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The owner of the Surrey apartment where six men were murdered in a brazen daytime shooting six years ago, testified yesterday at the trial of three men accused of the killings.

Caesar Tiojanco, the owner of suite 1505, told the court that several months before the killings took place, he was made aware of an alleged marijuana grow operation in the apartment.

The man said after receiving word of the grow op, he evicted the tenants.

The new tenants, he testified, paid rent to him entirely in cash.

Another witness said on Thursday that Bartolomeo would put drugs into a messenger bag, disappear for a period of time, and reappear without the bag.

The witness was unaware of what type of drugs were involved, and admitted to the defence council that Bartolomeo never put drugs in the bag in plain sight.

Despite Bartolomeo's alleged involvement with narcotics, the witness testified that they never feared for his life.

The girlfriend of Cory Lal also testified on Thursday morning, saying she suspected he was involved in drugs and had dropped him off at the high-rise before.

Testimony continues on Friday with friends and family of the four victims who police have said were known to lead criminal lifestyles.

Accused plead not guilty

The three men accused of the killings, which took place in a Surrey high-rise in 2007, all pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder charges at the opening of the trial on Monday in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.

Matthew James Johnston and Cody Rae Haevischer are charged with six counts of first-degree murder and Quang Vinh Thang (Michael) Le is facing one charge of first-degree murder.

Two other men charged in the case, Jamie Kyle Bacon and Sophon Sek, will be tried separately at a later date.

Prosecutors say they intend to prove that Johnston and Haevischer went to the apartment to kill victim Corey Lal because he failed to meet a deadline to repay a $100,000 drug debt.

They say the accused killed the other five people in the apartment so there would be no witnesses to the murder of Lal.

Prosecutors said the six bodies were found in two groups of three inside the apartment. A total of 19 shots were fired in the massacre, which took place around 2:40 p.m. PT on Oct. 19, 2007.

The six all had their heads covered and shots were fired directly into the backs of the heads of three of the victims. One other was shot in the back, another in the head, and one in the face and neck.

The three accused were all members of the Red Scorpions gang, the Crown said.

But only two, Johnston and Haevischer, are charged with the first-degree murders of Schellenberg, 55, and Mohan, 22, — whom police have described as bystanders who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

At the time, Metro Vancouver was in the grips of a violent gang war dominated by a deadly rivalry between the Red Scorpions and the UN gangs.

Four of the victims, Ryan Bartolomeo,19, brothers Michael Lal, 26, and Cory Lal, 21, and Edward Narong, 22, were described by police as having criminal lifestyles.


 

With files from Belle Puri