Family looks for answers in prison cell murder

BC coroner has called for an inquest into the death of Jeremy Phillips and his family has launched a legal action.

Canada Corrections officials aren’t saying why a serial killer held in maximum security was transferred last year to a medium-security facility where he murdered the inmate he was double-bunked with.

However, the BC coroner has called for an inquest into the Nov. 22, 2010 death of Jeremy Phillips, and his family has launched a legal action against Corrections Canada.

Phillips’ uncle Wayne Fraser told The Progress he hopes the inquest sheds some light on his nephew’s death, and the decision by Canada Corrections to place him in a cell with a serial killer.

“This is what we want answered,” he said. “How did a six-time serial killer end up in the same cell as my nephew?”

Michael Wayne McGray, who pleaded guilty last week to the first-degree murder of Phillips, told police that his cellmate wanted to stage a hostage-taking to force prison officials to send Phillips to the prison infirmary and to send McGray back to Kent prison.

But McGray said Phillips had angered him, so instead of the hostage-taking he tied up his cellmate and strangled him to death with bedsheets.

But Fraser said that story makes no sense because his nephew was nearing his release date, and he wanted to get out of prison to help his recently-widowed mother.

“He wanted to turn his life around and be a street counsellor.” Fraser said.

Family lawyer Myer Rabin said a lawsuit alleging the government had failed in its obligation to provide a safe environment for prisoners was launched in March.

He said the family questions both the transfer of McGray from Kent prison to Mountain Institution, and the decision to double-bunk him with Phillips, since the medium-security facility was reportedly not overcrowded at the time.

McGray had also told officials another story — that he was paid $20,000 to kill Phillips — and Rabin said there is a “rumour but no proof” that someone back east that Phillips had “ratted on” had found out he was at Mountain Institution in British Columbia.

The family has not yet decided whether they will accept an out of court settlement, and no decision is expected until sometime next year, Rabin said.

No date or location has been set for the B.C. inquest.

Although inquests into prison deaths are no longer mandatory in B.C., Chief Coroner Barbara McLintock said in a news release that the Phillips case raises questions about the safety of prison inmates that can “best be explored through the inquest process.”

An inquest jury cannot make findings of legal responsibility, but may make recommendations aimed at preventing deaths under similar circumstances.

The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers is also concerned about the safety of its members when maximum-security inmates are transferred to medium-security facilities.

“We find it troubling this guy was sent to Mountain,” Gord Robertson, UCCO Pacific Region president said, but he could not get into details at this time.

A Canada Corrections spokesman said questions about McGray’s transfer should go to the freedom of information officer.

However, an FOI request by The Progress in March asking for any documents related to the transfer of McGray was denied in its entirety.

Just Posted

Harrison Hot Springs country singer Todd Richard poses for a photo with Mission firefighters. (Photo/Sarah Plawutski)
VIDEO: Harrison country artist Todd Richard plans for a busy, rockin’ summer

Richard and his band look to live shows as restrictions start to lift

The theme for this year’s Fraser Valley Regional Library Summer Reading Club is “Crack the Case” and Katie Burns, community librarian at the Chilliwack Library, is encouraging people of all ages to sign up. She is seen here at the Chilliwack Library on Friday, June 18, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Crack the case, read, win prizes with FVRL Summer Reading Club

‘Immerse yourself in other worlds and have a bit of fun while you do it,’ says Chilliwack librarian

Vanessa Dueck.
Snapshots of a Chilliwack father from his loving daughter

Father’s Day memories of special moments shared together

Rachel is a six month old Labrador retriever cross who was found at large. She is seen here at the Chilliwack SPCA on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Find Me My Furever Home – Rachel at the Chilliwack SPCA

6-month-old puppy found at large, now at Chilliwack SPCA, needs special home

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

(Black Press Media files)
Burnaby RCMP look for witnesses in hit-and-run that left motorcyclist dead

Investigators believe that the suspect vehicle rear-ended the motorcycle before fleeing the scene

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

A police pursuit involving Abbotsford Police ended in Langley Saturday night, June 20. (Black Press Media file)
Abbotsford Police pursuit ends in Langley with guns drawn

One person arrested, witnesses say an officer may have been hurt in collision with suspect vehicle

(file)
Pedestrian hit by police vehicle in Langley

Injuries described as serious, requiring surgery

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

Most Read