VANCOUVER – Surrey murderer Gary Donald Johnston will continue to serve a life sentence for the murder of Vic Fraser, who was stabbed to death in Bridgeview in 1998.
Johnston lost an appeal of his second-degree murder conviction on Tuesday in B.C.’s Court of Appeal in Vancouver.
“In my view, reasonable and well-informed members of the community would not find the manner in which the police investigated Mr. Fraser’s murder shocking and unacceptable,” Justice David Frankel decided, with fellow judges Edward Chiasson and Daphne Smith concurring.
Johnston was sentenced in November 2011 to the mandatory life sentence, and to serve 15 years in prison before he can apply for parole, after Justice Robert Crawford found him guilty of murdering Fraser on March 10, 1998.
The trial, in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster, heard Johnston stabbed Fraser nine times, breaking off knife blades in his neck before bludgeoning him with a flowerpot, booting him in the ribs and making off with his wallet.
The court heard Fraser, a 42-year-old crane operator from New Westminster, had interrupted Johnston while he was burglarizing a little yellow bungalow Fraser’s sister, Jeanie Fraser, owned in Bridgeview. Fraser died of massive blood loss.
Jeanie Fraser used to play crib with Johnston, drive him to the beer store, and lend him videos, coffee and smokes. She even had him over on Christmas Day, 1997, never suspecting he would someday be accused of victimizing her family.
After Fraser’s death, Johnston made his way to Regina where, eight-and-a-half months later, he stabbed caretaker Wayne Griffith multiple times in the neck, wrapped his body in plastic and dumped it in a desolate field.
Originally charged with second-degree murder in that case, Johnston pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 10 years, plus time served. He did seven.
Undercover RCMP officers posing as an organized crime gang in what’s known as a “Mr. Big interview” approached Johnston when he was on parole and roughly 60 scenarios were enacted in Ontario and Quebec, over six months, to win his trust. The 2011 trial heard that during their last scenario Johnston told the undercover cops that he’d stabbed Fraser about 30 times in the throat, and also offered to carry out killings for the bogus crime syndicate. He was arrested immediately after that.
Frankel noted, in his reasons for decision, that Johnston’s lawyer argued the Mr. Big operation was an abuse of process “designed to prey on the poverty and social isolation” Johnston experienced after being released from prison, and that simulated violence scenarios “unacceptable to Canadians” were used in which it was “made to appear” that two people were kidnapped, beaten and killed.
“While Mr. Johnston was unemployed, he was not socially isolated, destitute, or vulnerable,” Frankel found.
“He was not a person unaccustomed to violence.”
The killer’s life-long criminal record began at age 18 and since then he has been convicted, sometimes on multiple occasions, of burglary, assault causing bodily harm and extortion, besides the Saskatchewan manslaughter conviction and his murder conviction in the Fraser case.