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Shooting admission a lie to impress friend, jury hears

Nov 15 2012

The man accused of shooting a disabled Fernwood man two years ago admitted Wednesday that he told a friend he shot Leslie Hankel on March 3, 2010, because his mask fell off.

But Andrew Belcourt, 22, told a jury that he lied to Chantel Young about the mask slipping off that morning because he was trying to impress her.

"I told her that to shut her up, to get her off my back," Belcourt said. "She kept pressing me about what happened. I told her over and over it was an accident. Then I said, 'OK, I shot him because my mask fell down.' "

Belcourt and co-accused Samuel Mcgrath are charged with the second-degree murder of Han-kel, a 52-year-old man with mental-health problems. They have already pleaded guilty to robbery with a firearm and breaking into Hankel's apartment.

During a second day of cross-examination, Belcourt agreed with prosecutor Catherine Murray there was nothing impressive in shooting Hankel. But he denied ever telling two other Crown witnesses - his stepfather, Michael Rennie, and family friend Max Deleeuw - that he shot Hankel because his mask fell off.

Murray accused Belcourt of lying throughout his entire testimony to protect Mcgrath.

Belcourt testified that he didn't remember whether Mcgrath was present when Rennie showed him how to use the shotgun, that he didn't tell Mcgrath that Rennie had given him ammunition and that he never told Mcgrath he had loaded the gun.

Belcourt also testified Mcgrath wasn't part of planning the robbery until later that night at Young's apartment.

"Sam was there to do the job with you," Murray said.

"I planned the robbery in my head," Belcourt replied. "Sam was on a need-to-know basis."

Belcourt and Mcgrath went to rob a person they believed was a drug dealer who would defend his stash, Murray said. They kicked the door in and Belcourt handed Mcgrath a loaded gun.

"Anytime you have a loaded gun, it's potentially dangerous," Murray said.

"I would agree with that," Bel-court said.

"Then why wouldn't you tell your friend the gun was loaded?" the lawyer asked.

"I didn't think of it," he replied. Belcourt testified that he and Mcgrath pushed Hankel into a corner. Belcourt punched Hankel in the face and Mcgrath hit him with the butt of the shotgun. Hankel said he didn't have any marijuana.

He testified that he took the shotgun from Mcgrath and told him to search the rest of the apartment. Then he told Hankel to sit on the bed.

Belcourt said he slung the shotgun over his shoulder and a shot went off and hit the ceiling. When he cocked the gun to load it, the gun went off again, fatally wounding Hankel, Belcourt said.

Murray did not accept this version of events.

"You intended to hit him in the head," she said. "The gun was pointing right at his head."

Murray asked Belcourt why he asked Young to wash not only his clothes and shoes, but Mcgrath's as well.

Belcourt said that when he told Mcgrath he killed somebody, he comforted him with a handshake and a hug. "Sam said, 'It's all good, bro,' " Belcourt recalled.

The jury is to return Friday.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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