Sangster gets life sentence for Turtleford murder
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.