British Columbia

Man who stabbed and killed Belgian hitchhiker sentenced to life in prison

Sean McKenzie has been sentenced to life in prison for stabbing a 28-year-old Belgian tourist 42 times in August 2018.

WARNING: Story contains graphic content

Sean McKenzie (left) has been sentenced to life in prison for the second-degree murder of Belgian tourist Amelie Sakkalis, right, in 2018. (IHIT)

The man who stabbed and killed a Belgian hitchhiker in the summer of 2018 has been sentenced to life in prison and will not be eligible for parole for 23 years.

Amelie Sakkalis' body was found on Aug. 22, 2018 north of Boston Bar, B.C. The 28-year-old tourist had been hitchhiking from Penticton to Vancouver.

In September, Sean McKenzie, 27, pleaded guilty to her second-degree murder.

In addition to his prison sentence, he will be registered as a sex offender for life and faces a lifetime firearms prohibition.

An attack of 'extreme violence"

During the sentencing hearing Tuesday in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster, the Crown revealed the details leading up to Sakkalis' murder, which it described as an act of "extreme violence."

Sakkalis had been working in Penticton as a fruit picker.

While hitchhiking to Vancouver, the Crown told the court, she was picked up by McKenzie in Hedley, B.C.

At some point, McKenzie pulled over and struck Sakkalis in the head with the back of a hunting knife.

He then bound her, stripped her and sexually assaulted her, according to Crown.

With Sakkalis bound in the back of the van, McKenzie drove to a wooded area near Boston Bar where he stabbed Sakkalis more than 40 times.

Then he called 911 pretending to be the victim.

In her reasons for sentencing, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Martha Devlin took time to describe how Sakkalis had tried to defend herself. She fought back after being hit in the head and managed to bite McKenzie's finger.

Sakkalis also managed to break free and jump out from the back of his van but was caught.

Family fails to learn why their daughter was killed

McKenzie's lawyer, Troy Anderson, told the court his client can't say why he murdered Sakkalis and recognizes that will likely ruin his hopes for parole. Anderson says McKenzie can't articulate the deep remorse he feels but he is willing to accept responsibility and pay the price for his crime.

"He has taken from her family someone very precious and he acknowledges that and knows he cannot make it right," Anderson said. "He offers his wholehearted and heartfelt apology … to those whose lives were ruined that day.,"

Defence lawyer Troy Anderson speaks to media after the sentencing of Sean McKenzie in New Westminster, British Columbia on Tuesday, November 19, 2019. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

McKenzie had no previous criminal record and was working as a cook.

Before retiring to consider the sentence, Justice Devlin offered him an opportunity to speak.

McKenzie rose from his chair.

"It's not a lack of want," he said. "I think my counsel has covered it. It's difficult to even get these words out. The actual saying of these things. But I appreciate the chance." 

At his sentencing hearing, Sean McKenzie was unable to say why he sexually assaulted Amelie Sakkalis and stabbed her 42 times. (IHIT)

Sakkalis dreamed of exploring Canada, says family

Since the day her family heard the news of her death, Sakkalis' sister says she is constantly anxious and has trouble sleeping at night.

"Family is very important to me," she told the court through tears during her victim impact statement. "My fiancé is an only child. Now, I am as well."

Six members of the Sakkalis family travelled from Belgium to be in court. Sakkalis's mother spoke about how her daughter dreamed of exploring Canada.

She said every time her phone vibrates, she still thinks it might be her daughter.

"Every night when I go to sleep I kiss a little box that holds some of her ashes," she said.

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