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Stepfather testifies he was paid after son’s arrest for shooting, robbery

Nov 06 2012

Andrew Belcourt’s stepfather testified Monday that he was paid $6,000 after he helped police organize the arrest of Belcourt and his friend Samuel Mcgrath two years ago.

A nervous Michael Rennie was testifying at the second-degree murder trial of Belcourt and Mcgrath for the shooting death of Leslie Hankel in his small Fernwood apartment.

Rennie, who wore a dark suit and reading glasses, told defence lawyer Tim Russell that two days after the crime, police showed up with money.  “I remember getting $6,000 in 50s,” Rennie said.

Rennie, whose criminal convictions fill a three-page document, said he didn’t ask for or expect the money, and he never had discussions with police about being a confidential informant.

Rennie testified he had nothing further to do with police until January 2012, when he approached them about being a Crown witness in exchange for relocation money and immunity from prosecution.

“I said I want to make a statement. I want to move for the safety of my family,” Rennie testified.

As he began his testimony, Rennie told prosecutor Catherine Murray that he was with Belcourt’s mother Lydia from February 2006 until April 2012. He described his relationship with Belcourt as very good. Belcourt called him dad, testified Rennie. He called Belcourt “son.” They were in touch four to five times every day.

In March 2010, Rennie lived in a trailer park near Spectacle Lake, southeast of Shawnigan Lake. Rennie testified he had a two-piece pump shotgun he wanted to sell because he needed money for food.

He asked Lydia to text Belcourt and ask him if he knew anyone who wanted to buy the gun for $300. Belcourt replied that Mcgrath would buy it, he said.

On the night of March 2, Rennie sold the shotgun to Mcgrath, then spent an hour showing Belcourt and Mcgrath how to use it.

Rennie testified that he knew there was going to be a robbery but he didn’t know where. He understood the gun was for strong-arming someone. Later, Rennie watched Belcourt and Mcgrath get ready to go out. They packed a bag full of dark clothes, said Rennie.

“Did you give them any words of advice before you left?” asked Murray.

“If s--- goes sideways, call me right away. If your mask comes down, have no witnesses. If your identification is shown, get rid of the evidence,” Rennie said he told them.

In the early morning, Rennie was awakened by Lydia. She said there was an emergency and Belcourt “had f---ed up.” Rennie took the phone. Belcourt was freaking out, he testified.

“He said, ‘Dad, do you remember if things go sideways I’m supposed to call you right away?’ ”

Rennie testified that Belcourt told him the gun went off. He said his mask had fallen down and he shot a man in the side of the face.

Rennie told him not to say anything on the cellphone. He told Belcourt to run, to go somewhere and he’d help him in the morning. Then he turned off his cellphone.

“Why didn’t you want to have anything to do with him that night?” asked Murray.

“I didn’t want to go to jail for murder,” Rennie said.

The next morning, Rennie arranged a ride to get Belcourt and Mcgrath out of town and up to Spectacle Lake, where they could bury the gun and burn the evidence. 

At the same time, Rennie testified, he got a call from a police officer asking him if he knew anything about the shooting in Fernwood.

“I said I did and I told him A.J. and Sam had shot the gentleman and they were on their way to my place with the evidence,” said Rennie.

Rennie told the officer that Max Deleeuw was picking them up in his 1989 teal blue Thunderbird and that they had the gun and the clothing in the trunk of the car.

Throughout the day, Rennie updated the officer on Belcourt’s whereabouts. He let the officer know they were going to be at the Shell station on Spencer Road.

That night, Belcourt called Rennie from a Victoria police station jail cell.

He said he was sorry he shot someone, Rennie testified.

When Belcourt started to talk about what happened, Rennie told him to keep his mouth shut.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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