Surrey Six verdict: Johnston and Haevischer guilty (with Surrey Now video)

VANCOUVER – Loud clapping burst out in the courtroom Thursday as two men accused in the Surrey Six murders were convicted in connection with B.C.’s worst-ever gangland slaying.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Catherine Wedge found Cody Haevischer and Matthew Johnston each guilty of six counts of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

The accused sat stonily in the prisoner’s dock as the judge’s verdict was read out in court.

First-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison with no parole eligibility for 25 years. Conspiracy to commit murder has a maximum of life in prison.

The six men — Chris Mohan, 22, Ed Schellenberg, 55, Edward Narong, 22, Corey Lal, 21, Michael Lal, 26, and Ryan Bartolomeo, 19 — were shot to death execution-style in a suite on the 15th floor of the Balmoral Towers in Surrey on Oct. 19, 2007.

The Crown’s theory was that Haevischer and Johnston were members of the Red Scorpions gang and that the leader of the gang, Jamie Bacon, wanted to kill rival drug dealer Corey Lal because he had failed to pay a $100,000 "tax."

Mohan had just left his mom’s apartment suite to go play basketball when he was dragged into the murder suite. Schellenberg was in the suite repairing the fireplace.

The key witnesses for the Crown included former Red Scorpions gang leader Michael Le, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder in exchange for testifying against his co-accused.

In her reasons for judgement, Wedge found that Johnston and Haevischer were members of the Red Scorpions, which used violence to advance its goals.

She also said she accepted the evidence of Person Y — a gangster who cannot be identified — but not that of Le. Le’s plea bargain created the risk that he would minimize his role, Wedge said, and impacted the credibility of his evidence.

Wedge concluded that Haevischer accompanied his gang associates Johnston and Person X — another witness — to Suite 1505 where the six men were murdered.

The deaths were deliberate executions of defenceless victims, she said, and all three gang members had a common purpose in Suite 1505. Johnston and Haevischer actively participated.

With murdering Corey Lal as their mission, the men then had to decide what to do with the five others, whom they also killed.

Wedge found there was a conspiracy to murder Corey Lal, and that Johnston was involved in it. His actions on Oct. 19, 2007, were those of a “key player,” she decided.

The guilty verdict to Johnston’s conspiracy charge was the first to be read in court. He showed little reaction.

The judge went on to note the close relationship between Johnston and Haevischer during their time together in the Red Scorpions. Haevischer was no underling and knew he was being enlisted to commit a violent crime, Wedge said. She found him guilty of conspiracy. He, too, showed little reaction.

The trial began Sept. 30, 2013 and heard from 73 Crown witnesses. No evidence was called by the defence. Final submissions by the Crown and defence were made in July.

A jury trial for Bacon, who is also charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, is scheduled for May next year.

kfraser@theprovince.com

twitter.com/keithrfraser

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