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Newfoundland man convicted of murdering wife seeks bail in B.C.

Wanda Martin in the early 1990s.
Wanda Martin in the early 1990s. - Contributed

Convicted killer had time to kill his common-law wife, Crown lawyer says at hearing in Vancouver

While a B.C. court considers whether to allow bail to a convicted murderer awaiting the possibility of a new trial, the victim’s Newfoundland and Labrador family is holding out for justice while remembering their beloved daughter.

Wade Skiffington is seeking bail while aiming for a new trial with the backing of an innocence group.

He was convicted of the 1994 murder of Wanda Martin, who was shot six times at her friend’s apartment in Richmond, B.C. The couple had moved from Newfoundland and Labrador, and Martin had wanted to return there before the murder, the B.C. Supreme Court has been told.

In a statement to The Telegram and B.C. media, Martin’s parents, Douglas and Beverly Martin, say they will remain strong through the current hearing. Their daughter, who was from Manuels, was just 20 years old when she was murdered.

“We would like to begin by saying a huge thank you to all our family and friends for all the love and support that they have given us over the past 24 years since the heinous murder of our daughter Wanda. It has meant the world to us and helped us survive. You will always be remembered,” they said of their daughter, who was working toward an education degree and was in B.C. just six weeks when the murder occurred.

“Although the hearing presently happening in Vancouver, B.C., is upsetting, it doesn’t hold a candle to what happened on Sept. 6, 1994. Nothing can do that. We have survived that and we will survive this.”

The Martins attended the original preliminary hearing and trial.

Wade Skiffington.
Wade Skiffington.

“It is our firm belief that should this hearing come to any conclusion other than the verdict reached at the original trial, it will be a conclusion based on a technicality. Being free because of a technicality is not being free because one is innocent. There is a big difference. There is nothing to lose by maintaining innocence,” they said in the statement.

“Seventeen years in prison is a long time. It is enough time to convince himself of a lot of things, almost anything, including that he did not commit the crime. Nothing can bring back those years, not even money. Nor can anything erase the images of Wanda that must be burned into the memory of the person who left that heinous crime scene on that September day in 1994, leaving a toddler with his mother’s body. There is some comfort in knowing that these images will be a part of that person’s memory for eternity. No matter where he is and no matter what the outcome of this hearing or any future proceedings, these memories and images belong only to Wade Skiffington. No legal proceeding can free a person’s memories or conscience.”

The Martins remember their daughter as an outgoing, smart young woman who had a beautiful voice. Friends often commented she could break out into song anywhere at any time and she especially loved country music.

She was working on an education degree majoring in math, a skill she didn’t excel in during high school, but was determined to conquer at university. After leaving Newfoundland and Labrador with two semesters completed at Memorial University, she was registered to take some courses at the University of British Columbia and correspondence courses from MUN, her family said.

In B.C. for only about six weeks, she was homesick and had an open ticket to return home when the murder occurred.

The day of her murder, she was visiting a friend’s apartment for the day, her parents said. Skiffington, who is from Paradise, had dropped her off there.

Her friend went out to register for college courses, while Martin stayed behind as her baby napped.

On Wednesday, Crown counsel Hank Reiner told the B.C. Supreme Court that Skiffington had a “she is leaving me motive” to kill his common-law wife and his confession to an undercover officer should stand.

Reiner said Skiffington was angry and jealous and feared he would lose Martin and his young son, and shot her six times.

Skiffington is being defended by lawyers from Innocence Canada, which works to exonerate people believed to be wrongly convicted. They maintain police used a so-called Mr. Big operation to coerce a confession that was not credible.

Their client was found guilty of second-degree murder in 2001 and is serving a life sentence.

The trial heard Skiffington and Martin had a rocky relationship, that Skiffington refused to let her take their son back to Newfoundland and Labrador, and he was heard calling her degrading names, Reiner told the B.C. Supreme Court this week.

Mr. Big stings typically involve police setting up elaborate scenarios designed to extract confessions from suspects who become part of a crime-group family and are told trust, loyalty and honesty are prized above everything, but they must come clean about their past so any incriminating evidence can be destroyed.

A Supreme Court of Canada decision in 2014 involved a Newfoundland and Labrador man convicted of drowning his twin daughters after such a sting by the RCMP.

The top court ruled Nelson Hart’s confession to undercover police was inadmissible and two first-degree murder charges against him were withdrawn.

Last year, Innocence Canada asked the federal Justice Department to review Skiffington’s conviction, which is ongoing, while it helps Skiffington apply for bail in hopes the case goes to the B.C. Court of Appeal and a new trial is ordered.

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