On Thursday morning, court heard the conclusion of recorded interviews Travis Vader gave to police at the St. Albert RCMP detachment following his December 2014 arrest.
Court also heard evidence from Sgt. Michael McCauley, who conducted the interviews Dec. 19-20, about the approach he used.
He explained that at a strategy meeting prior to the interviews, police agreed taking a sympathetic approach would be the best way to try to get more information from Vader.
To that end, he repeatedly expressed to Vader that he believed he was innocent and saw significant problems with the case. He testified Thursday morning that was a ruse.
“We had strategized and come up with a different approach, to encourage dialogue,” McCauley said.
He also testified he understood Vader had spoken to two lawyers prior to the interviews, and that he appeared to be sober and gave “highly intelligent” answers.
The strategy appears to have worked, as it yielded five hours worth of interviews, despite Vader mentioning several times his lawyer had advised him not to say a word.
Crown prosecutor Jim Stewart has previously said, including in his opening statement, the significance of Vader’s post-arrest interviews with police is that he tells several “provable lies” about what her was doing around the time the McCanns disappeared.
The Dec. 20 interview, played in its entirety Thursday morning, essentially covered all the same topics as the Dec. 19 interview. McCauley again spoke with Vader about several specific topics relating to the investigation, assuring him the whole time he believed Vader was innocent and was trying to help him get his version of events out.
Much of it revolved around Vader’s alibi for July 3, the day he’s accused of killing elderly St. Albert couple Lyle and Marie McCann. In the interview, Vader maintained he had been at Dave Olson’s house in Peers, Alta., from noon until 3:20 p.m., gone to Don Bulmer’s house in nearby McKay, then returned to Olson’s house around 5:20 p.m.
Vader’s ex-girlfriend Amber Williams has testified that text messages sent from Lyle McCann’s cell phone around 2:15 p.m. that day could only have come from Vader based on their content, including references to their relationship.
“If I’m there (Olson’s house) from noon to 3:20, how am I even involved with this at 2:15?” Vader said.
Another issue is which vehicle he had been driving that day. Vader says in the interview he had been driving a Nissan SUV borrowed from Bulmer, but his former associate Myles Ingersoll has testified he saw Vader driving a green Hyundai SUV – the same description as the McCanns’ SUV – at Olson’s that day.
Vader also told McCauley he had never had anything to do with the McCanns’ SUV at all. Fingerprint and DNA experts have testified Vader’s prints and DNA were found in the SUV, although defence lawyer Brian Beresh questioned the certainty of that evidence.
McCauley asked him about the Ford F350 that was found partially burned on an oil-lease site near where the SUV was found, which several witnesses have said looked like the truck Vader was driving July 4. Police investigators have testified keys to the SUV were found in the box of the truck behind a fuel tank, but this was weeks after the truck was initially found. The police officer investigating the scene where the truck was found made no notes about the keys, which would have been visible without touching the truck.
“The cop takes pictures of it, looks behind the fuel tank and sees the hitch, but still doesn’t (expletive) see the keys,” Vader angrily exclaimed. “Kiss my ass.”
He further elaborates “I’ve got nothing to do with this truck,” suggesting he was driving a different vehicle July 4.
Vader repeatedly expressed frustration that he had been rearrested on the charges, for which the Crown had entered a stay of proceedings in early 2014, and specifically the impact the long, drawn-out process was having on his family, including his inability to get back to work to support them.
“You guys (screwed) up my life again,” he told McCauley at one point. “I had the chance to do something good; get back to my kids.”
Thursday afternoon’s testimony is expected to include one or more RCMP officers who will discuss evidence continuity. Arguments on whether Bobbi Jo Vader’s police interviews can be entered as evidence are scheduled for Friday morning.