Nova Scotia

Man convicted in McDonald's murders granted unescorted absences from prison

Freeman McNeil, one of the three men involved in a 1992 robbery at a McDonald's restaurant in Sydney River, N.S., that left three employees dead and critically wounded a fourth one, will be allowed to leave prison once a month without an escort.

Freeman McNeil, 51, is serving a life sentence for the 1992 murders at the McDonald's in Sydney River, N.S.

The former McDonalds in Sydney River, N.S. (CBC)

One of the three men involved in a 1992 robbery at a McDonald's restaurant in Sydney River, N.S., that left three employees dead and critically wounded a fourth one, will be allowed to leave prison once a month without an escort.

Freeman Daniel McNeil, 51, has been serving a life sentence since 1993 for first-degree murder, second-degree murder, forcible confinement and robbery.

He was 27 when he and two accomplices entered the basement door of the McDonald's on May 7, 1992.

They immediately shot two employees in the head and shot a third after she opened the safe for them. A fourth was also shot in the head as they were leaving the restaurant with $2,000. Three of the employees died, while a fourth was left with permanent disabilities, but died last year.

In a decision dated Nov. 5, 2019, the Parole Board of Canada said McNeil will be allowed to leave prison once a month without an escort for up to 24 hours for "personal development." The decision will be reviewed after two months.

The board noted McNeil has been allowed temporary absences with an escort more than 300 times in the last three years for "personal growth and development outings," and to attend discussion groups.

The name of the institution where McNeil is being held is redacted.

In its decision, the board said McNeil has acknowledged his criminal behaviour, although he maintains he didn't know that one of the others was carrying a firearm until the robbery was in progress.

McNeil says he won't return to Nova Scotia

It also noted that McNeil has expressed remorse and regret for the victims, their families and friends, and has indicated he will respect the families' wishes that he not return to Nova Scotia.

McNeil was eligible for full parole in May 2017, but the board said the length of his incarceration and the nature of the offences call for a gradual return to the community.

Another one of the men convicted in the McDonald's murders, Darren Muise, was granted full parole in 2012. A third, Derek Wood, applied for parole in 2015, but was denied after the board determined he still posed a risk to society.