William Bicknell pleads guilty in hostage taking, shootout

William Bicknell has pleaded guilty to 14 charges in hostage taking and shootout with RCMP in northern Alberta in March 2011.

Bicknell shot in face in shootout

William Bicknell has pleaded guilty to 14 charges in a hostage taking and shootout with RCMP in northern Alberta in March 2011.

Bicknell escaped from custody March 10 when he overpowered an unarmed guard while being escorted to Edmonton on a day pass from Drumheller Institution.

At a sentencing hearing in Edmonton on Tuesday, Crown prosecutor Orest Yereniuk asked the judge to give Bicknell a life sentence with no chance at parole for ten years. 

He says Bicknell planned his escape while serving a life sentence for murder and his punishment must serve as a deterrent to others. 

Defence lawyer Deborah Hatch asked that her client receive 14 to 16 years in prison, minus time served since March 2011. 

The judge reserved decision until Wednesday at 2 p.m. 

Accused shot twice in the face by police 

The court heard on Tuesday that on the day Bicknell made his escape, he pulled a knife on the corrections officer, handcuffed him, took his van to a storage locker to pick up guns and then used the guard's debit card to take $1,300 out of his bank account. 

Bicknell then drove to a farm in Lamont County where he pointed a rifle at a farmer, stole cash and took his car. He then drove away leaving the farmer and the guard behind. 

Bicknell ended holding the guard hostage for five and a half hours. The guard says the incident caused him to suffer from post-traumatic stress. He still feels responsible for what happened that day. 

Bicknell was on the run for 9 days. According to the agreed statement of facts, he took another hostage — a 72-year-old man — at a home near Vegreville on March 14.

Bicknell's life as a fugitive began to unravel when he entered the home of a 58-year-old woman north of Grande Prairie, Alta. on March 19 and held her captive for more than eight hours.

William Bicknell pleaded guilty to 14 charges Tuesday in a hostage taking and shootout with police in March 2011. (RCMP)

The woman escaped and Bicknell led police on a car chase before being captured in a gunfight. Bicknell fired 45 rounds and was shot twice in the head and at least once in the face. . 

 He has a steel plate in his head as a result and has difficulty speaking and eating.

The charges Bicknell pleaded guilty to include a number of weapons offences, unlawful confinement and break and enter.

Bicknell was under a weapons prohibition at the time because of a previous murder conviction.

He remains in solitary confinement in a Quebec prison where he has been since being released from hospital.

One officer was slightly injured during the shootout.


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