MARK Grant allegedly confessed to the murder of Candace Derksen in 1988 only to retract his comments and threaten to harm a witness who overheard them, the Free Press has learned.

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MARK Grant allegedly confessed to the murder of Candace Derksen in 1988 only to retract his comments and threaten to harm a witness who overheard them, the Free Press has learned.

But jurors in his first-degree murder trial were never told about Grant's supposed admission because the Crown didn't call the woman who came forward with the story to testify. Justice sources say there were concerns about the woman's reliability and credibility and a decision was made to keep her claims away from the jury,

Tania Lachance previously took the witness stand at Grant's preliminary hearing in 2009, telling provincial court Judge Tim Preston about a conversation she had with Grant during a house party. Lachance, 38, was just 13 at the time Candace vanished in November 1984 and had previously gone to elementary school with her, court was told. She went by the last name of Walker at the time.

Years later, Lachance became friends with a girl in her Grade 10 class named Audrey Manulak (now Fontaine). Grant had been dating Manulak in 1988 when Lachance said she attended a house party on Talbot Avenue.

"We all started talking about the death of Candace," she said, according to a transcript of her testimony.

The conversation quickly turned serious when Grant allegedly interjected.

"Mark just came out and said 'I killed her,' " said Lachance. "And then, a couple minutes later he recanted it. He said 'I didn't do it, I'm just kidding, I'm just kidding.' We all just sat there. We didn't know what to say."

Lachance told court Grant and Manulak then began "fooling around in the living room... it was very sexual" while others looked on. That quickly cleared out the room.

Lachance said Grant and Manulak showed up at the door of her Moncton Avenue home the following night.

"They threatened me, if I opened my mouth, that they would do to me what they did to Candace," Lachance testified. She said her father came to the door moments later, demanding the pair leave his property or he'd call the police.

Lachance said she never saw Grant again, but Manulak became her next-door neighbour several years later.

"I was scared," she testified. "Never again was this talked about."

Lachance stayed silent until police contacted her in 2008 after arresting Grant. She said Manulak provided information that led them to her.

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Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Sports columnist

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.