The murder of Tim McClean

Whether it’s planes, trains, ships or buses long distance travel can be exhausting and frustrating, but aboard the Greyhound 1170 bus on 30th July 2008 it turned into one of the most traumatic and gruesome journeys for the 38 passengers on board when 22-year-old Timothy McClean crossed paths with 40-year-old Vincent Li.

Timothy McClean

Timothy McClean Jnr was born 3rd October 1985 in Victoria, British Columbia, he grew up in Winnipeg and Elie, Manitoba. He worked as a “carnie” with the job of carnival barker and was expecting his first child in 2008. On 30th July 2008 he was travelling home on Greyhound 1170 from Edmonton to Winnipeg after taking some work in Edmonton. The journey was uneventful as he stared out of the window listening to his music on headphones until the bus made a scheduled stop in Erickson, Manitoba, there Vincent Li boarded.

Vincent Weiguang aka Vince Li was born in Dandong, China on 30th April 1968, he attended Wuhan Institute of Technology with a bachelor’s degree in computing in 1992, from 1994 – 1998 he worked in Beijing as a computer software engineer. On 11th June 2001 Li moved to Canada, around 2003 or 2004 he was reportedly hospitalised due to an incident with the Ontario Provincial Police, the police found Li walking along a highway and when asked why he told them he was “following the sun” because God had ordered him to.  For the most part however his life in Canada was normal, he worked in Winnipeg at Grant Memorial Church for six months in order to support his wife Anna, his employer at the time positively described Li as a hard worker who seemed happy to have a job and was committed to doing it well, despite the language barrier between him and the other members of the church’s congregation. Li worked there until the spring of 2005 when he quit and got a job as a forklift operator in Winnipeg while his wife had taken a job as a waitress.

Vincent Li

In 2006 Li moved to Edmonton abruptly leaving his wife behind in Winnipeg until she could join him later, here he worked at a Wal-Mart, a fast-food restaurant and on a newspaper delivery round. One of his bosses Vincent Augert also had nothing but positive things to say about his time employing Li describing him as a reliable hard worker who was no trouble. In early July 2008 Li was fired from Wal-Mart following a “disagreement” with other employees, shortly before this he had asked his employer for some time off to attend a job interview in Winnipeg. It was also around this period his marriage broke down and ended in divorce, Li’s wife described periods in their marriage where he took unexplained bus trips, would disappear for long periods and would ramble, she confirmed that he never sought any further treatment after his brief stay in hospital after being picked up by police.

On 28th July 2008 Li boarded a Greyhound bus heading to Winnipeg, he got off the bus at around 6pm on 29th July 2008 in Erickson, Manitoba with three pieces of luggage and sat on a bench next to a grocery store all night, one witness put him sat on the bench at 3am sitting bolt upright with his eye wide open. On the morning of 30th July 2008, he was still at the bench now with a sign advertising a laptop that he had for sale, he sold this to a 15-year-old boy for $60 but it was later seized by police to search. When the police took the laptop, a local businessman gifted the boy a new laptop for his honesty and cooperation in the investigation of this gruesome crime.

Greyhound bus 1170 made its scheduled stop in Erickson, Manitoba and there, Li boarded he was described as tall with a shaved head and was wearing sunglasses, McClean was sat in the rear of the bus at that point positioned a row away from the toilet, Li initially sat down in the front of the bus, the bus made a rest stop and Li was observed getting off and having a cigarette before returning and changing seats. Li moved toward the rear of the bus and looked at every passenger before reaching the row McClean was on, he was sat near the window leaving the aisle seat vacant, Li made eye contact and McClean reportedly motioned that he was welcome to take the vacant seat. Li sat down next to him, and McClean started to drift back off to sleep with his music. Li’s behaviour had been unremarkable up to this point, but witnesses noticed that when sat next to McClean he changed he began to fidget and chant quietly in Chinese, then Li pulled out a Bowie knife and lunged at a sleeping McClean’s neck.

McClean’s screams were blood-curdling alerting other passengers as he fought Li. Witnesses described how calmly Li was plunging the knife into his neck, shoulders and chest repeatedly. Passenger now ran in terror screaming for the bus to stop so they could exit. The driver put the bus into an emergency halt, everyone exited the bus except for Li, as passengers exited Li continued with his attack horrified passengers watched as he continued to hack and saw at McClean’s body, he then looked at the other passengers expressionless behind the sunglasses and walked toward the bus door to present McClean’s severed head to them, the driver bravely tried to stop Li from exiting the bus by blocking the door, a truck had also stopped to aid and gave the driver and few other men tools to protect themselves in case Li decided to run out and attack the crowd.

After being stopped from exiting Li continued to pace back and forth up the aisle of the bus still parading McClean’s head in front of the crowd, he then went back to the body and opened Tim’s chest and tore at his organs, he removed Tim’s heart, lungs and liver then ripped out his entrails, he left parts of the body strewn on the floor.

Looking out at the terrified crowd on the side of the highway Li started tot eat parts of Tim’s body, he ate Tim’s eyes and part of his heart, he would smell them and lick the blood off his fingers while doing so. At this point it was revealed that Li had brought more than just weapons to execute his crimes he had also brought plastic bags, in them he started to store other body parts.

At 8:30pm that evening the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba received the report of a stabbing aboard a Greyhound bus, they were not expecting the scene that greeted them with Li on board creating the grisly scene and passengers at the side of road crying and vomiting. By 9pm the police were in a full stand-off with Li, negotiators and an armed tactical until were deployed while Li continued to pace the length of the bus and cut at Tim’s body, as the RCMP began to remove the witnesses from the scene officers reportedly heard Li say to himself “I have to stay on the bus forever”.  

At 1:30am on 31st July 2008 the nightmare was over when Li attempted to escape from the bus by smashing a window, as he leapt to the ground he was met by a Taser and a chase from the K9 unit, he was handcuffed and ushered into a police cruiser. On his person they found one of Tim’s ears, his nose and tongue kept in his pockets, the parts he had placed in plastic bags were retrieved from the bus while his eyes and heart were never recovered, confirming police suspicion that he may have eaten them completely.

The scene in the aftermath of the attack

Li was transported to a secure hospital due to the injuries he suffered during his arrest while the scene was processed and witnesses isolated.

Li’s trial commenced on 3rd March 2009, he had pleaded not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder, this means although he accepted hat the offence had occurred he claimed he was unable to form the necessary mens rea.

Other than a brief hospitalisation in 2003/04 Li had no other recorded mental health issues, but his psychiatrist Dr Stanley Yaren diagnosed Li with schizophrenia. Dr Yaren spoke to the court about Li’s claims to have heard the voice of God telling him that McClean was a force of evil and about to execute him and how this belief led him to not only kill McClean but dismember him because he believed that even after the attack the evil forces in McClean would give him the ability to resurrect, he went on to state “Mr Li did not understand he was killing an innocent bystander, he did not understand that his actions were wrong.” In further explanation of Li’s mental state Dr Yaren also spoke of his mental state at the time of the trial, he explained that Li was still adjusting to strong anti-psychotic medication and still suffering hallucinations and hearing voices, he said “it would be in some sense easier if Mr Li was an anti-social psychopath with a history of malicious behaviour, but he isn’t that. As I’ve come to know him, a decent person. He us as much of a victim of this horrendous illness as Mr McClean was a victim”.

Judge John Scurfield who was presiding over Li’s trial accepted the plea and the words of Dr Yaren and ruled that Li was not criminally responsible for the murder and remanded Li to Selkirk Mental Health Centre for treatment.

Li in custody after the attack

On 3rd June 2010 the Criminal Code Review Board held the first of annual hearings looking at Li progress, they ruled that at this point he had earned walks on hospital grounds as long as he is escorted by two staff members, he would be given passes starting at 15 minutes outside then increasing to the maximum hour outside twice daily. Andrew Shaw Manitoba Attorney General stepped in and put a hold on the decision until the facility could improve their security measures.

The following year the review board met on 3rd June 2011 they ruled that Li would now be allowed to spend up to a full day outside the locked unit on the hospital grounds with the stipulation that he needed to be accompanied by one member of staff.

On 17th May 2012 Li was given more freedoms as he was now allowed escorted trips into the local community of Selkirk, the passes would start at 30 minutes and increase to a maximum of a full day. During these outings, Li would have to always be escorted by both a staff member and a security officer.

The reins on Li got even looser the following year when it was ruled on 17th May 2013 that Li would be allowed to make supervised full-day trips further afield to Lockport, Winnipeg and nearby beaches. They also ruled that now Li could be unescorted when on the grounds of the hospital starting at 15 minutes unsupervised working up to a full day.

On 27th February 2014 Li was granted leave from the facility without an escort as far as Selkirk, the board ruled that now Li could start 30-minute visits and increase that to full days. As well as the supervision being relaxed on day trips further afield and a move to an unlocked ward of the facility.

On 23rd February 2015, the board met again and experts working with Li recommended that he be transferred to a hospital in Winnipeg with plans to move him to a group home, there was also a recommendation to increase his outings to Winnipeg to being fully unescorted, four days later on 27th February 2015 it was decided that his outings to Winnipeg would be increased to fully unescorted with the stipulation that he carry a mobile phone on him at all times, but he would remain in Selkirk Mental Health Centre.

On 8th May 2015 it was reported that the decision to keep Li in Selkirk was reviewed and he would be granted passes to group homes in the community. In February 2016 Li had legally changed his name to Will Baker and was planning to take steps to move out of his group home and live independently, and on 26th February 2016 he was granted the right to live alone on the recommendation of the Criminal Code Review Board. After 2 years living independently it was ordered by the Manitoba Criminal Code Review Board that Li be discharged, he was granted this and there are now no legal obligations or restrictions on Li’s independent living. Chris Summerville, chief executive of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada said about Li “He has been a model citizen. He lives every day with remorse about what he did, and he knows that, and he knows it was atrocious, and he will never forgive himself”.

Even though Li managed to start a new life out in society after the terror he inflicted that day other were not as lucky.

One passenger suffered years of nightmares and PTSD, she spoke of still having trouble using public transport, not trusting people and having anxiety around strangers. This passenger gave birth years after the attack and was unable to take care of her child due to the severity of her PTSD stemming from the attack, the child was put into foster care due to this but is now back with the mother and the woman’s grandmother. When speaking of Li, she did admit to CBC news that she had developed some empathy for Li “in some senses yes, I’ve forgiven him. I’ve been able to normalize that he is a person with mental illness. It doesn’t give him a free pass, but it gives a little better understanding of what’s going on”

The truck driver who stopped to aid the fleeing passengers, identified as Chris Alguire also struggles with PTSD due to the attack, as he had helped hold the door closed on Li and witnessed him decapitating McClean, he said, “After 10 years, I have never stopped mourning the life of Timothy McClean” and went on to describe the effect of this speaking of issues with alcoholism and controlling his rage. Alguire shares different feelings on Li and said he could not understand why Li was given an absolute discharge and given the “freedom to repeat his actions”.

In 2011 lawsuits were filed by two of the passengers against Vincent Li, Greyhound, the RCMP and the Government of Canada asking $3 million to compensate them for “witnessing the defendant Li stabbing Mr. McClean to death, mutilating his body and performing acts of cannibalism”. The suit was dropped in 2015 after the bus line said it could not be sued under Manitoba’s system of no-fault insurance.

One of the RCMP officers on scene, who was the first to board the bus while Li was attacking McClean also suffered long term due to the attack, he struggled with PTSD and lost his battle in 2014 when six years after the attack he took his own life.

As mentioned, Li is currently free and living out in the world, despite the assurances and confidence that health professionals have in his rehabilitation is he not a threat anymore? He committed a frenzied and violent attack on an unsuspecting stranger for no reason other than the ones in his mentally unwell mind showing that he is capable of violence, so if he was to stop taking his medication for all manner of reasons such as lack of access to them or simply not taking them because he is mentally unwell, with no one monitoring him or even just checking in to make sure he is medicated feels like a failing to safeguard both him and the public should another incident occur.

A memorial on the highway where the bus stopped on that tragic day

Mary Ann Brough

In this case we take another dive into history, this time looking at a scandal within the Royal family during Queen Victoria’s reign in England.

As was tradition for the time women of nobility would hire wet nurses to tend to their children including breastfeeding, these were often women chosen due to their fertility as many would already have children of their own, their excellent physical health and by how morally virtuous a woman was, with physicians of the time believing at the time that these virtuous morals would be transmitted to the child via breast milk. This was the case when Queen Victoria, who reportedly did not like breastfeeding chose her wet nurse, Mary Ann Brough who went on to kill six of her children on 10th June 1854.

Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold

Brough was born in 1811 and lived in Esher, Surrey, England with her husband and children. Her husband George Brough also worked in service of the Royals with Prince Leopold, he was Queen Victoria’s uncle and the widower of Princess Charlotte of Wales (who the current Princess Charlotte was named after). George served Prince Leopold during his time at Claremont house, by 1854 he was promoted to keeper of the ponds and park at Claremont, it is speculated that her husband’s connections landed her the job with Queen Victoria.

She served as a wet nurse from the birth of the Prince of Wales Albert Edward on 9th November 1841 but did lose her position a few months later. It is unclear what exactly caused her dismissal but during her trial it was stated in the media that she was dismissed for disobeying orders by letting her husband visit while she worked and reportedly, she was caught drinking “ardent spirits” while working, but in the biography Queen Victoria Born to Succeed it was explained that the Queen felt Brough had become “morose and stupid”.

Prince Albert Edward as a child

She was dismissed in late 1841 or early 1842 and the years that followed appeared to have been quiet and content for the ever-growing Brough family as they lived in their cottage in Esher. In September 1852 Brough gave birth once again, after multiple pregnancies the latest brought on complications. 8 days after giving birth Brough suffered what her physician Mr. Izod described as an “attack of paralysis” this was corroborated by a neighbour Sarah Weller stating that Brough lost use of one side and had slurred speech that never improved after this. Weller said, “she has constantly complained to me of her head since she had the fit, and she told me she felt a heaviness in her head – a tumbling like when she was stooping as if she must fall and a swimming”.

Brough did seek help for her symptoms and Mr Izod noted further issues including a violent pain over her eyes and frequent heavy nosebleeds around this time, he also spoke about psychological components in her illness advising her to avoid strain or excitement due to his concerns for her mental state.

With a houseful of young children all aged from 2-11-years-old and her health problems Brough started to feel the strain, around a week before the murders, measles had hit the Brough household, and all her children were ill and restless leaving Brough with little sleep as she tended to them. The marriage was also going through a rough period as George had started suspecting Brough of being unfaithful and made his intentions to leave her and take the children clear.

On the day of 9th June 1854 Brough was distressed and agitated stating that she spent much of the day in bed. She had wanted to see Mr Izod to get medication for the agitation, but he was unavailable to see her. She headed into that night with her children still unwell and restless.

By midnight Brough had settled the children and tried to rest by sleeping in a chair. As she tried to fall asleep, she realised that she would not be able to rest, instead she took a razor out of her husband’s shaving box and started methodically moving through the house severing the windpipes of each of the six children then turned it on herself slicing her own throat. Her victims named as 11-year-old Georgina Brough, 8-year-old Carry Brough, 7-year-old William Brough, 4-year-old Harriet Brough, 4-year-old Henry Brough and 2-year-old George Brough.

Brough was bleeding heavily and passed out but came to sometime later and realised what she had done as she was able to walk through the house, in order to get help she placed a bloodied pillow outside of the house facing a well-travelled road. It was the spotted by a local man Henry Woolgar at 5:45am.

Woolgar found another man Peastly to help with the situation and the two rang the doorbell of the cottage, with no response they noticed that someone was moving around inside the property, he got a ladder and climbed in through a window. Brough motioned for him to enter the property, he inspected the house and saw the severity of the situation with more and more bodies being found, neighbours gathered at the commotion and the doctor and authorities were called.

Although she could not speak Brough was able to admit what she had done immediately, firstly to Henry Woolgar then to William Bidser Constable of the Parish of Esher, he lived about 200 yards from the Brough cottage, so was first law enforcement on scene. At 7am on 10th June 1854 Mr Charles Mott a surgeon from nearby Walton-on-Thames arrived on scene and provided medical aid, he was able to sew up her severed windpipe and she regained her speech, to the standard it had been before the injury. Mott was the partner of Mr. Izod both knew Brough due to her being a patient at their practice and both even attended her appointments together occasionally. When she had regained her speech, she simply stated “Then you may tell them that I did it”.

Superintendent Biddlecomb arrived at 11:00am that morning and took the only known written record of Brough’s detailed confession, she signed this in front of witnesses including her surgeon Mr. Charles Mott, as she gave her confession Biddlecomb reportedly told her twice saying “to be careful what she said for it would be my duty to take down everything she said and produce it in evidence against her, but she persisted in making a statement, which I took down in writing”. Due to her mental state, there were concerns for the accuracy of the statement she gave and Biddlecomb took the precaution of returning the next day and reading her statement back to her advising her that she could retract any part and that now was the time to do it, she declined this and confirmed her statement and her guilt.

While she spoke to police a neighbour and friend Sarah Weller sat with Brough, Weller asked her whether any of the children had struggled, she was candid in her account and admitted that her eldest had fought and struggled in the attack. By the time the inquest came around on 12th June 1854 she had made clear confessions to at least five separate people.

When in custody Police Constable Peter Thomas Collet took another statement from Brough and in each collected statement the details stayed the same, in the statement Collet took she stated “if the doctor had come it would not have happened” he spoke of her fragile mental state while in custody on the night of 10th June 1854, she asked Collet if it was her child that she could hear crying but no child was crying.

Newspaper comic depicting a wet nurse “drunk” on the job as a reference to Brough dismissal

Despite the shock in the local community at the deaths of six young children at the hands of their mother Brough’s friends and neighbours spoke surprisingly high of her describing her as a good mother. Woolgar the man who had discovered the scene told the jury at the time “I have frequently seen the prisoner with her children, and she was always appeared to be very good and kind to them.”  Sarah Weller testified that Brough was “very kind to her children, almost too kind. She was a most indulgent mother.” Constable Bidser also took the stand at her trial and testified “I have known the prisoner for some years, and lived two hundred yards from her, and I considered her as good a mother as ever lived. She kept her children well-dressed and clean and acted in every way like a mother”.

Dr. Forbes Winslow

Alienist (an early term for psychologist/psychiatrist) and Victorian England’s leading expert in “lunacy” Dr Forbes Benignus Winslow examined all the evidence from Brough’s case and interviewed her at length leading up to the trial, he explained the difficulty her pregnancy and childbirth had brought 21 months prior to the murder, he focused on the nasal haemorrhages and the pressure on the brain that they were relieving and explained the concept of temporary insanity, although he did put also mention to the court how “women are more susceptible” as was believed then. Winslow also praised Dr Izod’s approach to Brough describing him as alert to her state and his advice to avoid excitement was most appropriate for Brough. He further argued given her history of stroke following childbirth, nasal haemorrhages and ongoing headaches that Brough was temporarily insane at the time of the murders describing her already weak mental state collapsing under the stress of several incidents in the weeks leading up to the murder mentioning neighbours’ testimony that she had spent sleepless nights in those weeks taking care of her sick children.

Brough marital troubles also took a centre stage during the trial with the revelation that on 5th June 1854, three days prior to the murders Brough had caught a train to London but unbeknownst to her George had hired a private investigator to follow her due to the suspected infidelity, Field testified that he had witnessed Brough meet a man, but the media at the time took this testimony as evidence that she had in fact been unfaithful and a story spread that she had accompanied the man to a brothel, this was never proven and Field himself testified in court that he had only witnessed Brough meet a man.

With this information George assumed the worst and on 7th June 1854 he separated from Brough, he told her he intended to gain custody of the children and moved out that day to the nearby hostelry The Wheat Sheaf (which is still open and now operates as a pub).

The court also heard Brough’s confession in final arguments about her mental state at the time of the murders the court heard her describe her agitation and exhaustion as she was unable to sleep, how she had complained of a severe headache all day and had tried to Mr Izod and get medicine, they heard how she started to suffer suicidal thoughts as she paced until she described the “black cloud” blinding her as she got the razor blade and turned it on her children then herself.

To close two more experts in “lunacy” Dr Daniel and Dr Ingledew agreed with Dr Winslow’s assessment with the court hearing both Mr. Izod and Mr. Mott who were on scene and familiar with Brough’s medical problems also agreed, with this, five different medical authorities agreed that Mary Ann Brough was suffering from a temporary insanity when she committed the murders.

With the recommendations of experts, testimony from relatives, neighbours, and friends and police on scene the jury was swayed and Brough was acquitted of murder and sentenced to the insane asylum at Bethlehem, commonly known as Bedlam. She remained at the facility until her death seven years later in March 1861.

Bethlehem asylum aka Bedlam

Brough’s case was not only a shocking tragedy but a scandal for Queen Victoria and the royal court at the time, but in the field of Alienism this case was considered career making not only for Forbes Winslow, but for his fellow alienists as people looked at their examinations of the case as an explanation for why or how a seemingly good mother could be driven to kill her six children while they slept in their beds.

A ballad telling the story of Brough’s crimes