February 22nd, 2024

Coroner’s inquest into mass stabbings in Saskatchewan set to wrap up first week

By Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press on January 19, 2024.

MELFORT, Sask. – A coroner’s inquest into a mass killing on a Saskatchewan First Nation is set to wrap up its first week of evidence today.

The inquest in Melfort, Sask., is scheduled for at least two weeks.

A jury heard emotional testimony Thursday from the common-law partner of the killer.

Vanessa Burns recounted 14 years of domestic violence at the hands of Myles Sanderson, the father of her five children.

Sanderson killed 11 people and injured 17 others on the James Smith Cree Nation and nearby village of Weldon, northeast of Saskatoon, in 2022.

The 32-year-old died in police custody a few days later.

Burns told the inquest Thursday that she and Sanderson went to the First Nation to sell drugs, but drove back to Saskatoon after he attacked her.

The inquest heard that Sanderson and his brother, Damien Sanderson, then caused chaos on the community in the days leading up to the killings, assaulting people and selling drugs.

Damien Sanderson’s wife, Skye Sanderson, also testified Thursday. She said her husband feared his brother and he called him the devil.

She said the last time she saw her husband was when he left in her vehicle with his brother.

Skye Sanderson said she called 911 the day before the stabbings, saying her husband had taken her vehicle without permission. Damien Sanderson was wanted on outstanding warrants over domestic violence charges.

Officers had told the inquest they located the vehicle outside a home on the First Nation. One officer talked to Damien Sanderson, but he gave a false name and didn’t look like an old photo police had of him.

Skye Sanderson said during this time her husband was also sending her fatalistic text messages about death. She thought the brothers were going to get into trouble and she encouraged police to find them.

The inquest heard that Myles Sanderson first killed his brother.

He then went throughout the community, armed with a knife, attacking and stabbing people.

He killed both Vanessa Burns’ father, Earl Burns Sr., and Skye Sanderson’s father, Christian Head.

The inquest, which is taking place in Melfort, is to establish the events leading up to the killings, who died, and when and where each person was killed.

A second inquest focusing on Myles Sanderson’s death is scheduled for February.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2024.

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