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Neighbour heard victim groaning before fatal shooting, trial hears

Oct 30 2012

Leslie Hankel was groaning and in pain moments before he was shot to death in his Pembroke Street apartment in the early morning of March 3, 2010, a Crown prosecution witness testified Monday.

Alex Scott, who lived in a second-floor apartment in the same building, made the statement while testifying at the second-degree murder trial of Andrew Belcourt and Samuel Mcgrath in B.C. Supreme Court. 

Scott was watching a movie around 1:30 a.m. when he heard noises and movement coming from the first floor. 

It sounded like shuffling around and things being dropped, he told the jury.

Although it was not unusual to hear sounds coming from the laundry-storage room on the first floor, these sounds were louder than usual, he said.

Scott started going downstairs. About four steps from the bottom, he could see the door to Hankel’s suite had been kicked in. Then he heard two male voices.

“I heard the elderly gentleman. It sounded like he was being thrown around. He was groaning. He sounded like he was in pain, like ‘oh, oh,’ ” Scott testified, imitating crying sounds. 

“I heard another voice say: ‘Get on the floor, old man. Where’s the weed at?’ ”

The second voice was a young man. His tone was angry, forceful and demanding, Scott testified.

The noise from the apartment continued. It sounded like things were being picked up and dropped, he said.

Scott turned around, went back to his apartment and grabbed his phone. 

He called his friend Jonathan Burnett, who lived on the first floor and was friendly with Hankel. 

Burnett answered the call just as Scott was walking out his front door to check on the situation again.

“Number 1’s getting home-invaded,” Scott recalled the conversation. “What do we do?”

“Don’t go anyplace close to there,” was Burnett’s advice, he recalled.

Scott began to turn around, then he heard the first gunshot. 

“I turned around and ran upstairs and closed the door and locked it,” he testified.

He looked out the peephole, then opened the door and stood outside. 

He heard a second gunshot, he testified.

Scott closed the door again, looked out the peephole and opened the door again.

He saw someone aim a gun at the apartment building. One hand was on the trigger, he said. One hand was on the barrel of the gun.

He heard footsteps running down Pembroke Street, then heard a car drive away, he said.

Scott went downstairs and saw Burnett coming out of Hankel’s apartment. 

Burnett’s girlfriend was on the phone to police. He followed Burnett into Hankel’s apartment. The place was all torn up, he observed.

“L.J. went into the bedroom. I heard him say, ‘Oh Les, no.’ I turned around. I didn’t want to see any of that. I went upstairs and told my girlfriend someone had been shot,” Scott testified.

Scott estimated it was 20 to 30 seconds between the first and second gunshot.

Under cross-examination, Scott told Mcgrath’s defence lawyer, Mike Munro, that it sounded like the elderly man was being hit.

“He was mostly groaning and making painful noises,” Scott testified.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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