Vince Li, man who beheaded Greyhound bus passenger, seeks absolute discharge

A man found not criminally responsible for decapitating another passenger on a Greyhound bus almost eight years ago is seeking an absolute discharge.

Li lives with schizophrenia, was previously found not criminally responsible for death of Tim McLean

Will Baker, formerly known as Vince Li, leaves the Law Courts building in Winnipeg, after his annual criminal code review board hearing, on Monday, Feb. 6, 2017. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Trevor Hagan)

A man found not criminally responsible for decapitating another passenger on a Greyhound bus almost eight years ago is seeking an absolute discharge.

Will Baker — formerly known as Vince Li — has been living in the community since 2016 with some restrictions on his freedom.

In 2008, he stabbed and killed 22-year-old Tim McLean on a Greyhound bus near Portage la Prairie, Man.

Tim McLean, 22, was stabbed to death and beheaded by Vince Li in 2008. (Canadian Press)

During a Criminal Code Review Board hearing in Winnipeg on Monday, Baker's lawyer argued he should be given an absolute discharge.

Crown attorneys requested an adjournment to review the application but were denied.

Baker and others found not criminally responsible must undergo hearings annually to determine whether they pose a threat to the public.

Baker was discharged with some conditions last year that stated he must be supervised while taking medication for schizophrenia, disclose his address to his medical team and have no contact with McLean's family.

A man found not criminally responsible for decapitating another passenger on a Greyhound bus almost eight years ago is seeking an absolute discharge. 1:17

'Free to go'

If granted a full discharge, Baker would no longer be required to follow those rules.

"To put it in lay terminology, the person is free to go," said Chris Summerville, CEO of the Canadian Schizophrenia Society, who has been working with Baker since his arrest.

Baker also wouldn't be required to attend annual reviews.

While patients may no longer be required by law to continue the same level of treatment after being issued an absolute discharge, Summerville says there is still an expectation they will keep up with treatment.

"The review board does not take any of these requests lightly," he said. "There has to be a huge amount of documented and verbal evidence about the person's recovery, their health in every dimension and how well they have complied with everything the review board has requested."

Unlikely to reoffend

Offenders found not criminally responsible are unlikely to reoffend, mental health specialists say.

A psychiatrist testified Monday he is confident Baker would voluntarily continue treatment and would seek help if old symptoms were to recur.

In cross-examination, the Crown attorney asked what assurances Dr. Jeffrey Waldman could give that Baker would continue treatment.

Waldman responded that many patients who are given absolute discharges agree to have their medication monitored, adding Baker has said he is open to doing the same.

Baker is planning to travel to China to visit his family — something Waldman said he doesn't have a problem with.

Chosen by God

Baker was seated next to McLean on the bus in 2008 when he stabbed him and mutilated his body. He said he believed he was sent by God to save people from an alien attack.

Baker was found not criminally responsible for the death on account of his schizophrenia.

The not criminally responsible, or NCR designation, has existed since the early 1990s. It stipulates people accused of a crime can't be found guilty if, at the time of the act, they are suffering a mental disorder that leaves them unable to understand that what they did was wrong.

Every year since the incident, the review board has extended more freedoms to Baker, describing him as a "model patient" who is at a low risk to reoffend.

A friend of Baker, who asked not to be named, said Baker is "doing well given the realities he lives with." 

"He trusts the people who are his advocates [doctors, lawyers] to do what is best for him, so he just lives quietly and waits to see what society will do with him," the person told CBC News.

Mark Henick is the national director of the Canadian Mental Health Association. (CBC)

Mark Henick, national director of the Canadian Mental Health Association, said Baker should be granted the discharge if that's what the mental health experts working closely with him believe should be done.

"You can never be 100 per cent certain in these kinds of cases," Henick said.

"But I suspect that having worked with … his health-care team over the last several years — in a much more intensive way than had he gone to prison, and certainly in a much more intensive way prior to this ever happening — I would be willing to bet he has benefited from this treatment, that he's seen how much it has improved his life and that he would continue."

McLean's mother, Carol de Delley, has been outspoken against the move, saying there would be no way to ensure Baker continued to take his medication.

She reiterated that after the hearing Monday.

"What if he chooses to stop his medication again? In a nutshell, I don't believe that should be his choice to make anymore," she said outside court.

"A secure facility where he can continue to receive treatment for the rest of his natural life is where he belongs. Has everyone forgotten what he did to Timothy?"

Vince Li, now known as Will Baker (centre), walks out of Winnipeg's Law Courts Monday wearing a balaclava. At left, his lawyer Alan Libman. (Cameron McIntosh/CBC)

With files from Karen Pauls and the Canadian Press