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Co-worker says alleged killer wasn't hired back at mill when others were

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Members of the RCMP are seen outside the Western Forest Products mill in Nanaimo, B.C., April 30, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

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Members of the RCMP are seen outside the Western Forest Products mill in Nanaimo, B.C., April 30, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

NANAIMO, B.C. - A man accused of murdering two of his former colleagues and attempting to kill two more at a Vancouver Island sawmill lost his job and wasn't rehired when the mill restarted, a former co-worker says.

Kevin Addison, 47, is facing two charges each of first-degree murder and attempted murder following a shooting at a Western Forest Products sawmill in Nanaimo, north of Victoria.

Police and the company have said little about Addison and have declined to speculate about what may have motivated the shooting, which police say started in the mill's parking lot on Wednesday morning and continued into the facility's offices.

Rex Boden is currently employed at the mill and remembers working with Addison, who he described as friendly.

"He didn't get hired back when the rest of us got hired back," Boden said Thursday, after a meeting between workers and company officials at a hotel in Nanaimo.

"That's all I know."

Addison appeared in court Thursday afternoon. The man, who is tall, with a medium build, short brown hair and a full beard, stood silently in court as he was ordered back into custody until his next appearance on May 13.

The mill shut down in 2008. It re-opened in 2010 with a much smaller contingent of workers, setting off a long-running dispute between the union and the company over severance pay for the workers who weren't called back.

Neither the police nor the mill have suggested the labour climate had anything to do with the shooting.

Boden otherwise declined to fill in the many blanks about Addison, who has been in jail since he was arrested shortly after the shooting.

"Sorry," Boden said, speaking softly, when asked about his former co-worker, "I can't."

Michael Lunn, 62, and Fred McEachern, 53, were killed in the shooting, while court documents identify the surviving victims as Earl Kelly and Tony Sudar.

Western Forest Products closed down all of its operations on Vancouver Island on Wednesday out of respect for the victims, and the company has brought in grief counsellors for its workers.

After Thursday's meeting, Boden described Western Forest Products as a "good company" that was helping where it could.

"It was workers grieving, talking about it, getting some stuff off their chests," said Boden when asked about the meeting.

"They are going to help out. Any help we need they'll give it to us. Same with the union. The union's going to stand behind us. It'll be good after everybody gets over it, I guess."

Other workers, including company president Don Demens, declined to speak with the media as they walked into the hotel, but emotions appeared to be raw as many hugged and wiped away tears.

RCMP were called to the waterfront facility Wednesday morning, after gunfire erupted in the mill's parking lot and then in the office.

Police arrived within minutes of the 911 call coming in and found four people shot and arrested a suspect.

At the sawmill site where the shooting occurred, a memorial of flowers and messages of condolences was growing as co-workers, friends and strangers arrived to pay their respects.

Nanaimo resident Bob Orr said Lunn and McEachern were lifelong forest workers who were known as devoted fathers with strong ties to the community.

Orr said Lunn, who has seven sisters, has a large extended family that could "fill up most of Nanaimo."

"He always had the funniest joke in the lunch room," said Orr, who worked as a payroll clerk at the Nanaimo operation.

At the company gates, a large red T-shirt hung from the fence in tribute to Lunn, who was known to favour red shirts.

On the shirt — which said Work It Baby Work It! — were hand-written messages from his children and relatives.

"Daddy, you really were the best father a daughter could ask for. Love, your princess," said one note.

Another said: "Love you tons and tons, Dad. I'll really miss the phone calls."

Orr said he tried not to believe it was his friends and former co-workers who died, but when police released the names, reality set in.

"I had to come down here," he said. "I couldn't believe it."

Orr said he recalls McEachern's constant smile at the job site, but he'll never forget seeing the joy he had at local ice rinks coaching hockey or helping organize hockey-related events.

"He'd come to the rink and he was still wearing his clothes from the mill, sawdust on his shoulders," said Orr. "You could see the sawdust coming off him when somebody patted him on the back."

Orr described McEachern as a committed forest worker who likely has "tree sap in his veins."

He said he had known who Addison was, but didn't have much contact with him.

"The name is familiar," Orr said.

"I don't remember him too much. He was laid off along with everybody when the mill was shut down. Things go on inside people's heads that we don't see. That they can't tell us."

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