Sang­ster gets life sen­tence for Turtle­ford mur­der

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - Local - By Lori Cooli­can

Peo­ple were sus­pi­cious of Howard Sang­ster when he first drifted into Turtle­ford in the late sum­mer of 2003.

It was more than the stereo­typ­i­cal small-town mis­trust of strangers, and it led at least one con­cerned res­i­dent to call po­lice.

“He was in my mo­tel Sun­day night around mid­night walk­ing through the hall­ways. He kind of scared me. My wife called (the RCMP) the next day. They said they were maybe go­ing to talk to him or some­thing, but I’m not sure if they ever did,” a mo­tel man­ager later told a re­porter from nearby Lloy­d­min­ster.

The lo­cal de­tach­ment didn’t know Sang­ster was wanted for breach­ing pro­ba­tion by leav­ing his home ju­ris­dic­tion. The pro­ba­tion or­der was part of a sen­tence he’d been given ear­lier in the year for pos­ses­sion of a weapon for a dan­ger­ous pur­pose.

An out­stand­ing ar­rest war­rant wasn’t the worst skele­ton in his closet.

Sang­ster, 51, had been in Turtle­ford for about a week when neigh­bours no­ticed that 89-year-old Fred­er­ick Banks, a spunky se­nior known for his habit of cruis­ing around town in a black late-model Thun­der­bird, had not been seen for a few days.

They called po­lice, who found Banks’ dead body inside his home on Aug. 30. The cause of death was not re­leased.

Three days later, RCMP of­fi­cers ar­rested Sang­ster in Saskatoon and charged him with first-de­gree mur­der. The charge was later re­duced to sec­ond-de­gree mur­der when Crown prose­cu­tors de­cided they were un­likely to get a con­vic­tion on the more se­ri­ous count.

More than three years later, a jury found Sang­ster guilty Wed­nes­day in Bat­tle­ford Court of Queen’s Bench. He was sen­tenced Fri­day to life in prison with no chance of pa­role for 10 years.

That’s a great deal longer than Sang­ster’s last con­fine­ment, which be­gan af­ter a Nova Sco­tia court found him not crim­i­nally re­spon­si­ble by rea­son of in­san­ity for a 1995 bank rob­bery in New Glas­gow and the sub­se­quent at­tempted mur­der of John Tom­lik, who owned the room­ing house where he lived.

Sang­ster was out on bail while await­ing trial for the rob­bery when he stabbed Tom­lik 17 times, send­ing him to hospi­tal for a month.

The judge who ac­cepted

Sang­ster’s in­san­ity plea sent him to a Nova Sco­tia hospi­tal for an in­def­i­nite term, leav­ing psy­chi­atric ex­perts to de­cide when it would be safe to re­lease him back into the com­mu­nity.

When they set him free — to Tom­lik’s as­ton­ish­ment — in 2001, he went to live with his mother in Pei­d­mont, N.S., and later ap­plied suc­cess­fully for an ab­so­lute dis­charge, wiping his record clean and pre­vent­ing the au­thor­i­ties from keep­ing track of him.

Sang­ster was deemed fit to stand trial for Banks’s mur­der fol­low­ing a psy­chi­atric as­sess­ment soon af­ter his ar­rest.

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