Nova Scotia

William Sandeson testifies he killed Taylor Samson in self-defence

William Sandeson has admitted he shot and killed Taylor Samson in August 2015, but he says he was acting in self-defence. The admission came as Sandeson testified at the beginning of the fifth week of his first-degree murder trial.

Accused also admits he dumped body in Bay of Fundy near Truro

A man is seen carrying a bag in a hallway.
This still from surveillance video shows William Sandeson in the hallway outside of his Halifax apartment. (Nova Scotia Supreme Court)

WARNING: This story contains graphic details.

William Sandeson has admitted he shot and killed Taylor Samson in August 2015, but he says he was acting in self-defence. The admission came as Sandeson testified at the beginning of the fifth week of his first-degree murder trial.

Sandeson has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

He is the first witness called by his lawyer, Alison Craig.

Sandeson described an "idyllic" upbringing on his family farm in Lower Truro, N.S., where he grew up with three younger brothers.

At the time of Samson's disappearance, Sandeson was just days away from starting classes at Dalhousie University's medical school. He was holding down three jobs; one at an assisted-living facility and two at Halifax hospitals. He was also dealing drugs: marijuana, magic mushrooms and MDMA. He estimated his total monthly income at $8,000.

Sandeson said he bought his drugs in Montreal, and would drive there every couple of months to buy more. He said his suppliers told him they were concerned about him driving with large quantities of drugs and cash, so he decided to get a gun.

He didn't know anyone selling them illegally, so he went through the proper channels to acquire a firearms licence and purchase a handgun. He kept the gun in a safe in his bedroom. It now sits on the evidence table in front of the jury in a Dartmouth courtroom.

Sandeson said he didn't want many people to know about the gun because he was afraid they would want to see it and play with it. He only told his girlfriend, his roommate and his neighbour about the gun.

Lead-up to fateful meeting

Sandeson said that in August 2015 he was looking for a local drug supply because he was tired of driving to Montreal, and because he felt it would be easier to wind up his business if it was all local. Sandeson said his girlfriend was pressuring him to get out of the drug trade, and he also said he wouldn't have time to deal drugs once he started med school.

Sandeson testified that he put out feelers to find a local supplier, and that's when he heard about Taylor Samson. He said the two of them met on Aug. 5, 2015, for a preliminary discussion and then again on Aug. 13, two days before the fateful meeting.

Sandeson said when he woke up on the morning of Aug. 15, he did not intend to do a drug deal. He was surprised at how quickly Samson had obtained the drugs he was proposing to sell and he had misgivings about the transaction. He said those included his fears that Samson had been involved in an earlier home invasion and might try to rob him.

Sandeson said he only had $10,000 on hand and that's all he intended to give Samson that night, not the $40,000 they had discussed.

Sandeson said he dumped out the contents of the duffel bag and gave Samson the money, telling him to count it. Sandeson said when Samson found out it wasn't the amount of money they had agreed on, he threatened to take the drugs and leave. Sandeson said at that point, he lifted up his bulky sweater to show his handgun in his pants' pocket.

'You're done'

Sandeson says Samson tried to take the gun and they wrestled for control of the weapon. He said he eventually got control and pointed it at Samson, telling him to "get the f–k out of my apartment."

He said Samson sneered at him, then said "you're done" and lunged. Sandeson said he pulled the trigger. He said things were a blur. He said he went next door to warn his neighbours and they followed him back to his apartment.

Both Justin Blades and Pookiel McCabe testified earlier in the trial that when they looked in Sandeson's apartment that night, they saw a large man slumped over at the kitchen table, a pool of blood at his feet.

Sandeson's lawyer asked him, "Why did you ultimately pull the trigger?"

His reply: "To keep him from killing me."

Sandeson said he was "terrified" and "in total shock." He said he did what he described as a haphazard cleaning of the apartment, pouring undiluted bleach on the floor until it left him coughing.

He also admitted to turning off the security system. He said while it was off, he placed Samson's body in a duffel bag and put the bag in the trunk of his car. He testified that he drove toward Truro and eventually pulled into a car pool parking lot, took Samson's body to a dyke, and dumped it into the water.


Blair Rhodes


Blair Rhodes has been a journalist for more than 40 years, the last 31 with CBC. His primary focus is on stories of crime and public safety. He can be reached at