The suspect in the disappearance and presumed deaths of an Alberta couple last summer is applying to the courts to have unrelated charges against him dropped, alleging that jail guards have repeatedly abused him.

In a court filing Monday, Travis Vader says he's been beaten and abused by guards, improperly forced into solitary confinement, and locked in a feces- and urine-laden cell for many hours, all at the Edmonton Remand Centre.


The RCMP have considered Travis Vader a suspect in the case since last August, but no charges have been laid. (RCMP)

He also says that while at the Edmonton Remand Centre, guards stole papers from him, including legal documents related to his case and correspondence with his lawyer, violating his right to attorney-client privilege.

Vader, 39, was arrested in July 2010 during the police investigation into the disappearance of Marie and Lyle McCann of St. Albert. The McCanns were last seen July 3 of that year, on the first day of a road trip to British Columbia, and their burned motorhome was found two days later in the woods near Edson, Alta.

RCMP consider Vader a suspect, although he was never charged in the case. He has been in custody ever since on dozens of other charges, including some related to theft, firearms and arson.

The "clear and serious violations" of his rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms — including the right against cruel and unusual treatment and the right against unreasonable seizure — mean those charges should be suspended, his lawyer argues in Monday's application. Alternatively, the filing to provincial court says, any eventual sentence against Vader should be reduced.

"He's a Canadian citizen. He's entitled to decent treatment in custody," lawyer Daniel Mol told CBC News.

Alleges shower attack

Vader's application says several jail guards pulled him from a shower last Nov. 1, then punched and kicked him in the head, neck and back in an area with no surveillance cameras. All the while, they yelled "quit resisting" at him, he alleges.

He also says he's been locked into a cell with no water or toilet to coerce him into agreeing to go into solitary.

An Edmonton lawyer who has filed similar complaints in the past on behalf of clients said it's an ongoing problem at the Edmonton jail.

"I've also been told by prisoners who have had a lot of experience in jails across the country that the Edmonton Remand Centre is by far the worst jail in Canada," said Tom Engel, who is not involved in Vader's case. "I think it's happening all the time. I don't think these applications are brought nearly enough."

Ryan Cromb, spokesman for the Alberta solicitor general's department, which operates the jails, said only that "we take all of our complaints very seriously, and if there's a complaint, we investigate."

The head of the jail guards' union, Alberta Union of Provincial Employees president Guy Smith, wouldn't comment because he hasn't seen Vader's filing.

The search for the McCanns, both in their 70s, has lasted a year. In addition to their motorhome, Alberta RCMP found the SUV they had been towing and collected more than 700 pieces of evidence in all. As of last month, 15 Mounties were still working on the case full-time.  

On July 20, an Alberta judge agreed to officially declare the McCanns dead. The RCMP officer who filed statements in support of the declaration said police believe the couple were killed in the Edson area on the day they were last seen.