Tim McLean’s Terrible Murder and Its Strange Aftermath

Tim McLean in a photo by his friend William Caron, pictured with Caron's daughter

Tim McLean, 22, lies sleeping on a bus on the Trans-Canada Highway about 20 kilometers west of Portage la Prairie. He is returning home to Winnipeg, Manitoba, from a job as a carnival worker in Edmonton, Alberta. Tim comes from a big, blended family with parents, stepparents, and sisters and brothers who love him. He sports the signature baggy jeans of his age group and has a Facebook account. In life, he is nothing out of the ordinary, a regular fun-loving guy, with a big heart, his father will later tell the press, but that’s all about to change in the unbelievable death that awaits him a bit down the road.

Vince Weiguang Li is death’s messenger. Tall, and strong, Li holds a part- time job delivering newspapers in Edmonton. He works at McDonald’s. His boss at the paper thinks he’s “a good guy, if a quiet and reserved.”

"He was there every day, he did a good job, was friendly and really, we had no problems with this individual at all,” Vincent Augert will later tell CBC news.

The bus rolls through the night. The passengers are settled in. McLean wears headphones. Li just sits there, but he has thoughts in his head.

On July 20 -- just 10 days before the killing –Li delivered copies of the Edmonton Sun that contained an extensive interview with a man named Nathan Carlson, the world’s leading ethno-historian on “Windigo,” a creature in native mythology with a ravenous appetite for human flesh. The Windigo, Carslon told Hanon, “could take possession of people and turn them into cannibalistic monsters.”

Maybe it’s just a coincidence, Hanon will say, but what a strange one. A few hours later, when Li is arrested, police will find pieces of McLean’s flesh in a plastic bag in his pocket, including parts of McLean’s nose and ear and at the end of the first week in August, Nathan Carlson will tell Hanon he is still having trouble sleeping. "Ever since it happened, I haven't been able to get it out of my head," Carlson says haltingly. "I just don't know what to think of it, quite frankly.”

The Windigo story dates back to the late 1800s but continues into the early 1900s when Windigo "encounters" haunted communities across northern Alberta and apparently resulted in dozens of gruesome deaths. In one case, wrote ANDREW HANON, of the Edmonton Sun, “a Cree trapper named Swift Runner was hanged after admitting to killing and eating his wife, children, brother and mother in the woods northeast of Edmonton in the winter of 1878-79. Prior to being charged with murder, he had suffered screaming fits and nightmares, which he attributed to being possessed by a Windigo.

In several other cases, people banded together and killed individuals they feared were possessed by a Windigo. Often, they would decapitate the corpse and bury the head separate from the body in order to keep it from rising from the dead. Carlson documented several cases in northern Alberta communities where people believing they were "turning Windigo" would go into convulsions, make terrifying animal sounds and beg their captors to kill them before they started eating people.”

Whatever Li is thinking about at the moment, the fact is that he has gotten on the bus carrying a large hunting knife hidden in his coat. Friends will tell reporters the next day that he had showed signs of erratic behavior over the past month. His ex-wife will note that he had been hospitalized for mental problems, but only for a few days. Many will wish that Li had never been released, once the news becomes a headline. But Li is still free. He pulls out the knife and plunges it into McLean’s chest.

Garnet Caton, seated in the seat in front of McLean and Li, hears a “blood-curdling scream” and turns to see Li repeatedly stabbing McLean.

Passengers go into a panic. Li seems oblivious to the mayhem. He gets McLean down into the aisle and keeps stabbing him, apparently 50 times.

Caton, meanwhile, herds passengers to the front of the bus. The bus pulls over and passengers flee from it, screaming, vomiting and crying.

A passing lorry driver stops. He boards the bus with Caton and the bus driver, armed with a tyre iron. The three attempt to capture Li. “When we came back on the bus, he was cutting the guy’s head off and pretty much gutting him up,” Caton will tell The Times.

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