tim-mclean-family

Tim McLean, 22, was on his way home to Winnipeg when he was slain on a Greyhound bus last July 30. ((Family photo))

Vince Li has been found not criminally responsible for the unprovoked killing and beheading of fellow passenger Timothy McLean on a Greyhound bus last summer.

Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench Judge John Scurfield said Thursday that Li, 40, could not be found guilty of murder and is not criminally responsible for the crime because he was mentally ill at the time of the killing.

"These grotesque acts are appalling... but are suggestive of a mental disorder," the judge said.

"He did not appreciate the act he committed was wrong."

Li had pleaded not guilty to a charge of second-degree murder. Psychiatric evidence at his trial suggested he is a schizophrenic who suffered a major psychotic episode last July 30 when he fatally stabbed McLean, 22, ate some of the body parts, and cut off McLean's head.

For five hours after the killing, Li wandered around on the bus, defiling the body while an RCMP tactical team waited to subdue him.

Rather than go to prison, Li will be kept in a secure psychiatric facility, most likely in Selkirk, Man.

McLean, a carnival worker, was returning home to Winnipeg on the bus from Edmonton. Listening to his iPod while sitting in the back row of Greyhound bus 1170, he gave Li a friendly greeting as the stranger sat down beside him.

Then, around 8:30 p.m. CT, when the bus was near Portage La Prairie, Man., Li pulled a buck knife from his side and began stabbing McLean — for no apparent reason, witnesses said. After passengers fled the bus, by then on the side of the Trans-Canada Highway, Li was barricaded inside the vehicle.

During the stabbing, Li was heard to say, "get emergency." During the five-hour standoff, he walked around the bus carrying the severed head in one hand, the knife in the other. At one point, he threw McLean's head into the bus's stairwell.

When police finally subdued him, Li repeatedly said he was sorry but could not say what he was sorry for, officers said. He told police he had changed his name to Vince Day. And he said, "I'm guilty, please kill me."

Psychiatrists testified Li was schizophrenic and suffering a major psychotic episode at the time of the killing.

Li heard voices from God telling him that McLean was an evil threat that needed to be eliminated, the psychiatrists said. Even after the killing, Li believed McLean might come back to life and threaten him. The psychiatrists testified Li fit the criteria for someone who was not criminally responsible for their actions due to mental illness.

That means he will be sent to a provincial psychiatric facility rather than to prison. He comes under the jurisdiction of Manitoba's provincial review board, which will decide whether he poses a risk to the public. The review board has the power to keep Li locked up indefinitely or, if he is no longer considered a risk, discharge him.

In his written ruling, the judge said those who are profoundly ill do not have the mental capacity to intentionally commit a crime. "It is clear that since the 19th century the law has distinguished between those persons who commit criminal acts because of a mental disorder and sane persons," Scurfield said.

McLean's family had been lobbying for a change in the Criminal Code to prevent mentally ill killers from eventually being returned to the community. His mother, Carol de Delley, said after the ruling that she would do everything in her power to ensure Li is never released from secure custody.

"I think it's ridiculous that we've not only had to endure this procedure but we get to endure it every year again for the rest of Mr. Li's natural life," de Delley said, describing Li as dangerous. She urged Canadians to lobby politicians for changes to the Criminal Code.

"Bear in mind, this isn't going to be saving any of us, we've already had our loss," she said. "It's to save everybody else. And that's been put on us now.  And we sure as hell didn't volunteer for that job, but it is ours now."

Li's lawyer, Gordon Bates, said after the ruling that his client has felt remorse and understands what has occurred. He said Li had no message for the McLean family on Thursday but that he has in the past expressed a wish to make amends and is looking forward to treatment of his illness.