there’s not enough evidence to prove the couple is dead and that police should have looked at other suspects.

The trial, now in its sixth week, has heard Crown experts testify that DNA matching Vader’s was found in the couple’s SUV in four places: a can of Boxer beer, a blood smear on the vehicle’s centre console, the steering wheel and in blood on a passenger seat.

DNA found on a ball cap that had Lyle McCann’s blood on it also was matched to Vader’s, but with less certainty. Blood from Marie McCann was found on cans of food in the back of the vehicle.

Vader’s defence has tried to poke holes in the DNA evidence, suggesting that sneezing into a vehicle or onto items might be enough to transfer DNA.

One witness has also testified that he saw Vader driving the couple’s SUV around the time they disappeared.

Police have said they also found the SUV’s keys in a pickup truck allegedly stolen by Vader.