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Accused said killing was an accident, court hears

Oct 31 2012

On the night Leslie Hankel was fatally shot in his Pembroke Street apartment, a hyper Andrew Belcourt ran back to the Johnson Street townhouse he'd been staying at and told his friend Chantel Young: "I f---ed up. I f---ed up. I shot a guy's face off."

Young, a key Crown witness, recounted the information during cross-examination Tuesday at the second-degree murder trial of Belcourt and Samuel Mcgrath in B.C. Supreme Court.

"You didn't tell us that in direct," said Belcourt's defence lawyer Tim Russell. "You know he said that to you ... 'I f---ed up. I f---ed up.' Why didn't you tell the jury that?"

"I didn't think it was relevant," Young replied.

"He told you he didn't even mean to shoot the man."

"Yes, he did."

"He told you it was an accident, didn't he?"

"I guess he did."

"Then why didn't you tell the jury that?"

"I don't know." Young paused, then said: "You don't accidentally shoot someone in the face."

Earlier, the nervous 25-year-old told the jury that Belcourt was couch-surfing at her townhouse in late February and early March 2010. On the evening of March 2, she was drinking with Belcourt and Mcgrath when they told her they were leaving for a bit.

"I didn't know where they were going," she testified. "But I knew there was going to be a robbery."

Young testified she'd heard about the robbery a few days earlier when Bel-court's parents, Lydia and Mike Rennie, were at her house.

"There was a conversation about doing a robbery for a large amount of marijuana," Young said.

"What was the father's role?" asked prosecutor Catherine Murray.

"He set it up for A.J. and Sam," Young said. "He was telling them what they were going to get and what it was."

About 11: 30 p.m., both men changed into dark clothing and left, Young recalled. She locked the door behind them.

When they returned, Bel-court was very hyper, Young testified. "Sam never really said anything, ever."

They came to the top of the stairs and took off their shoes, which were splattered with blood.

"I asked them what happened," Young testified. "They didn't answer. They asked me to wipe the blood off."

Belcourt asked her to put their clothing in the washing machine, Young testified. He said there was blood and gunpowder on the clothes.

Young emptied their pockets. She found a worn, black leather wallet and a small Altoids tin that had marijuana in it, she testified. She put these items on the banister, put on the wash, then went downstairs. All three started drinking again, she said. But Mcgrath didn't stay long.

"Was there any conversation about what happened?" Murray asked.

Young began to cry on the witness stand. After Mcgrath left, Belcourt told her what happened, she testified.

"He told me that he went to do a robbery, that he hit Mr. Hankel with the butt of the shotgun, that it had fired into the ceiling, that his mask had fallen off and he had shot Mr. Hankel in the face."

"Did he say why he shot Mr. Hankel?" Murray asked.

"Because his mask had fallen off," Young replied.

Belcourt told her there was nothing in the home and they stole nothing, Young testified. Then they ran back to her house.

She and Belcourt stayed up to watch the news, but there was nothing about a robbery, Young said. Later that morning, she told Bel-court to get his stuff together and leave. Bel-court told her he was going to his parents' house to get rid of Hankel's belongings, she testified.

Young never saw the gun. When Belcourt and Mcgrath left later that afternoon, it was the last time she saw either of them, she testified.

During cross-examination, Young admitted she lied in three statements to police. She also lied under oath at a preliminary inquiry in April 2011.

"I didn't tell the truth because I was scared," she told the jury. Young testified she was afraid then of retaliation if she told the truth about what happened - and she was still afraid. ldickson@timescolonist.com

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