IHIT Cpl. Frank Jang holds up a photo of Sean McKenzie, 27, who is facing a first-degree murder charge in connection to the death of Belgian tourist Amelie Sakkalis, 28, near Boston Bar on Aug. 22. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)

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

Family and friends of Sean McKenzie, 27, filled the gallery for brief court appearance Wednesday

It was an emotional scene in courtroom 204 at the Chilliwack Law Courts Wednesday as the man accused of the first-degree murder of 28-year-old Belgian tourist Amelie Sakkalis had his first court appearance.

More than a dozen friends and family members of the accused sat in the gallery, some clasping hands, some crying.

Sean McKenzie, 27, appeared in person dressed in standard pre-trial custody issued orange clothes.

When the diminutive McKenzie was brought in to the prisoner’s box, he sat down, closed his eyes, then looked out at members of the gallery, some of whom were wiping away tears.

He stared intently towards at least one person and mouthed a few phrases.

The Oliver man was initially arrested at the crime scene where police found Amelie Christelle Sakkalis’ body in a rural area near Hwy. 1 at about 7:45 p.m. on Aug. 22.

• READ MORE: B.C. man facing first-degree murder charge in death of Belgian tourist

McKenzie was then let go after his initial arrest as police did not have sufficient evidence to detain him. He was the owner of a white van found on the scene.

“He was not known to police and he does not have a criminal record,” IHIT spokesperson Cpl. Frank Jang told reporters Monday.

“He travels extensively through the province… for work.”

Jang did not elaborate on what job McKenzie held, nor why Crown was pursuing first-degree murder charges.

His brief appearance in Chilliwack court Wednesday ended with him being remanded under section 515.11 of the criminal code, a statute that allows an accused to be held in custody for specific very serious offences.

After the appearance, the friends and family left the courthouse but declined to speak to the media.

McKenzie’s next court date is Oct. 19 at 9:30 a.m.

The victim in the homicide, a Belgian national, Sakkalis had been travelling through Canada for a couple of weeks before her death.

“Amelie’s family in Belgium has been notified of the developments in her case,” Jang said.

Homicide investigators believe Sakkalis was picked up by McKenzie somewhere between Penticton and where her body was found.

Jang said that police received a call that led them to Sakkalis’ body, but would not elaborate on who had made that call.

Sakkalis had been in Penticton long enough to be reported missing, police said.

“They had just recently met that day,” said Jang.

“If you saw [McKenzie] with Amelie Sakkalis that day, on Aug. 22, that’s important to us. Pick up the phone and call us.”

When asked if McKenzie could have other victims despite not having a criminal record, Jang said the police would not rule anything out. The focus, however, on this investigation and his request is for information from the public is regarding the day Sakkalis was murdered, Aug. 22.

– with files from Katya Slepian


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

BCTF rejects mediator’s recommendations for settlement

Negotiations between B.C. teachers and the province will continue

Bear sightings in Hope prompt call for caution

Neighbours urged to keep ‘bear attractants’ out of reach

Inmate captured after Friday morning escape from Harrison Mills institution

Roger Sampson escaped the Kwìkwèxwelhp Healing Village around 7:15 a.m.

Average monthly Chilliwack home price drops to lowest of 2019

At $506,079 for October that’s down from year-to-date average of $522,302

Bullying remains key concern in ACE move to Agassiz high school

The move could be temporary, as AESS aims to get funding for a total replacement in two years

VIDEO: Hong Kong police shoot protester, man set on fire

It was the second protester shot since the demonstrations began in early June

Sportsnet fires Don Cherry after negative comments about immigrants

Don Cherry had said immigrants don’t wear poppies like other Canadians do

Trudeau’s new cabinet: Gender parity because it’s 2019? Or due to competence?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will soon appoint his new cabinet

Coquihalla drivers urged to be careful amid freezing rain alert

Special weather statement in effect for highways between Hope, Merritt, Kamloops and Kelowna

Canada among three G20 countries least likely to hit emissions targets

It says Canada, South Korea and Australia are the farthest off

Conservatives’ Scheer wants Trudeau to open Parliament Nov. 25

That’s five days after Justin Trudeau is scheduled to swear in a new cabinet

14 SeaBus cancellations, free rides for veterans from TransLink on Remembrance Day

Free rides also available for current Armed Forces members, first responders

Last remaining Centurion tank from the Korean War makes its journey ‘home’ to B.C.

Tank arrives in B.C. the day before Remembrance Day after a more than 4,500-kilometre transfer

‘Your vehicle burns a lot of fuel:’ Victoria drivers wake up to angry notes

‘This handbill was left on your vehicle because your vehicle burns a lot of fuel,’ notes read

Most Read