Bus beheader responds to treatment: psychiatrist

Vince Li, who beheaded a fellow passenger on a Greyhound bus in Manitoba in 2008, may soon be allowed extended walks on the grounds of his mental hospital.

Vince Li, who beheaded a fellow passenger on a Greyhound bus in Manitoba in 2008, may soon be allowed extended walks on the grounds of his mental hospital.

Li is responding to treatment, is "co-operative and polite" and has provided "absolutely no difficulty" to staff at the Selkirk Mental Health Centre, where he has been locked up since 2008, Dr. Steven Kremer told a review board Monday.

Vince Li was found not criminally responsible for beheading Tim McLean on a Greyhound bus in July 2008. ((John Woods/Canadian Press))

"Mr. Li recognizes that he has a mental illness ... and recognizes that he requires medication."

Li was found not criminally responsible for the gruesome killing of Tim McLean, a young carnival worker, on board a Greyhound bus three years ago near Portage la Prairie, Man.

The judge found that Li was an untreated schizophrenic who heard voices telling him to kill McLean, a man he had never met who happened to be sitting beside him. Li was sentenced to a secure wing of the mental hospital. His treatment and conditions are reviewed annually.

Initially, he wasn't allowed outdoors, but last year the Criminal Review Board of Manitoba granted him short supervised walks on the unfenced hospital grounds.

Restricted to daylight

Kremer asked the review board Monday to allow the hospital to gradually expand those walks — currently totalling two hours a day — to a 12-hour period between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. The number of staff accompanying him should be reduced to one from three, Kremer added. 

The request was criticized by Carol DeDelley, the victim's mother, who attended the review with other family members, all wearing T-shirts and pins featuring McLean's face.

"It is another step toward Vince Li's ultimate freedom," she said outside the hearing. "I think we need to treat him and take care of him behind locked bars for the rest of his life."

Crown attorney Susan Helenchilde said she does not oppose letting Li walk outdoors on the grounds more often, but said the walks should be restricted to daylight hours and only when at least two staff members are with him.

The review board is expected to rule on the request later this week.

Li, dressed in a black suit and running shoes, sat quietly at the hearing. He was attentive throughout and occasionally whispered to his lawyer.

Auditory hallucinations

Li's treatment team would eventually like to see him granted escorted trips into Selkirk, Kremer said. Such a move would require approval from the review board and a request would not likely be made for at least another year.

While Li has been a model patient, he continues to have "auditory hallucinations," Kremer said. The most recent one was five months ago. The idea of Li eventually walking the streets has been raised before and has met with criticism from McLean's family, radio talk show callers and in online forums. But such criticism is off-base, according to the Manitoba Schizophrenia Society.

"The public says ... schizophrenia is this broken brain and it can't be fixed, so keep him out of my backyard and make sure he takes his medication," said Chris Summerville, the society's executive director. Summerville meets with Li about once every two months, and says Li has made tremendous progress.

"He wants to take the medication and he doesn't want this to happen again," he said. "He remembers the situation and so consequently he has to live with the horror of that. He does not justify it."

The reassurances, however, have not swayed DeDelley. "It's too late for my son and for the rest of my family and the trauma that continues to go on for all of us. We don't want this to happen to someone else's family — and it will."