All charges have been dropped against three men accused of killing a wild horse in Alberta.
Jason Nixon, Earl Anderson and Gary Cape were charged with shooting the feral animal in the Sundre area, 130km northwest of Calgary, some time between May and September 2009. At the time, they were working at a lodge near Sundre operated by the Mustard Seed Ministry, a Calgary-based charity.
"It feels good," said Jason Nixon on Wednesday outside the Calgary courtroom. "I'm glad to put this situation behind me. It's a little bittersweet. I don't think I should have had to go through this in the first place, but the system prevailed today."
New evidence found
Lawyers for the men and Crown counsel agreed to adjourn proceedings earlier this month saying new evidence, in the form of emails, could impact the trial.
On Wednesday, lawyers for the Crown dropped all charges after evaluating new evidence, saying an eye witness who claimed to have seen the shooting has been discredited.
The three men insisted they came across a dead horse on a busy road and moved it to prevent a car accident. Nixon's defence lawyer Willie deWit said the new evidence supports their claim.
"Four other hunters had come upon this horse before my client and the others. The hunters had examined it and actually taken pictures of it. It had no wounds to it from a shot."
Crown lawyer Gord Haight said he couldn't comment on whether the discredited witness was hoping to get the reward money. He said it is up to police to decide whether to lay any charges.
"The RCMP are conducting an investigation now," he said.
Police are investigating the deaths of more than 22 other horses in the same area since 2007. There is still a $25,000 reward for information about the shootings.
The charges against the three men were the only charges to be laid in the investigation.
The Alberta government estimates there are about 300 feral horses in the Sundre area. Provincial biologists don't consider them true wildlife because they originated from domestic horses used in logging and mining operations in the early 1900s.