William Bicknell receives life sentence for hostage taking, shootout

William Bicknell has been sentenced to life after a crime spree of hostage-taking and theft that resulted in a shootout with police two years ago.

Bicknell already serving life sentence for murder when he escaped custody

William Bicknell was given a life sentence on Wednesday, one day after pleading guilty to a crime spree of hostage-taking and theft that culminated in a shootout with police two years ago.

He will have no chance of parole for at least eight years.

One-time fugitive William Bicknell pleaded guilty to 14 charges following a crime spree and a shoot out with police in March 2011. (RCMP)

Bicknell was serving a life sentence for murder when he overpowered his guard while on a day pass in March 2011 and went on a nine-day crime spree near Grande Prairie that included three hostage-takings and a shootout with police.

During the shootout, Bicknell fired 45 shots and was struck at least once in the face by return fire.

Before handing out the ruling, Justice Eric Macklin ​compared Bicknell's crime spree to an old-fashioned TV police chase and shootout.

Bicknell pleaded guilty Tuesday to 14 charges including firearms offences, unlawful confinement, and robbery, appearing in court via video link from the special handling unit in a Quebec penitentiary where he's in solitary confinement.

 Prosecutor Orest Yereniuk had recommended Bicknell receive a life sentence with no parole for at least 10 years – the maximum possible sentence  while his lawyer suggested a sentence between 14 and 16 years, less the 32 months he has already served in custody. 

Speaking after the ruling, Yereniuk approved of the judge’s sentence, noting it was significant for a life sentence to be handed out as that penalty is usually reserved for murder and manslaughter convictions.

“This was a horrific nine days in this province when he escaped while armed with a knife,” he said.

“And for him to go around the province doing what he did, this was a horrific nine-day period and the sentence reflects that.”

“So, the fact that a life sentence was imposed just shows that in Alberta we believe in our safe communities,” Yereniuk added.

Bicknell, who now has a steel plate in his head and has difficulty speaking and eating, showed no emotion as the sentence was read out.


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