Calgary

'We won': Victim's family reacts after former fugitive gets life in prison for swarming attack murder

Nathan Gervais, the Calgarian who fled to Vietnam to avoid his first trial, has been sentenced to life in prison for killing Lukas Strasser-Hird, 18.

Lukas Strasser-Hird, 18, was beaten and stabbed to death outside a nightclub in 2013

Julia and Dale Hird say Lukas Strasser-Hird died doing the right thing after he stood up to someone who had made a racist slur. (Meghan Grant/CBC)

When Julia Hird was just nine years old, she witnessed her "hero" older brother take his last breath shortly after he was swarmed, beaten and stabbed in a group attack outside a Calgary nightclub.

Today, she watched as Nathan Gervais, one of Lukas Strasser-Hird's killers, was handed a life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years. 

"Watching my hero choke on his own blood as he flatlined is a brutally painful image that is branded onto my brain and heart," said Julia as part of her victim impact statement. "I became an adult living in the body of a child."

The eloquent 14-year-old has more experience with tragedy and loss than many decades her senior. 

"I had to start worrying about things that adults are supposed to deal with."

Nathan Paul Gervais, right, murdered Lukas Strasser-Hird, 18, during a swarming attack in 2013. (Facebook/Calgary Police Service)

In November 2013, Strasser-Hird was attacked outside a Calgary nightclub after defending an employee against a racist comment made by one of the men in Gervais's group of friends.

"He does the right thing and he died for it," said Dale Hird after Gervais was sentenced and taken away by sheriffs. "So you can be proud but you can really wish it didn't happen."

That night six years ago, Strasser-Hird overheard the comment and told the young men that there was "no need to be racist." They began shoving him out front of the nightclub.

Bouncers then escorted him inside and led him out the back door.

But Gervais, along with Franz Cabrera, Assmar Shlah and Joch Pouk, was waiting to attack the teen in the alley behind the bar. 

The teenager begged for his life as he was kicked, punched and stabbed.

Too late to say goodbye

Afterward, Gervais confessed to six people the he was the one who stabbed Strasser-Hird.

After the killers fled, bystanders called 911 and tried to stop the bleeding.

Debra Hird wrote about the panicked phone call she received urging her to get to the hospital right away. Debra's grandson was so battered, she didn't recognize him. 

"[Dale] tried to tell Lukas to hang on ... trying to give him strength to live," wrote Debra.

Lukas's mother arrived at the hospital too late to say goodbye to her son. He was already gone.

'We won'

Neither of Strasser-Hird's parents wrote victim impact statements. After Gervais taunted the victim's family through the trial and verdict, they didn't want to give him the satisfaction of hearing about their pain.

"Plus," added Dale, "If he would have rolled his eyes or something out there I would have got arrested myself probably and that's the last thing we need today … it's a good day; we won."

For years, the family worried this day would never come. In 2016, just weeks before Gervais was to go on trial alongside four others, he fled Canada. 

The trial went ahead, though, and Cabrera and Shlah were convicted of second-degree murder while Pouk was found guilty of manslaughter.

In February 2018, Gervais was arrested in Vietnam and returned to Calgary to face his murder charge. 

Last week, the Alberta Court of Appeal upheld the convictions of Cabrera and Shlah, who had asked the province's top court for a new trial. Pouk did not appeal.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary crime reporter

Meghan Grant is the courts and crime reporter for CBC Calgary. If you have a good story idea or tip, you can reach her at meghan.grant@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @CBCMeg.

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