The mother of a man who died in Saskatchewan Penitentiary says his alleged killer is not a credible witness.
Christopher Van Camp, 37, was killed inside Saskatchewan Penitentiary on June 7, 2017. Tyler Vandewater is charged with second-degree murder in relation to his death. While out on parole, Van Camp had overdosed and returned to Saskatchewan Penitentiary directly from hospital. Vanderwater is serving a sentence for aggravated assault charges until 2029.
“We see Tyler as being the paranoid one. We see him being afraid of what people are going to do,” Lauren Laithwaite, Van Camp’s mother, said of Vandewater’s testimony on Monday.
Vandewater said Van Camp attacked him under cross examination from Crown prosecutor Linh Le.
“I didn’t want to die in prison. What was I supposed to do, sit there and get killed?”
Van Camp was paranoid and pacing in the cell after lights out, when the cell was dark, and the fight started after Vandewater told Van Camp to sit down, Vandewater said.
“He starts trying to stab me on the side.”
Vandewater said he remembered being on top of Van Camp on the floor and Van Camp trying to buck him off. At one point Van Camp dropped the chain-link wire shank and Vandewater picked it up.
The weapon may have been used to stab Van Camp, according to previous testimony from forensic pathologist Dr. Shaun Ladham. He found 26 wounds on Van Camp’s head and 25 on his back; Vanderwater suffered only scratches on his side.
Vandewater said Monday that he could feel himself getting stabbed by Van Camp but he didn’t learn until after the fight that the shank had not penetrated his skin.
“I want to come home and see my family someday,” Vandewater said. He said he did not stop fighting Van Camp until Van Camp stopped moving because he did not want to give him opportunity to stab him.
Vandewater said he did not press the call button for the guards because he didn’t want to be known as a snitch in prison. People in the range would suffer a one-minute group beating for passing notes to the guards or using the emergency call button to talk to them, he said.
The range rep for inmates on the C-range in 2017 – the person appointed by the inmates to talk to the guards – testified for the defence.
Darren Nilsson said Van Camp wasn’t himself and that he thought he was high. He talked to Van Camp through the walls of the cells, with Van Camp asking for his shank, he said.
He also said Van Camp was asking him questions about other inmates he didn’t know and thought they were plotting against him. Nilsson said he told him to “shake it off.”
When Le asked if Vandewater would have a reason to be afraid in prison Nilsson said, “if they feel scared, that’s on them.”