Nova Scotia

Harley Lawrence's murderers decided together to 'get the bum,' court told

The sentencing hearing for the two men who admitted to killing Harley Lawrence, a homeless man in Nova Scotia, has revealed even more disturbing details about how he died.

Warning: this story contains graphic details

The sentencing hearing for the two men who admitted to killing Harley Lawrence, a homeless man in Nova Scotia, has revealed even more disturbing details about how he died.

Lawrence, 62, was set on fire in a bus shelter in Berwick, in the Annapolis Valley, on Oct. 23, 2013.

Daniel Wayne Surette, 27, and Kyle David James Fredericks, 26, have each pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in his death. At the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia in Kentville on Tuesday, they were sentenced to life in prison.

Surette is eligible for parole in 20 years, while Fredericks is eligible in 18.

A 19-page agreed statement of facts was read into the record on Tuesday.

According to the statement, Surette and Fredericks admitted to buying $10 worth of gas from a gas station on Commercial Street in Berwick the night Lawrence died. They doused Lawrence with the gas and set him on fire.

When Lawrence's body was found, it was not in the usual position he slept in when he was in the bus shelter. The statement says that suggests Lawrence tried to crawl out of the shelter while he was burning. He collapsed in the entrance.

The men later said they thought Lawrence was an undercover police officer.

"Surette stated that he felt remorseful now that he knew the man was not a cop," said the agreed statement of facts, adding that Surette said, "We thought there was an undercover cop in town watching us sell drugs. We couldn't take the chance. We set him on fire."

In conjunction with the statement, court was also shown a compilation of security videos RCMP assembled from various businesses along Commercial Street in Berwick.

'I torched the Berwick bum'

The videos, which were arranged in a chronological sequence for the court, show two men — later identified as Surette and Fredericks — walking up the street to buy the gasoline.

Surette is clearly visible on the video paying for the gas while Fredericks is outside, out of sight of the cameras, filling a white plastic container.

The pair are then seen walking back up the street to the bus shelter where they set Lawrence on fire.

The agreed statement of facts says RCMP were called to the home Surette shared with his mother, Becky Surette, in November 2013. She had called police and reported her son was intoxicated and "out of control."

RCMP say that when they confronted Daniel Surette, he told them: "I torched the Berwick bum."

Surette was subsequently arrested for murder.

Targeted in Mr. Big operation

The agreed statement says RCMP targeted both men in a so-called Mr. Big undercover sting, in which officers posing as criminals tried to get the pair to confess. Police eventually made Fredericks the target of the Mr. Big operation.

"When the fire was lit, Fredericks was so close that he had to back up because of the heat. After they lit him on fire, they stood there for a second expecting him to run around but he didn't," said the statement.

"After lighting the fire they stayed there for a period of time watching until Kyle said they had to go."

Fredericks also participated in a re-enactment of the crime, and described how the two men headed toward the gas station that night.

"It was while they were in the Foodland Parking lot (right where the bus shelter was) while on their way to the Needs store that Surette said something to the effect of, 'Let's get the bum' or "Let's burn the bum,'" said the statement.

"Fredericks was not certain what was said exactly, but he said that they both understood that they were going to set the homeless man on fire."

The agreed statement concludes by saying that although it's unclear which man lit the fire that killed Lawrence, both men saw him sleeping in the bus shelter and made the decision to set him on fire.


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