British Columbia

Trial wrapping up for 6 men charged in 2016 murders, kidnapping

Crown has begun closing arguments in the complex trial of six men facing a variety of charges including kidnapping, aggravated assault and two counts of manslaughter.

Crown sums up months of evidence as closing arguments begin

From left: Ellwood Thomas Bradbury, Matthew Stewart and Erlan Acosta are three of the six men charged with kidnapping and manslaughter. (Vancouver Police Department)

The Crown called it a "kill room" — a room in a Surrey, B.C., house where the walls, ceiling and floor were carefully covered in clear plastic sheeting held in place with grey duct tape, and where a kidnapping victim allegedly thought he would die.

The man, whose name is protected under a publication ban, was a key witness in the Crown's case against Harinam Cox, Shamil Ali, Gopal Figueredo, Erlan Acosta, Ellwood Bradbury and Matthew Stewart, and was central to Tuesday's closing arguments by lead Crown counsel Karima Andani in the complex trial. 

The men are all facing several charges — including kidnapping, unlawful confinement, extortion, aggravated assault and manslaughter — in the deaths of Samantha Le and Xuan Van Vy Ba-cao in an East Vancouver home in September 2016, as well as the transfer and alleged ill treatment of the kidnapping victim in the Surrey house.  

All six men have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The kidnapping victim lived with the murder victims in a Vancouver house, where Cox lived in the basement, according to the Crown.

Cox was described as a friend of the man; his five co-accused were also allegedly known to the victim.

Crown said Figueredo met the victim when they were bunk mates at the Fraser Regional Correctional Centre in Maple Ridge.

Men in balaclavas

According to the Crown, Figueredo showed up at the man's home one day in mid-September 2016, with a wad of money in a Ziploc bag in his possession. They were joined by Cox. After a while, Cox and Figueredo left.

The man then allegedly heard footsteps and was attacked in his home by three or four men in black balaclavas. According to the Crown, he was "subdued" by one and knocked down and his glasses went flying. He was allegedly punched and kicked until he bled, had his hands tied with a power cord, and felt a foot and gun pressed to his head.  

The man previously testified that he heard four shots before Figueredo was heard to say "go, go" and everyone left, taking the man to a house in north Surrey. 

A Vancouver hazmat team prepares to enter an East Vancouver house where two bodies were discovered in September 2016. (Belle Puri/CBC)

On Sept. 17, Vancouver police were responding to a report of a kidnapping when they found the bodies of Samantha Le and Xuan Van Vy Ba-cao in the house on Dieppe Place. An unharmed four-year-old child was also found in the home.

Cox, Ali and Figueredo, all in their 20s, were arrested two days later after an extensive police search and the rescue of the victim. 

Bradbury, Stewart and Acosta were arrested in January and February 2017.

'The type of interaction one doesn't forget'

The kidnapping victim was with the accused for about 45 hours, according to Crown, and in that time he matched voices, faces and names, according to the lead Crown counsel. 

It was the "type of interaction one doesn't forget" said Andani, who added that the victim also saw the accused at close quarters and that his evidence was backed up by extensive forensic evidence, including fingerprints and DNA.  

The Crown says the victim was beaten and tortured at the hands of his kidnappers.

Four discharged bullets were found and the two murder victims were found to have each been killed by two shots to their heads. The murder weapon was never recovered.

The DNA of all the accused and the kidnapping victim was found at the two scenes in Vancouver and Surrey, and in cars used in the alleged crimes. 

Shoes worn by Figueredo, Cox and Ali were found to have blood on them, while a black power cord in the "kill room" contained the victim's DNA. 

'Kill room' and 'garbage room'

The Surrey house was described as cavernous and sparsely furnished. The "kill room" was the smallest room in the house, and contained just a crib mattress and a pink blanket. 

In another room, which Crown called the "garbage room," police found three unfired bullets matching the ones used in the killings, as well as lots of garbage including used fast food cups and cigarettes with the accused men's DNA.  

The room also contained an open bag of charcoal because the men wanted to burn the garbage and the house along with it in order to cover their tracks, according to the Crown.

Ransom allegedly $1M

There were other details to buttress the case. Store video showed the men buying supplies at Canadian Tire and Home Depot, buying balaclavas on Sept. 17 and the phones used to make the ransom calls to an associate of the kidnapping victim. 

At one point, one of the men bought seven pairs of identical shoes, six pairs of sweat pants and six fleece tops.

The ransom was allegedly $1 million: $250,000 to pay off alleged bosses and the rest to be split among the accused, according to the Crown. 

The Crown expects to conclude its closing arguments on Wednesday, and defence lawyers will provide theirs into next week.