Saturday, March 25, 2000

Brian Morton

Don't reject deal with killer, former A-G says

CP Files/MICHAEL MCGRAY: After pleading guilty to murdering a woman in New Brunswick, he has implicated himself in another 16 slayings in several Canadian cities, including Vancouver, and in Seattle.

The man who authorized a $100,000 payment to mass murderer Clifford Olson's family in exchange for Olson leading police to his victims' remains says authorities should not rule out cutting a deal with another killer who is seeking immunity in 16 other slayings he claims to have committed.

But former B.C. attorney-general Allan Williams said the deal should only be considered if the professed serial killer, who claims to have killed two people in Vancouver, provides hard evidence that he committed the unsolved murders.

"It's worth considering, provided police are satisfied that there's some substance in what he's talking about," Williams said when asked about reports that confessed killer Michael Wayne McGray, in prison in New Brunswick, will provide details of unsolved murders, but only if he and his accomplices are not charged with them.

"It's the same basic issue," said Williams, now a West Vancouver councillor, of comparisons between McGray's request and the deal offered to Olson, who was convicted in 1982 of killing 11 girls and boys.

"I don't know the circumstances, [but] it may be in the public interest to make an arrangement with the alleged perpetrator."

Williams said that achieving closure for victims' families was paramount, so that they could get on with their lives.

However, Williams said police — who now know that McGray was in Vancouver — have to have something concrete before even considering a deal.

Williams said that it might be especially hard to cut a deal with McGray, because he wants to get his accomplices off too. "It sounds like the price is too high."

Police in Vancouver and other cities across Canada and the United States are dusting off unsolved-homicide files after McGray, 34, claimed responsibility for another 16 slayings.

ALLAN WILLIAMS: Stresses need for hard evidence

McGray, who pleaded guilty this week to slitting the throat of Joan Hicks in Moncton, N.B., said the other murders occurred in Halifax, Saint John, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver and Seattle.

He remains a suspect in the killing of Hicks' daughter, Nina, 11. He claims another man killed Nina.

"There were two [victims] in Vancouver who might have lived, but I'm pretty sure that they died," he said in a telephone interview from his segregated cell in Renous penitentiary.

Vancouver police media liaison Constable Anne Drennan said the city's homicide unit and the provincial unsolved-homicide unit started comparing notes several weeks ago with their counterparts in Eastern Canada, where McGray is charged with killing three other people.

She also said Friday that police now know that McGray was in Vancouver, though they are not sure when. "We believe he spent a short time living in Vancouver, but we can't say when. We have no substantive details that would point to a particular incident or time frame."

Drennan said police have no plans at this time to send homicide detectives to New Brunswick to interview McGray, because they have nothing to link him to a specific crime.

Detective Constable Lori Shenher, the lead investigator on the disappearance of 27 women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, many of them drug addicts or sex-trade workers, said her curiosity was piqued after hearing about McGray's confessions. "That's something we'll look at, certainly," Shenher said.

In Seattle, the King County sheriff's office said it is unlikely McGray is responsible for the unsolved murders of 49 women, mostly prostitutes or drug addicts, that occurred there between 1982 and 1984, because he would have been so young when the so-called Green River killings were committed.

McGray, a soft-spoken, chillingly articulate man, said his other victims included several prostitutes and gay men.

McGray said he wanted to come forward with the confessions because he needs help. "I really, really want it to stop. I want to stop hurting people."

McGray, born in Collingwood, Ont., but raised in Yarmouth, N.S., pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the death of Hicks and was sentenced to life.

He is also facing first-degree murder charges for the 1991 slayings of two gay men in Montreal and the 1987 killing of a cab driver in Saint John, N.B. Preliminary hearings on those cases are to be held in May.

At least one RCMP detachment has said it isn't willing to cut a deal with McGray.

"No deal, no deal," Sergeant Wayne Noonan of the Halifax RCMP said Friday. "One of the conditions is that nobody else is charged. We can't agree to things like that. Impossible."

Geoffrey Gaul, spokesman for the B.C. criminal justice branch, said it's too early to speculate on whether McGray could be offered a deal.

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Created: March 25, 2000
Last modified: January 21, 2001
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