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Witness says Victoria man shot and killed robbery victim when his mask fell off

Oct 26 2012

A Crown witness testified that Andrew Belcourt told him he shot a man during a robbery on March 3, 2010, because Belcourt's mask fell off.

Max Deleeuw, 22, was testifying Thursday at the second-degree murder trial of Belcourt and Samuel Mcgrath in B.C. Supreme Court. Belcourt and Mcgrath have pleaded guilty to robbery with a firearm and breaking into the Pembroke Street apartment of Leslie Hankel, a 52-year-old man with mental-health issues.

The jury must decide whether Belcourt and Mcgrath are guilty of the murder of Hankel, who died of a gunshot wound to the head.

Deleeuw identified Belcourt, pointing to his former friend sitting in the prisoner's dock. He told the jury he'd known Bel-court, whom he called A.J., for about one year before the shooting. He had also worked for the same moving company as Bel-court's stepfather, Mike Rennie.

Deleeuw testified that in the early afternoon of March 3, 2010, he received a call from Belcourt.

"He said he was in trouble and he needed a ride," Deleeuw recalled. Belcourt said he would give him $20 for gas and told him to pick him up at 1253 Johnson St., Deleeuw testified.

When Deleeuw arrived, sometime between 1: 45 and 2 p.m., he parked in the underground parking area and met Mcgrath and Belcourt at the townhouse. All three walked to the car.

Belcourt was carrying a black knapsack. Mcgrath was carrying a white plastic bag, said Deleeuw. He gave them the keys and they put their bags in the trunk.

Belcourt and Mcgrath left and were gone for about five minutes, Deleeuw testified. When they returned, they put a gun in the trunk of the car.

"A.J. was carrying the gun. It was up his sleeve with a little bit of black garbage bag sticking out," Deleeuw testified.

"How did you feel?" asked prosecutor Catherine Murray.

"Nervous," Deleeuw replied. Belcourt told him to drive to the TD bank at Saanich Plaza, Deleeuw said. When they got there, McGrath cashed a cheque.

Murray asked Deleeuw if there was any conversation during the first trip in the car.

"I asked him why he had the gun," Deleeuw testified. "He said he had shot someone the night before. He said there was a robbery and he had a gun across his shoulder and it accidentally discharged into the ceiling. He turned around to tell the guy to shut up and his mask fell. He said he shot the guy because his mask had fallen down."

Deleeuw testified that Belcourt told him he went back into the unit to pick up the shotgun shells and "there was a waterfall of blood coming off the bed. He said he shot him in the side of the face and neck."

"How did you feel?" Murray asked again.

"Very nervous," Deleeuw replied. "I just kept driving. He said he was trying to find marijuana. He said he found a little bit ... He didn't say anything about money."

When they stopped for gas and something to eat at the Shell gas station on Spencer Road, all three were arrested.

During cross-examination, Deleeuw told Belcourt's defence lawyer Tim Russell he couldn't remember the exact words Bel-court used to describe what happened.

Deleeuw also admitted that he lied under oath at the preliminary inquiry when he told the court Bel-court had not told him anything.

Deleeuw told Mcgrath's defence lawyer Mike Munro he came clean to police in a statement on April 26, 2012.

Deleeuw also told Munro he couldn't be sure when Mcgrath and Belcourt put their bags in the trunk of his car and he couldn't be sure who was carrying which bag.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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