The Tim McLean Murder Incident

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The Tim McLean Murder


The incident took place near Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, during a trip from Edmonton to McLean's hometown of Winnipeg.

At 12:01 a.m. on July 30, 2008, Tim McLean, a carnival worker, was returning home to Manitoba after working at a fair in Alberta. He departed Edmonton on board Greyhound bus 1170 to Winnipeg, via the Yellowhead Highway through Saskatchewan. He sat at the rear, one row ahead of the toilet. At 6:55 p.m., the bus departed from a stop in Erickson, Manitoba with a new passenger, Vince Weiguang Li. Li, described as a tall man in his 40s, with a shaved head and sunglasses, originally sat near the front of the bus, but moved to sit next to McLean following a scheduled rest stop. McLean "barely acknowledged" Li, then fell asleep against the window pane, headphones covering his ears.

According to witnesses, McLean was sleeping with his headphones on when the man sitting next to him suddenly produced a large knife and began stabbing McLean in the neck and chest. The attacker then decapitated McLean and displayed his severed head to other passengers outside who had fled the bus in horror. The driver and two other men attempted to rescue McLean but were chased away by Li, who slashed wildly at them from behind the locked bus doors. Li then went back to the body and began severing other body parts and consuming some of McLean's flesh.

At 8:30 p.m., the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in Portage la Prairie received a report of a stabbing on a Greyhound bus west of the city. They arrived to find the suspect still on board the bus, being prevented from escaping by another passenger, the bus driver, and a truck driver who had provided a crowbar and a hammer as weapons. The other passengers were huddled at the roadside, some of them crying and vomiting. As the suspect had earlier attempted to escape by driving the bus away, the driver had engaged the emergency immobilizer system, rendering the vehicle inoperable. Witnesses had observed the suspect stabbing and cutting McLean's body, and carrying McLean's severed head.

By 9:00 p.m., police were in a standoff with the suspect and had summoned special negotiators and a heavily-armed tactical unit. The suspect alternately paced the length of the bus and cut and defiled the corpse. Police officers then observed Li eating parts of the body. Meanwhile, the stranded passengers were transported from the scene to be interviewed at the Brandon RCMP detachment. RCMP officers reportedly heard Li say, "I have to stay on the bus forever."

On July 31, 2008, at 1:30 a.m., the suspect attempted to escape from the bus by breaking through a window. The RCMP arrested Li soon afterward. He was tased twice, handcuffed and placed in the back of a police cruiser. Parts of the victim's body, placed in plastic bags, were retrieved from the bus, while his ear, nose and tongue were found in Li's pockets. The victim's eyes and a part of his heart were never recovered and are presumed to have been eaten by Li.

At 10:00 a.m., Greyhound representatives took the other passengers to a local store to replace their clothes, which remained on the bus. They arrived in Winnipeg at 3:30 p.m. that day, to be reunited with family members and friends.

Witness accounts

Garnet Caton, a 26-year-old seismic driller who sat one row ahead of McLean, described hearing "a blood-curdling scream," saying, "I turned around and the guy sitting right [behind] me was standing up and stabbing another guy with a big Rambo knife.... Right in the throat. Repeatedly."

Caton added: "I got sick after I saw the head thing. Some people were puking, some people were crying, some people were shocked. [The attacker] just looked at us and dropped the head on the ground, totally calm." A police officer who was at the scene said the attacker also cut off parts of the victim's body and ate them.

Another passenger, Stephen Allison, stated that McLean fought his attacker, providing other passengers with the opportunity to get off the bus.

Vince Weiguang Li - Background

Vince Weiguang Li was born in Dandong, China on April 30, 1968. In 1992, Li graduated from University of Wuhan Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science in Computers. From 1994-1998, Li worked in Beijing as a computer software engineer. Li emigrated to Canada from China on June 11, 2001 becoming a Canadian citizen on November 7, 2006. He worked in Winnipeg at menial jobs at Grant Memorial Church for six months to support his wife, Anna. Pastor Tom Castor, who employed Li, said he seemed happy to have a job and was committed to doing it well, despite a language barrier with other congregation members.

"I think he would occasionally feel frustrated with not being able to communicate or understand," Castor told CTV Winnipeg. "But we have a very patient staff and he seemed to respond well." Castor also said Li did not show any signs of anger issues or any other trouble before he quit in the spring of 2005. He worked as a forklift operator in Winnipeg while his wife worked as a waitress.

Li first moved to Edmonton in 2006, abruptly leaving his wife alone in Winnipeg until she joined him later. His jobs included service at a Wal-Mart, at a fast-food restaurant, and newspaper delivery. His delivery boss, Vincent Augert, described Li as reliable, hard-working and not showing any signs of trouble.

Four weeks before the murder, he was fired from Wal-Mart following a "disagreement" with other employees. Shortly before the incident, Li asked for time off from his delivery job to go to Winnipeg for a job interview.

July 29, 2008

At midnight July 28 in Edmonton, Li boarded a Greyhound bus bound for Winnipeg.

On July 29, around 6 p.m., Li got off the bus in Erickson, Manitoba, with at least three pieces of luggage, and stayed the night on a bench next to a grocery store. According to one witness, he was seen at 3 a.m. sitting bolt upright with eyes wide open.

On the morning of July 30, still at the bench, he sold his new laptop computer to a 15-year-old boy, Darren Beatty, for $60. The laptop was seized by the RCMP as evidence; the boy was subsequently given a new laptop for his honesty by an anonymous businessman. Shortly before 6 p.m. Li boarded the bus heading to Winnipeg, which was carrying Tim McLean and 35 other passengers.

Witness Garnet Caton said the attacker seemed oblivious to others when the stabbing occurred, adding he was struck by how calm the man was. "There was no rage or anything. He was like a robot, stabbing the guy," he said. When he appeared in a Portage la Prairie courthouse on charges of second-degree murder, the only words Li reportedly uttered were please for someone to kill him.


Li's trial commenced on March 3, 2009, with Li pleading not criminally responsible. This means that he accepted that the offence occurred but he claimed that he was unable to form the necessary mental element or mens rea. Despite Li having no documented history of mental illness before the killing, a testifying psychiatrist diagnosed Li as having schizophrenia. The psychiatrist said that Li performed the attack because God's voice told him McLean was a force of evil and was about to execute him. The presiding judge accepted the diagnosis, and ruled that Li was not criminally responsible for the murder. Li was remanded to the Selkirk Mental Health Centre.[ Though he had not fully emerged from the psychotic phase, the psychiatrist said that Li was beginning to realize what he had done, though he cannot accept that he cannibalized McLean.


The week following the attack, Greyhound Canada announced it was pulling a series of nationwide ads which included the line, "There's a reason you've never heard of bus rage." The incident has led to numerous calls and petitions demanding increased security on intercity buses.

After the incident, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sent an advertisement to the Portage Daily Graphic comparing the murder of Tim McLean to the killing of animals for food. The ad was rejected by the paper.

The family of Tim McLean have brought a lawsuit of $150,000 against Greyhound, the Attorney General of Canada and Weiguang Li.

On June 3, 2010, Li was granted supervised outdoor walks within his mental health facility as voted by the provincial review board.

On February 16, 2011, two passengers, Debra Tucker, of Port Colborne, Ontario, and Kayli Shaw, of London, Ontario, filed a lawsuit against Vince Li, Greyhound, the RCMP and the Government of Canada for being exposed to the horrific beheading. They are each seeking $3 million in damages.

On May 30, 2011, the CBC reported that Vince Li is responding well to his psychiatric treatment and that his doctor has recommended that he'll receive more freedoms, phased in over several months.

Mental Illness in the Criminal Code

Section 16(1) of the Canadian Criminal Code explains the defence of mental disorder as “No person is criminally responsible for an act committed or an omission made while suffering from a mental disorder that rendered the person incapable of appreciating the quality and nature of the act or omission or of knowing that it was wrong.”
Not Criminally Responsible On Account Of Mental Disorder (NCRMD)

To be found NCRMD the accused must go through a court-ordered psychiatric assessment by a certified expert. It must be shown that the accused was suffering from a mental disorder at the time of the offence and therefore was incapable of appreciating the nature or quality of the act/omission and did not understand that it was wrong.  If the accused is found not criminally responsible, he/she is neither convicted nor acquitted and therefore not sentenced. Instead, the Court Review Board will decide on the most appropriate arrangement which may be 1) absolute discharge 2) discharge with conditions or 3) detention in a hospital based on a set of criteria that have been set out by the Criminal Code.
Fitness to Stand Trial

The criminal justice system of Canada presumes fitness, however if the accused unable to understand the proceedings or communicate with counsel then he/she will be deemed unfit to stand trial. The Canadian Criminal Code defines ‘unfit to stand trial’ as, “unable on account of mental disorder to conduct a defence at any stage of the proceedings before a verdict is rendered or to instruct counsel to do so.”  If an individual is found to be unfit then he/she is dealt with by the Court Review Board until he/she is considered to be fit and tried. An inquiry will be held two years after the initial finding to determine if there is adequate information, this process will continue every two years until the accused is either acquitted or tried. If there is sufficient evidence that treatment will render the accused fit without causing any harm to the accused, the court may order medical treatment. This treatment, however, may not exceed a period of 60 days.
Recent Amendments

In 2005 new amendments were made concerning the mental disorder legislation. These changes were made to better protect the individuals who are found to be either NCRMD or unfit to stand trial, as well as to protect the public. Changes were made in terms of review board powers in terms of ordering assessments, convening or ordering hearings, and issuing warrants. The new amendments also further enhanced the safeguards set for those who are permanently unfit to stand trial. Other changes include allowing victims to read victim impact statements, expanding travel provisions, and providing the police with more options when arresting an individual who has been found unfit to stand trial or NCRMD.

Tim’s Law

In July of 2008, 22 year old Tim McLean was brutally murdered on a Greyhound bus by 40 year old Vincent Li. McLean had fallen asleep at the back of the bus with his headphones on when Li suddenly began stabbing him with a knife. The other passengers fled the bus but Vincent Li continued to attack Tim’s body; decapitating him and allegedly consuming various body parts. 

Vincent Li was found not criminally responsible. Both the Crown and the defense agreed that Li was schizophrenic was suffering from a psychotic episode at the time of the attack. Li claimed to hear the voice of God telling him that he needed to kill McLean or else he would be killed himself.

Because Li was found not criminally responsible, he has no criminal record. He will spend time in a secure psychiatric facility where he will receive treatment. His case will be reviewed every year by the mental health review board. As long as Li continues to be a threat to the community, he will remain in the facility. However, if he is deemed ‘safe’ he may be released back into the community. The fact that Li got no record, nor received any jail time, and may at some point be released did not sit well with Tim McLean’s family. They felt that Li should get a life sentence in prison, “a life for a life.”

Tim McLean’s mother, Carol deDelley, is pushing forward with what is known as “Tim’s Law”. Her hope is that the term ‘not criminally responsible” will be changed to “not psychologically accountable” which would mean that the individual was still criminally responsible. As such, the offender would receive a criminal record and would go through treatment in jail rather than at a treatment facility. Tim’s Law is directed at only the most violent and unpredictable mentally ill offenders, and would result in the offender facing incarceration for the rest of his/her life.

The idea of “Tim’s Law” has faced a lot of controversy. Many credit the Canadian judicial system for being humane and recognizing that individuals in psychotic states are unable to recognize right from wrong. Others support the idea of Tim’s Law and eagerly sign the petition. Whether Tim’s Law goes through or not, this case has had a huge impact on the nation and has put the spotlight on mental illness in the health system. 

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