Victoria murder case moving through court system

Two men expected to be tried in B.C. Supreme Court in April

The pretrial conference of two men accused of murdering a Fernwood man in 2010 is now underway in B.C. Supreme Court.

Andrew Jonathon Belcourt of Victoria was 19 years old when he was arrested by Victoria police on March 3, 2010, 18 hours after he allegedly fatally shot Leslie Ronald Hankel inside his Fernwood apartment.

Police responded to calls from witnesses who reported seeing a man carrying a shotgun in the 1200-block of Pembroke St. just after midnight on March 3.

Minutes later shots sounded. A search led officers to an apartment at 1260 Pembroke St. where they found Hankel, 52, shot dead.

It was Victoria’s first homicide of 2010.

At the time of Belcourt’s arrest, two other men were taken into police custody, but were later released without being charged.

Samuel Gregory McGrath was arrested eight months later on Nov. 17 in the West Shore by officers with the Vancouver Island Major Crimes Unit, the Victoria Police Department and the West Shore RCMP detachment.

The men each face charges of murder, robbery and break and enter.

McGrath was brought into B.C. Supreme Court Tuesday morning, followed by Belcourt. They were each handcuffed and shackled at the ankles.

After sitting in their separate enclosed prisoners’ boxes, they glanced at each other and exchanged a quick nod at the start of the voir dire proceedings, which are protected under a publication ban.

The pretrial conference began Jan. 23 and is expected to take about five weeks, Crown counsel Peter Juk confirmed, adding that a trial has been scheduled for five to seven weeks, beginning in April.