Remembering her brother Neil
Losing family member a life sentence hard to endure
Her brother’s murder may have happened almost 25 years ago but for Cathy Burroughs the pain of losing a sibling has never gone away.
“It’s getting harder now because you know they’re out there,” said Burroughs on Wednesday, just days after learning Darren Muise, 43, one of the killers involved in the 1992 McDonald’s murders and who pleaded guilty to killing Neil Burroughs, an employee at the Sydney River restaurant, had been given permission to be friends with another former federal inmate who has also served a life sentence.
Burroughs says life sentences are usually only given to those who murder, which seems odd, considering Muise is not supposed to associate with anyone he knows or has reason to believe has been involved in criminal activity.
“I was quite shocked.”
Adding to the pain was finding out about the matter from TV. The family is supposed to be notified in advance when changes are made to a parolee’s conditions.
“It normally two weeks in advance although we’re hearing now that it’s one week,” says Burroughs
Burroughs says she has been assured that not being notified ahead of the media was an oversight that shouldn’t happen again. But it still irks her that Muise is allowed to be friends with another felon in what appears to be another example of Muise receiving preferential treatment.
“Since day one this man has always had somebody higher up helping him get through the system,” she says. “He was protected when he was in prison … He was never really housed in a maximum security prison, only for the first year when they were at Dorchester. After that he was always in a minimum security prison. He’s always been coddled. He’s been guided. He’s done everything to the book.”
But what even worse is that after all this time, Muise still hasn’t apologized for his actions.
“He has never, never said that he was sorry or that he has any empathy for the victims. Still. That ticks me off,” she said, adding that one of murderers, Derek Wood, has apologized and that apology has been appreciated by the families.
“He apologized to the families so that meant a lot to the families.”
Muise was sentenced to life imprisonment for second-degree murder and robbery for his involvement in the 1992 incident that saw three people murdered and one person permanently disabled because of a botched robbery at a McDonald’s restaurant in Sydney River that has since been torn down. Burroughs, 29, and Donna Warren, 22, died at the scene while Jimmy Fagan, 27, died later in hospital. Arleen MacNeil, then 20 years old, survived but was left physically and mentally disabled.
Muise was released in 2012 with full parole. He currently lives in British Columbia. Freeman MacNeil and Derek Wood were each sentenced to 25 years in prison for their crimes. They won’t be eligible for full parole until later this year.
Burroughs says the families also received life sentences when this happened.
“Those three individuals have to know that there will be a Burroughs in their lives for the rest of their lives so I got a life sentence too. A life sentence to let them know we’re still out here,” she says, adding she prefers to be private but makes an exception when it comes to her brother. “That’s why I speak to the press — it’s to let them know we haven’t forgotten.”
It’s about honouring the memory of a brother who died before he should.
“I have always made a promise to Neil that I would see this through to the end.”
This file photo from 1992 shows the McDonald’s restaurant in Sydney River, that has since been torn down, where a robbery that went wrong cost three night shift workers their lives.