Ian Bush found guilty of 'brutal, gratuitous' 2007 triple murder

A jury has found Ian Bush guilty in one of Ottawa's most shocking homicide cases.

WARNING: This story contains disturbing details and strong language

Ian Bush, now 62 years old, has been found guilty of three counts of first-degree murder. (Sketch by Lauren Foster-MacLeod for CBC News)

In the courtroom, when an accused sits in the prisoner's box day after day in silence, it's the little things that speak volumes.

Worth noting with now-convicted triple murderer Ian Bush is that he stood only reluctantly for Ontario Superior Court Justice Colin McKinnon, sometimes getting halfway up, sometimes not bothering at all, sometimes sitting at the same time as the judge, a grin on his red face, oblivious to the glares from the police officers behind him.

It was a different story whenever the jury — his peers, you see, not more of the bureaucrats he despises — stepped into the room. Bush stood quickly for them, smiling, remaining on his feet as they took their seats, sitting only with the call by a court clerk to do so.

In the end, the respect he showed for them counted for nothing.

After just one hour and 22 minutes of deliberation, 10 men and one woman found Ian Bush guilty Wednesday of murdering retired judge Alban Garon, his wife Raymonde Garon, and their friend and neighbour Marie-Claire Beniskos in Ottawa in 2007.

He receives three automatic life sentences, to be served simultaneously, and will spend 25 years in prison before he's eligible for parole. By then, he'll be in his 80s.

Crown attorney James Cavanagh remarks on Ian Bush after a jury found Bush guilty of three counts of first-degree murder. 0:48

Bush laughs as he is taken from Ottawa courtroom

Friends and relatives of the Garons chose not to make a victim impact statement after the verdicts were read, but Crown attorney James Cavanagh told the jury they've been united in their grief throughout the seven-week trial.

Cavanagh then read a statement from a relative of Marie-Claire Beniskos, who told Bush he "chose the most cowardly way possible" to deal with his problems.

"You killed three innocent people, nice people, good people that you didn't even know, and for what, fun, greed, attention," Cavanagh said, reading the statement.

"You are beyond rehabilitation. God forbid you should ever be free in society ever again. Justice has been served."

McKinnon then turned to face Bush, calling the "brutal, gratuitous" murders inexplicable and incomprehensible. The fact that Bush forced his family to testify against him "shows you have no shame whatsoever," McKinnon said.

The judge also pointed out Bush's obvious "contempt" for the court process, and for McKinnon himself.

Bush smiled and laughed when McKinnon ordered the prisoner removed. Relatives and friends of the victims clapped and shouted "good" as he was led away.

Victims bound, suffocated

The murders stunned the capital in the summer of 2007. The victims, all in their 70s, were found dead on June 30, lying on the floor in the living room of the Garons' apartment in a luxury, gated condo complex on Riverside Drive.

From left, Raymonde Garon, her husband, Alban Garon, and their friend and neighbour Marie-Claire Beniskos were found dead in the Garons' apartment in June 2007. (Photo collage by CBC)

All three had been bound — the women hogtied — and Bush placed plastic bags over their heads to suffocate them.

But Alban Garon, who was the former chief justice of the Tax Court of Canada and the intended target, was made to suffer more than the others, court heard during the trial that began in early April.

Bush placed a yellow nylon hangman's noose around Garon's neck, pulled it tight, and hit him in the head so hard it fractured his skull. In addition to suffocating from the bag over his head, he died of ligature strangulation and blunt force head trauma.

Jean Perley talks about her friend Marie-Claire Beniskos, one of three murder victims of Ian Bush. 0:26

A grudge years in the making

Bush's rage had, by that summer, been simmering for at least 15 years.

In the 1990s he battled Revenue Canada, as it was then known, over business expenses and moving costs.

The matter dragged on for years, during which time Bush sent snide missives to Revenue Canada, sometimes addressed to "Extortion Canada, Shakedown Division." One of them bore just two words, "BULL SHIT."

This letter was sent by Bush to 'Extortion Canada' in September 1996. (Kristy Nease/CBC)

The case finally made its way to the Tax Court of Canada in 1997, and a hearing was eventually scheduled to be heard in Ottawa in January 2001.

Bush told the Tax Court he was unavailable that day for "business reasons," but the court denied his request to set a new date.

It was Garon, then the chief justice of the Tax Court, who made that decision, Bush's trial heard.

No one showed up to the hearing in front of Judge Terrence O'Connor that winter day in 2001, so O'Connor dismissed the appeal and the file was closed.

Eerie fake summons to Bush's house

Bush first sought out Garon that very same year.

On July 31, 2001, the Tax Court received a fax from Bush and Associates Consulting, with the heading "High Court of Humanitarian Justice" and an image of scales of justice at the top. No such court exists.

The fax was addressed to Alban Garon, referenced the denial of Bush's request for a new hearing date, and asked the judge to show up for a fake review at Bush's house in Orléans.

Bush sent this fax to then chief justice Alban Garon of the Tax Court of Canada on July 30, 2001, calling Garon to a fake hearing at Bush's home on Boake Street. (Kristy Nease/CBC)

A worker who put the document on file told court during the trial that she'd never seen anything like it before.

Murders remained unsolved for years

Six years later, dealing with financial strain, a house he couldn't afford to buy, and arguments with his brother about the tens of thousands of dollars Bush owed their mother, Bush went looking for Garon again — this time with fatal results. 

Finding him was easy to do. The retired judge's address, even his apartment number, could be found easily on Canada411. The listing remains online today.

Despite the headlines the murders generated and untold hours of police work, the case remained unsolved for years. Ottawa police major crimes unit investigators had very little to go on — while the condo complex did have surveillance cameras, at the time they were only monitored live. No footage at the condo complex was saved anywhere.

Forensic investigators found a body hair that the defence admitted belonged to Bush, and drops of Garon's blood revealed the presence of someone else's DNA as well, but at that time the killer's DNA wasn't in the national databank.

When Bush was arrested, he had no criminal record.
Second World War veteran Ernest Côté survived the December 2014 home invasion, and died of natural causes in February 2015. (CBC)

A surprise break in the case

The break in the case didn't come until years later, in December 2014, when police allege Bush broke into a Second World War veteran's apartment, placed a plastic bag over his head and robbed him. The victim, 101-year-old Ernest Côté, survived the incident.

Bush was arrested and charged in connection with that crime later that same month. Those charges have not been tested in court, and the trial is scheduled for this fall.

(We've been prevented from reporting this connection until now because Justice McKinnon, who oversaw the homicide trial, made a ruling beforehand that the Côté incident could not be referred to at all. If the jury heard about the Côté incident, it would have overwhelmingly influenced the jury against Bush, and could have potentially forced a mistrial.)

An investigator removes clear plastic bags printed with suffocation warnings from the satchel found in Bush's basement. (Kristy Nease/CBC)

After Bush's arrest in December 2014, police searched his home and found a satchel in the basement containing ropes, plastic bags with suffocation warnings printed on them, knives, a sawed-off shotgun and more.

Bush's family testifies against him

Police got a warrant for a sample of Bush's blood, and test results showed the body hair found near the bodies was his, and that he couldn't be excluded as the source of the partial DNA profile found in Alban Garon's blood.

After years of fruitless searching, lead investigators Timothy Hodgins, now a staff sergeant, and Dan Brennan, now a sergeant, finally had their man.

Co-lead investigator Dan Brennan tears up discussing the Ian Bush investigation, trial and resulting verdict. 0:21

At trial, Crown attorneys James Cavanagh and Tim Wightman called all three of Bush's children and his former common-law spouse to testify against Bush. They each identified Bush on some OC Transpo surveillance video, getting off a bus at Hurdman station and walking toward the victims' condo, then returning an hour later, the day of the murders.

His brother testified, too, saying Bush led on their mother about eventually being able to buy the house he was renting from her.

Jury rejects defence arguments

In the end, the jury rejected defence lawyer Geraldine Castle-Trudel's argument that there were holes in the evidence.

An Ottawa police forensic imaging specialist spent the second day of Ian Bush's triple murder trial painstakingly tracing the suspect's footsteps in the hours leading up to the deaths of a tax court judge, his wife and their neighbour. 5:51

She suggested that Bush's hair might have gotten into the apartment without him ever setting foot inside, that maybe the killer hung off a 10th-floor balcony to escape and that the partial DNA profile in Garon's blood might have come from about 100 other people in the Ottawa area.

Castle-Trudel was assisted by lawyer Martin Reesink. Their case took less than two days to present to the jury, and three witnesses were called.

About three weeks into the proceedings, Castle-Trudel requested a mistrial after several vague references to the Côté case were found in documents submitted to the jury by the Crown.

McKinnon dismissed the application, saying the errors — which were likely not seen by the jury, much less understood — weren't serious enough to warrant even considering a mistrial.

Castle-Trudel said outside the court on Wednesday that Bush would appeal.