Sandra Martins-Toner, a mother relives the horror of her murdered son.

Sandra Martins-Toner, a mother relives the horror of her murdered son.
Kelly Ellard
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Torturous delays force SkyTrain murder victim’s mom to relive the horror..

Families deserve timely resolution to these painful crimes

By Jon Ferry, The Province
April 9, 2010.

It’s been almost five years since Sandra Martins-Toner’s eldest son, Matthew, was brutally murdered after being robbed at a Surrey SkyTrain station.

But the pain is as deep as ever. And the former palliative-care aide sobs as she wonders what terror the diminutive, 16-year-old boy must have endured as he was kicked, beaten … and had his throat slashed with a beer bottle.

"I often wonder how afraid he must have been by himself there, being beaten like that," Martins-Toner told me in an interview Thursday. "And I wonder if he thought of me or if he called out to me. And as a mother, you know, that’s my job, I’m there to protect my children … and I couldn’t be there for him."

It’s an emotional cry from an anguished mother and victims’-rights advocate who is still looking for justice, and is still having to relive the horror of that fateful day back in 2005.

The pain is aggravated by the fact that Martins-Toner and her husband, David, now spend much of their day in court right behind the prisoner’s dock where Katherine Quinn, the young woman charged with helping to murder Matthew, sits facing a second trial. Quinn’s earlier conviction in 2007 was overturned on appeal.

Martins-Toner, who lives in Vancouver, is only in court in New Westminster because her son cannot be there.

"My child has no voice any more to be able to defend himself," she said. "But I’ll be damned if I’m not there for him."

And it’s abundantly clear that, for her and other victims’ mothers in this province, it is our process-obsessed, criminal-friendly justice system, with its seemingly endless procedural delays, that is also on trial this week.

"I feel the entire first trial was for nothing," she said. "We spent almost a year-and-a-half preparing for the trial and then another six, seven weeks during the trial, and I feel everything was for nothing."

At the first trial in 2007, the 27-year-old Quinn, herself the mother of three children, and her boyfriend, Robert Forslund, were both found guilty of second-degree murder in Matthew’s death and sentenced to life. But last year, the B.C. Court of Appeal overturned Quinn’s conviction and ordered a new trial, after finding that the evidence that she’d directed Forslund to kill Matthew was inconclusive.

It’s a legal saga which reminds me of the legal manoeuvring following the swarming death of 14-year-old Reena Virk in Esquimalt in 1997 — and which continued until last summer, when the Supreme Court of Canada finally restored a second-degree murder conviction against Kelly Ellard, 15 at the time of the murder.

"It’s been 12 years of a legal quagmire," Virk’s father, Manjit, was quoted as saying at the time.

Legal quagmire, in fact, is a good description of the mess our convoluted courts often find themselves in these days.

Martins-Toner, who lost her Lions Gate Hospital job and is now executive-director of the victims’-rights’ group Families Against Crime and Trauma, acknowledges that Crown prosecutors go out of their way now to ensure she understands what’s going on.

"But I have other families who have come to us and said, ‘They won’t even talk to us. They won’t even tell us what to expect,’" she said.

"And that breaks my heart because those aren’t file numbers, those aren’t case numbers that you’re prosecuting on behalf of the state. Those are our children."

And these are our courts. And they can do much better than this.

© Copyright (c) The Province…

The Last Six Minutes – A Mother’s Loss and Quest for Justice

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