FILE – Amelie Christelle Sakkalis, pictured in an undated photo, was found dead on Highway 1 north of Boston Bar Aug. 22, 2018. (IHIT handout)

B.C. man who killed Belgian tourist near Boston Bar gets life in prison, no parole until 2042

Sean McKenzie pleaded guilty to second-degree murder of 28-year-old Amelie Christelle Sakkalis

WARNING: This story contains graphic content. Reader discretion is advised.

An Okanagan man who brutally killed a Belgian tourist north of Boston Bar last summer won’t be eligible for parole until 2042, but a lack of motive means he could remain in prison for much longer.

Sean McKenzie, 28, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in September for his role in killing 28-year-old Amelie Christelle Sakkalis, a tourist backpacking through Canada. She was hitchhiking alone from Penticton before she was killed. The two did not know each other.

Sakkalis’s body was found near Highway 1, north of Boston Bar, on Aug. 22, 2018 at approximately 7:45 p.m. McKenzie, then 27, was arrested and charged a few weeks into the homicide investigation.

In Supreme Court in New Westminster Tuesday, McKenzie chose not to address Sakkalis’ six family members who travelled from Belgium for the sentencing hearing.

“It’s not a lack of want, I feel like my counsel covered it quite well,” he told Justice Martha M. Devlin. “It’s difficult to get these words out, it’s the actual saying of these things.”

READ MORE: First court date in Chilliwack for man accused of murdering Belgian tourist

READ MORE: Man accused of killing Belgian tourist along Highway 1 appears in court

The court heard that McKenzie picked Sakkalis up in Hedley the afternoon she was killed, while he was on his way to Vancouver to fly to Burns Lake for a job as a cook on a work site. CCTV footage in Princeton sometime after 2 p.m. showed the pair in McKenzie’s white Astro van – Sakkalis looking unharmed in the passenger seat.

But near Manning Park, McKenzie pulled off Highway 3 to look for a phone charger. It was then that he began to violentally attack the young traveller.

Over the span of two hours, he struck Sakkalis with the butt of a hunting knife, bound her with electrical tape and then sexually assaulted her before getting back onto the highway to head for Hope. According to the agreed statement of facts, Sakkalis asked why McKenzie was assaulting her a number of times, only for him to answer “because.”

The court heard that Sakkalis tried to escape – at one point freeing her hands from the tape – only to be bound again. McKenzie drove 12 kilometres north of Boston Bar, to a heavily forested area down an unpaved dirt road. It was then that he took her out of his van, stabbed her 42 times and left her to die.

Crown said that McKenzie was unprovoked when he attacked Sakkalis, calling his gruesome actions sadistic, predatory and “exceptionally brutal.”

McKenzie, who had no criminal record prior to killing, threw Sakkalis’s belongings in a nearby pile of dirt and drove away, the court heard. Five minutes later, he called his best friend and lied that he had woken up and found her dead. He then called 911 but pretended that that he was also a victim.

McKenzie was initially arrested at the scene of the killing, but was released the next day. On Sept. 14, upon being re-arrested, he confessed to police.

McKenzie’s lawyer, speaking on his behalf, told the court he feels shame for his actions and knows “he has taken from her [Amelie’s] family someone very precious and he acknowledges that and knows he cannot make that right.”

He added that McKenzie chose to call 911, despite initially lying about what had happened, and later confessed after hearing how tired the investigators were as they worked to solve the case.

But while McKenzie’s guilty plea saved the Sakkalis family from a lengthy trial, which would likely include brutal details about what took place that day, the family received no closure as to why he did what he did.

“I have asked him a number of times,” his lawyer said, adding that his client’s lack of motive will likely inhibit any chance of parole in the future.

Justice Devlin agreed with a joint submission from Crown counsel and defense, which asked for life imprisonment – the mandatory sentence – and no parole for 23 years. Devlin also ordered McKenzie be placed on the federal sex offender registry.

‘I was terrified every time she went travelling alone’

The court heard from both Sakkalis’ mother and sister who read victim impact statements reflecting on who she was and the struggles they have faced since her untimely death.

“My entire life is in shambles,” Justine Sakkalis, the victim’s sister, told the court, adding that she last saw her sister three years ago and had been hoping to see her soon to share stories of their separate travels.

“We didn’t write much because of the time difference,” she said. “We wanted to speak in person once she’d be back.”

Since her sister’s death, Justine said she’s struggled with insomnia, constant anxiousness and a fear of travelling – that her life has been put on “standby.”

“Family is very important to me,” she said. “My fiance is an only child and now I am, as well. Our child or children will never have the chance to meet their dear aunt and will never be able to play with cousins.”

Through a thick, French accent, Sakkalis’ mother, Anne Delory, told the court how her daughter had a passion for travelling, discovering different cultures and cared about global warming and injustice against women and migrants.

“I was terrified every time she went travelling alone, but when you love your children you let them live their dreams” she said through tears. “She had a special dream to go to Canada to discover your beautiful country for herself.”

While Sakkalis will be remembered for her love of gardening and belief that everyone should feel free, her mother told the court their family “struggles to survive each day” and she still finds herself facing the difficult realization her daughter is gone. Her daily reminder is the memorial for Sakkalis in a flowerbed in their family garden.

“I’m 58 years old and I’m not ashamed that every night when I go to sleep, I kiss a little box where there is some of her ashes,” she said. “I hold a little Canadian teddy bear very tightly in my arms to try to fall asleep [with] tears in my eyes.”


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Unemployment surpasses historic high in Greater Victoria, tourism hit hard

Hospitality and tourism sectors hurting as pandemic continues

Victoria tattoo shops respond to sex assault allegations against male artists

Carne Tattoo and Painted Lotus Studios respond to allegations

Mayor not in favour of low barrier housing at Oak Bay Lodge

Process is already in place to determine future of Oak Bay Lodge

Minivan driver’s speed a factor in fatal 2018 Malahat crash

Driver was travelling at 101 km/h in a construction zone

Turned over truck impedes traffic in Langford

Truck at the side of Millstream Road near Western Speedway

VIDEO: Langford cat missing 18 months reunited with family

Blue the cat found at Victoria museum 17 kilometres from home

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of July 7

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Would you get a vaccine for COVID-19 when it is available?

With the number of positive COVID-19 tests skyrocketing across much of the… Continue reading

VIDEO: Alberta man rescues baby eagle believed to be drowning in East Kootenay lake

Brett Bacon was boating on a lake in Windermere when he spotted the baby eagle struggling in the water

Vancouver Island business ad unintentionally features OK gesture linked to white supremacy

Innocuous ‘OK’ gesture in cleaning franchise advertisement gets flak on social media for ‘supposedly’ promoting white supremacy

Comox Valley RCMP looking for missing woman

Ami Guthrie was last seen in Courtenay in early July

Conservationists raise concerns over state of care for grizzly cubs transferred to B.C. zoo

‘Let them be assessed now before their fate is sealed,’ urges B.C. conservationist Barb Murray

B.C.’s COVID-19 job recovery led by tourism, finance minister says

Okanagan a bright spot for in-province visitor economy

National Kitten Day aka the ‘purrfect’ day to foster a new friend

July 10 marks National Kitten Day, a special day to celebrate all things kittens

Most Read