Calgary

Calgary man convicted of teen's swarming murder laughs at judge, exits slamming door

A man who fled to Vietnam to avoid going on trial for murder is found guilty of first-degree murder in the swarming death of a Calgary teenager who spoke out after hearing a racist comment directed at a nightclub employee.

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

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

A man who fled to Vietnam to avoid going on trial has been found guilty of first-degree murder in the swarming death of a Calgary teenager who spoke out after hearing a racist comment directed at a nightclub employee.

Nathan Gervais, 24, who was on trial for murder in the 2013 death of Lukas Strasser-Hird, laughed as Court of Queen's Bench Justice William Tilleman delivered his decision Wednesday morning.

Gervais then stormed out of the courtroom, escorted by sheriffs, but on his way from the prisoners' box to the cells, he flung open the door, causing a loud bang.

"See you later, shithead," the victim's father, Dale Hird, called out as Gervais could be heard slamming around outside the court.

The conviction comes one day before what would have been Strasser-Hird's 24th birthday.

"We're going to just go to his grave site and bring some of his favourite things, maybe just bottled root beer," said Hird. "Sing Happy Birthday and try to remember some good things, because today was a good day for Lukas."

Dale Hird says his son would have turned 24 this month. (Meghan Grant/CBC)

Begged for his life 

While Tilleman did not find that Gervais planned to kill Strasser-Hird, he did find the victim was forcibly confined during the two-part attack, which is another path to a first-degree murder conviction.

In 2013, Strasser-Hird was an 18-year-old student, just back from a year in South America. At the Vinyl nightclub, he overheard someone call the bouncer a "dirty spic" and confronted the group of young men, including Gervais, telling them not to be racist.

Outside the bar, Strasser-Hird was surrounded and shoved around until a bouncer grabbed the teenager and brought him back inside.

But shortly after, staff at the night club then led Strasser-Hird out the back door, where a group of angry men were waiting. 

Strasser-Hird begged for his life as he was kicked, punched and stabbed. 

He screamed in agony as he yelled at his killers, "Stop, you're killing me." But the attack continued. 

"The accused took advantage of the opportunity of the soon-to-be closing in group attacking to inflict the fatal wounds," wrote Tilleman in his decision, adding that Strasser-Hird was "caught in a human net … with nowhere to escape."

Gervais fled Canada

The Crown argued it was Gervais who retrieved a knife from his car and stabbed the victim three times. After the attack, Gervais told six people he had stabbed Strasser-Hird.

Tilleman accepted this evidence.

"The accused both retrieved the knife from his car and used it to stab the deceased," said the judge.

When it was over, bystanders tried to help Strasser-Hird, calling 911 and working to stop the bleeding. He was taken to hospital, where family members rushed to his side to say their goodbyes.

In 2016, just before Gervais was to go on trial alongside four others, he fled Canada. 

Other killers appealed

Franz Cabrera and Assmar Shlah were ultimately found guilty of second-degree murder, while Joch Pouk was found guilty of manslaughter. A fourth man was acquitted.

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

A first-degree murder conviction comes with an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for at least 25 years. A sentencing hearing will take place on May 24.

This is far from the end of the road for Strasser-Hird's family. Cabrera and Shlah have both appealed their convictions and are waiting a decision from the Alberta Court of Appeal. 

And although defence lawyer Alain Hepner did not comment on whether he planned to appeal Tilleman's decision, most first-degree murder convictions are taken to the province's highest court.

"It has been a very long road … hopefully this nightmare will end for this family soon," said prosecutor Ken McCaffrey.

About the Author

Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary reporter

Meghan Grant is the courts and crime reporter for CBC Calgary.