Edmonton

Police constable debunks Vader's claim strip search was 'humiliating'

A constable involved in the strip search of Travis Vader in 2010 at the Edson RCMP detachment told an Edmonton courtroom he was just following instructions from a superior officer.

Routine search lasted less than a minute in a quiet cell, Const. Steven McQueen testifies

Travis Vader, 44, was found guilty of manslaughter in deaths of Lyle and Marie McCann. (CBC)

A constable involved in the strip search of Travis Vader in 2010 at the Edson RCMP detachment told an Edmonton courtroom he was just following instructions from a superior officer.

Const. Steven McQueen, with the Edmonton serious crimes unit, testified at Vader's sentencing hearing Monday that he and another officer brought Vader to an empty cell where they proceeded to "secure his clothes as potential evidence."

They searched for weapons and drugs, McQueen said, then gave Vader a fresh T-shirt, sweatpants and socks to wear as they put his clothes in an evidence bag.

Vader was naked for less than a minute in a quiet cell with nobody else around, McQueen said, suggesting the search was routine and requested by a superior.

Last week, Vader testified the strip search went on for five minutes, with the door to the holding cell left open where "everybody could see." He called the experience "absolutely humiliating."

However, Vader's testimony about the length of the search contradicts an agreed statement of facts submitted by both his defence lawyer and the Crown on Thursday, which states the search lasted about 35 seconds.

On Monday, Court of Queen's Bench Justice Denny Thomas described the varying accounts as "significant inconsistencies," adding he was "puzzled what to make of it all."

Vader is convicted of two counts of manslaughter in the July 2010 deaths of Lyle and Marie McCann, an elderly couple from St. Albert last seen alive at a gas station at the beginning of a road trip to British Columbia.

Their burned out SUV was found days later in a rural area near Edson. Their bodies have never been found.

Cameras recorded search

Defence lawyer Nate Whitling asked McQueen why police kept the cameras recording during the strip search, rather than turning them off.

"Sometimes turning off cameras can lead to more problems than leaving them on," McQueen replied, explaining investigators were trying to be open and transparent.

Vader, who finished his fourth and final day of testimony on Monday, was at times visibly annoyed, shaking his head at the Crown's questions.  

On Tuesday, the Crown is expected to call several witnesses, including prison guards and a nurse from the Edmonton Remand Centre where Vader alleges he was beaten by guards.

Whitling argues the strip search and the alleged beatings have violated Vader's constitutional rights and the judge should let Vader go without further jail time.