Signature look leads to arson conviction
By Glynn Brothen
(JENNIFER STAHN / iNFOnews.ca)
March 02, 2015 - 7:30 PM
KAMLOOPS – The video evidence may have been grainy, but it was an accused man’s white Stetson cowboy hat that turned his arson charge into a conviction.
Kamloops Provincial Court Judge Stephen Harrison convicted Mannie Shaw Stewart of arson damaging the McCracken Station Pub’s property after reviewing video evidence of the event and hearing from two witnesses who recognized the accused.
On May 13, 2013 a surveillance camera caught Stewart lighting garbage on fire in the alleyway between the Valleyview pub and its neighbouring liquor store.
The video, which was played in court Monday, March 2, showed the profile of a shorter man wearing a white hat, jeans and white sneakers as he approached a garbage can near the door of the pub and threw something in it. When the man walked away, visible flames grew from the can.
Kevin Tibbett, the kitchen manager of the pub, said after dousing the flames he went to ask Michael Wu, the liquor store attendant, to review the surveillance footage.
“Both Michael and I knew who it was immediately,” Tibbett said. He added the accused regularly attended the pub and always wore a white cowboy hat. “It’s his signature. It’s what he always wore.”
Stewart's lawyer, Richard Kaiser, argued there was no property loss to the pub because it was trash released for collection. He asked for a mischief charge instead of arson.
Harrison rejected Kaiser’s argument because the contents of the garbage can were not transferred to a neighbouring dumpster. But he accepted the hat identified Stewart and found him guilty.
He ordered a pre-sentence report and a return date of April 2 to fix a date for sentencing.
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