The lawyer for Travis Vader, who was accused of murdering Lyle and Marie McCann, a couple from St. Albert, Alta., who went missing four years ago and have never been found, called the case against his client shoddy and a rush to judgment after charges were stayed Wednesday.
"My professional assessment is there was not now or never was a realistic or serious chance of any conviction," said Brian Beresh.
Vader was declared a person of interest days after the McCanns disappeared, but it took nearly two years to lay charges.
Beresh called the investigation a rush to judgment.
"It was shoddily gathered and it was a bunch of strings that was never tied together," he said. "The real problem became, I think, in terms of who was organizing this whole investigation."
Vader, 41, was in Edmonton Court of Queen's Bench for two pretrial applications in the case when the Crown made the announcement that two charges of first-degree murder were being stayed.
"After today's court proceeding, we have met with both the RCMP and the Crown. This isn't over. Lyle and Marie McCann are still missing," said the McCann family in a statement released on Wednesday evening.
"Though we see this as a delay in our search for justice, our family remains confident that the ongoing investigation will lead to the conclusion of this matter."
The McCann family continues to offer a $60,000 reward in conjunction with Crime Stoppers for any information that might assist in the investigation.
"While we are thankful for the immense public support we’ve received, we ask for privacy at this time," said the statement.
No notice given of stay
"We had no notice that a stay of proceedings — which means in our view the end of these proceedings — to come when we were set for a full day," Beresh said.
Crown prosecutor Michelle Doyle refused to make any comment on why the charges were stayed.
Greg Lepp, the assistant deputy minister of justice in charge of the Crown prosecution service, said the decision was made after receiving new information.
"It was evidence that we reasonably recently received from the RCMP," he said. "And that's what gave rise to the action that was taken today in court."
A stay in proceedings essentially puts the charges on hold and halts the prosecution, although the charges can be resurrected within one year.
"But I can tell you that it still remains the goal of the prosecution service and the police to bring the person responsible for these deaths to justice," Lepp said.
Lepp would not say if Vader is still a suspect or if someone else has come to the attention of the RCMP.
Earlier this year, Vader filed a lawsuit against the RCMP for carrying out a fraudulent scheme to keep him in jail until he could be charged in the McCann case.
In lawsuit documents obtained by CBC News, Vader claims the RCMP used an agent to provide a fraudulent letter of employment to him when he was seeking bail from jail in early 2012 on charges of theft of property, driving and weapons offences, which were unrelated to the McCann case.
After Vader’s lawyer entered the employment letter into court, the RCMP charged him with four criminal charges, including obstruction of justice and uttering a forged document.
The Crown prosecutor later dropped those four charges without explanation, but in the meantime charged him with the McCann murders in May 2012.
Last year, the Crown decided to skip a preliminary hearing for Vader and proceed through direct indictment to trial.
The two-week trial was scheduled to begin in April.
Neighbours not surprised
Former neighbours of the McCanns were not surprised by today's news.
"It's been going on for so long," said Tom Grinnell. "I feel really sorry for [their family] because closure will never take place as long as they're missing and they don't know what happened to them."
Cathy Kendus said her heart goes out to the family.
"It didn't sound like they had enough to begin with to hold him," she said. "But I'm sorry to hear that, because they were such a lovely couple."
The McCanns were last seen on July 3, 2010, on the first day of a road trip to British Columbia. Their burned out motorhome was found two days later in the bush near Edson, Alta.