Fateful meeting on Greyhound
Li left message with ex-wife before heading east on the bus
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 04/03/2009 (5080 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
WARNING: Contents of this trial coverage could offend readers.
He boarded the Greyhound bus in Edmonton just after midnight last July 29, leaving a note in the apartment he shared with his ex-wife.
"I’m gone. Don’t look for me. I wish you were happy," Vincent Li wrote, according to testimony heard Tuesday at his second-degree murder trial.
Li — travelling under the bogus name of Wong Pent — had a one-way ticket to Thunder Bay. But he got off the bus in the early evening in Erickson, Man.
He would spend the next 24 hours in Erickson, spending most of the time sleeping and sitting on a park bench. Li also sold and burned many of his possessions, later telling a psychiatrist that he was acting on God’s orders.
Li called his ex-wife around 6 a.m. on July 30 but made little sense.
"He was talking to her about the Yellow River in China," Crown attorney Joyce Dalmyn told the court. Some of the conversation was in English, the rest in Mandarin. Li told his ex-wife he would return home once he "set up."
He boarded the daily Thunder Bay-bound Greyhound that passed through Erickson later that afternoon, taking a seat near the front. A woman who got on with him later told police she thought Li was acting "agitated, somewhat distraught" while waiting for it to arrive.
"He was pacing back and forth, talking to himself in Chinese," said Dalmyn.
On the same bus as Li was 22-year-old Winnipeg resident Tim McLean, who was making his way home following a summer stint on the Canadian carnival circuit. At some point, police believe McLean smiled at Li and may have said a friendly "Hello." The two men had never met.
Following a rest stop outside of Brandon, Li moved to the back of the bus and sat down in an empty seat beside McLean, who was sleeping and listening to an iPod.
Just west of Portage la Prairie, Li attacked McLean without provocation, stabbing him numerous times in the back and chest in front of three dozen horrified witnesses.
The Greyhound driver pulled to the side of the Trans-Canada Highway as Li continued his attack. Passengers fled to the side of the highway. Li was overheard shouting "get emergency" as he continued stabbing McLean and began severing his head, court was told.
Li tried to escape the bus, but the driver shut the door on his arm. Li moved to the front of the bus, McLean’s head in hand, and began fiddling with the controls in an attempt to open the door.
RCMP arrived and watched for several hours as Li continued to stab and defile McLean’s body. He was also seen by police eating some of McLean’s remains. Police later discovered McLean’s two eyes, part of his heart and pieces of flesh were missing. He also put the victim’s tongue, ear and nose inside a bag that he kept in his pants pocket, court was told. McLean suffered more than 100 separate areas of injury.
Li told officers he "has to stay on this bus forever" and refused demands to leave. But shortly after 1 a.m. — more than four hours after the attack began — Li threw the knife and a pair of scissors through an open bus window and jumped out. He struggled with police, who repeatedly stunned him with Tasers. Li was treated at Portage hospital for several cuts, and told officers "I’m sorry" on numerous occasions.
"I’m guilty. Please kill me," he added.
Li later told his psychiatrist he attacked McLean, dismembered the body and scattered the remains because God told him to do it. He said God had spoken to him in Edmonton and told him to board the bus with the knife with the intent on taking out the "force of evil," who he later learned was McLean. Li said he used a fictitious name because the voices told him to do so.
On Tuesday, Li replied "not guilty" when asked how he pleads to the murder charge. Lawyers told court they have agreed on all the above facts, with the only issue being whether Li should be found criminally responsible.
Li, wearing handcuffs and leg shackles, shuffled into the room led by several sheriff’s officers, and was placed in the prisoner’s box. He sat motionless, wearing a dark suit jacket, slacks and a light-coloured dress shirt.
The case continues Wednesday with testimony from another doctor who examined Li on behalf of the defence.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.