PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE, CANADA. A place distinguished for its politeness, Canada is a land with low crime rates and is considered to be one of the safest destinations in the world to live. However, as with all countries, Canada has its darkness, tales you wouldn’t want to put in a tourist pamphlet, events she is ashamed of.
Today, as we touch down 13,000km northeast of Aotearoa in the great nation of Canada, we will investigate one such abhorrent tale. A story of a young man travelling on a bus, the routine trip that became a haunting nightmare, the tale of ‘Greyhound Bus 1170’.
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The podcast version is the intended way to consume this story but we make a transcript available for those that would rather read instead. This can be found below.
TCNZ visits Canada: Greyhound Bus 1170 (PART I)
PROLOGUE: THE GREAT WHITE NORTH
A BRIEF HISTORY OF CANADA
Found approximately 13,000km northeast of New Zealand, is the land once called New France when it was colonized in 1604 by the French. Before that, the land was home to Native American people.
The colony grew steadily over the next century, and France took further control over much of the area around the eastern coast, the area known today as Nova Scotia. However, in the 1700s the land became disputed, and Britain laid claim to the new land.
What followed became known as the Seven Years’ War which began in 1756, where the British and French Empires fought for supremacy over the land that is known today as North America. At the conclusion of the war in 1763, Britain had taken dominance over much of the eastern side of North America.
After this, now under British rule, the land that went by many names, New France, the Province of Quebec, officially became known as Canada.
The land south of Canada was dubbed British America. In 1775, the people of America declared war on their British overlords, the conflict became known as the American Revolutionary War.
The war concluded in 1783 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris, in which the British Empire allowed the land below the Great Lakes to become independent. Establishing a border between the newly founded United States of America and Canada.
Over the next 238 years, Britain took control of the remaining territory in the north and western parts of Canada.
Over that time culture was established, the people became known as ‘Canucks’ and their French roots continue as 44% of the population speak the French language. Canada is famous for many things, Poutine (combining french fries with cheese curds and gravy), maple syrup (even adorning the maple leaf on the country’s flag), and of course, the beautiful game, ice hockey.
A place distinguished for its politeness, Canada is a land with low crime rates and is considered to be one of the safest destinations in the world to live. However, as with all countries, Canada has its darkness, tales you wouldn’t want to put in a tourist pamphlet, events she is ashamed of.
Today, as we touch down 13,000km northeast of Aotearoa in the great nation of Canada, we will investigate one such abhorrent tale. A story of a young man travelling on a bus, the routine trip that became a harrowing nightmare, the tale of ‘Greyhound Bus 1170’.
CHAPTER I: ONE OF A KIND
Tim Richard McLean Junior was born on the 3rd of October 1985 in Winnipeg, a city of 700,000 in the province of Manitoba, Canada. One of six children to Tim McLean and Carol De Delley.
Tim was always a bright light for the family, extremely sociable and outgoing, even from a young age. He was described by loved ones as a people person, bubbly and well-loved, “He could always bring out the best in people with his charm and never tired of pulling pranks. Tim’s appetite was legendary, both for food and life. He could never stand still, there was a whole world to see and everywhere he went, he brought light and joy.”
Always well-liked, Tim gained many friends during his formative years. Tim’s uncle, Alex McLean told CTV News that, “He made friends effortlessly, disliked no one and accepted everyone for who they were.” One such friend was his flatmate, Colleen Yestrau, she told CTV News that Tim was “… just an all-around great guy. He was never in a bad mood. He always liked to have fun. No one can ever replace him. Tim was one of a kind”.
As Tim grew, he developed a fondness for the transient life. It was perhaps this love that led him to work for a variety of carnivals in his early 20s. Coworkers described him as a natural at the ‘carnie’ life. In the coming years, Tim bounced between cities, moving between fairs to earn a living — partying, making friends, and living life to the fullest as he did so.
In July 2008, at 22-years-old, Tim McLean was working an exhibition in Edmonton, Alberta. After the fair ended, the exhibition was moving on to Regina, Saskatchewan. Tim decided, rather than continue with the fair, he would go home to Winnipeg to be reunited with his friends and family. Tim had recently decided he was going to move permanently to the province of British Columbia, after becoming enamoured with its beauty. The plan was to return home to Winnipeg to prepare his belongings and say goodbye to his loved ones, before the big move 2,000km west to ‘BC’.
Just after midnight on the 30th of July 2008, at 12.30 am, Tim McLean boards Greyhound bus 1170 in Edmonton. The bus was to make the day journey back to Winnipeg via the Trans-Canada Highway.
Tim grabbed his seat on the passenger side, just in front of the washroom at the back of the bus. He sat alone, threw on his iPod, and probably tried to get some ‘shut eye’. At some point, Tim texted friends and told them he was happy to be on his way home.
Shortly before 8 pm on the 30th of July 2008, approximately twenty hours into his journey home, Tim got off the bus at Brandon, Manitoba for a ‘ciggy’ break. Tim shared a cigarette with fellow passenger Cody Olmstead, Cody told the Globe and Mail about the interaction, “He seemed to be all right. I didn’t get to know him… He just told me where he was going. I told him where I was going.”
Minutes passed, the break concluded and the passengers piled back on the bus. Tim returned to his seat at the back of the bus. He texted his father to ask if he could come home for the night, of course he could, his dad replied.
The trip was almost over, he was only a handful of hours away from Winnipeg and his family. Tim put on his headphones and rested his cheek on the window. The bus began moving.
Shortly after, a 6ft tall man with dark hair, a green shirt, and sunglasses, who had boarded the bus a couple of hours earlier in Erikson, Manitoba, wandered down the aisles, the man slid his bags into the overhead compartment.
Young Tim McLean greeted the stranger, gesturing at the vacant seat, “Yeah, go ahead”, before resting his head back on the window and closing his eyes once more. The stranger sat down and got comfortable.
CHAPTER II: FOLLOWING THE SUN
Vincent Weiguang Li or Vince was born on the 30th of April 1968 in Dandong, China. Little is known about Vince’s early life, what we do know is he graduated from the University of Wuhan Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science in 1992 at 24-years-old. After this, he began working as a computer software engineer in China. At some point post-graduation, Vince meets a young lady named Ana, they marry in the succeeding years.
On the 11th of June 2001, at 33-years-old, Vince immigrated to Canada with his wife Ana for new opportunities. They settled in Winnipeg. Vince began studying at CDI College for a degree in computer programming. He graduated the next year in 2002.
It would seem, at some point, Vince ended up in the province of Ontario. Perhaps looking for work as he struggled to get a job in his computing field.
It was around this time, Vince Li began having ‘mental problems’ in 2004, he was picked up by the Ontario Provincial Police when he was found wandering along a highway, he was ‘following the sun’, which Vince claimed was an order he was given by God. After this, he was briefly hospitalized for four days.
Vince Li became a Canadian citizen in 2005, however, he was admitted to the Osler Health Centre in Etobicoke, Ontario the same year due to his failing mental health. He stayed there for ten days, from September 3rd to the 13th. Where he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. However, it is unclear whether this condition was treated in any manner.
After this stint in the hospital, Vince’s mental health continued to suffer. Vince’s wife Ana said he was gone, unexplained for long periods of time, sometimes rambled to himself and took many strange bus trips.
Vince began working at the Grant Memorial Church in Winnipeg. During this time he became deeply religious, even becoming baptised at the church. However, his tenure at Grant Memorial Church only lasted about six months before he quit and moved to Edmonton, Alberta. He secured a job as a forklift operator in the new city, after securing employment, Vince’s wife Ana joined him in Edmonton.
Vince’s roadmap from 2006 to 2008 becomes a little murky. Vince and Ana separated at some point during this time, although, it would appear they remained in touch. It is known that Vince had many jobs during those years to make ends meet, including working as a newspaper delivery person and working at a McDonald’s restaurant.
In June 2008, Vince was working at the Clareview Walmart in Edmonton. He mostly worked the night shift at Walmart, performing janitorial duties. He kept to himself mostly, not speaking to any of his coworkers. However, sometime at the end of June or early July, Vince was fired from Walmart due to a ‘disagreement’ with other employees. Walmart company policy doesn’t allow the workers to speak about past employees, so details on the ‘disagreement’ do not exist.
After this, for a couple of weeks, Vince got his old job back delivering newspapers. However, three or so weeks into July, Vince told his boss that he needed to leave to go back to Winnipeg for a job interview. On the 28th of July 2008, Vince Li delivered his last bundle of newspapers. Before ‘packing the job in’ and making his way back to Winnipeg. He left an ominous note for his now ex-wife Ana stating, “I’m gone, don’t look for me, I wish you were happy”. Vince Li also bought a large hunting knife from Canadian Tire (a department store, similar to a Mitre 10 in NZ) for his journey.
The next day, the 29th of July 2008, just after midnight, Vince Li boarded a Greyhound bus in Edmonton with five pieces of luggage bound for Winnipeg. For some inexplicable reason, he purchased the ticket under the alias Wong Pent.
At 6 pm the same day, Vince Li exited the bus at the tiny town of Erickson, Manitoba. The bus moved on without him. Vince then wandered across the street to the convenience store, which doubled as a bus depot, he wandered around, looking at various things.
Vince then sat on a bench next to the local co-op grocery store. Three hours passed. Then he walked over to the M&M store (which seems to be a food market chain in Canada), Vince then ‘just hung around the store for ages’ according to the proprietor, making him very uncomfortable.
Vince then returned to the bench, where he remained for the rest of the night. Vince was seen at 3 am, still upright, staring blankly ahead on the bench.
The next morning, a 15-year-old local of Erikson, Darren Beatty was riding his bike when he came across Vince Li on the bench. Vince had put his brand-new Acer 4200 laptop on the sidewalk with a note on it, “$600 for sale, or best offer”.
Darren approached Vince, asking him about the laptop, he offered him $60 for it, 10% of the asking price. Vince accepted, Darren told The Canadian Press later, “I just thought he was a guy having a hard time… He seemed lost. As I was talking to him about [the laptop] he muttered something about America. He had a thick accent so it was hard to understand… He seemed really happy to get some money in his hand.”
At 1.30 pm, Vince returns to the M&M store and hangs around for a bit. He then exits the store and walks over to the alley behind the store. He waits there for the next four and a half hours for the bus.
The Greyhound bus 1170 bound for Winnipeg arrived at 6 pm, Vince Li entered the Greyhound and took a seat near the front. The bus stopped a couple of hours later in Brandon, Manitoba for a cigarette break. After the short stop, Vince piled back on the bus and took his seat near the front. The bus drove on, the next stop was the small city of Portage la Prairie.
Shortly after, Vince decided to change seats, he grabbed his belongings and slowly wandered down the aisle, scanning the passenger’s faces as he did so. He spotted 22-year-old Tim McLean near the back of the bus, Vince slid his bags into the overhead compartment and sat down next to the young man. Tim greeted Vince cordially before he rested his head on the window and went back to sleep.
CHAPTER III: A BIG RAMBO KNIFE
30th of July 2008. 8.30 pm. Greyhound bus 1170 continued its journey, it was approximately at 2/3s capacity, with 36 of a possible 55 seats taken. The sun was setting, and Tim McLean continued to sleep. The other exhausted passengers, after nearly twenty-one hours of travel, were either ‘nodding off’ trying to sleep, or were watching The Mask of Zorro as it played on the overhead monitor.
40-year-old Vince Li was described by other passengers as fidgety and strange during this time as he sat next to 22-year-old Tim McLean, at one point he started chanting in Chinese. While odd, no one could’ve predicted what would come next. Vince unsheathed from his bag the large hunting knife he had purchased from Canadian Tire, after this, he admired it for a bit.
Then in a fierce and violent motion, and completely unprovoked, Vince Li plunged the knife into Tim McLean’s neck, he then frantically pulled the knife out, before methodically stabbing Tim over and over. Tim’s screams of anguish pierced the ears of the other passengers. Eight stabs, nine stabs, Vince continued his slaughter, blood sprayed everywhere. Passenger, 26-year-old Garnet Caton, described the moment to The Globe and Mail, “It was a blood-curdling scream… I turned around and the guy sitting right [behind] me was standing up and stabbing another guy with a big Rambo knife … Right in the throat. Repeatedly.”
One passenger ran toward the bus driver, calling for him to stop, “Someone is being stabbed!”. A wounded Tim McLean tried to disengage from the attack by jumping over the seats to escape, but he was pulled to the bus floor by a maniac Vince Li who continued to stab him with homicidal intent, at this point, Tim had been stabbed up to 60 times.
The bus pulled over, the passengers began dashing off to safety. At this time, Vince notices the fleeing passengers and begins walking to the front of the bus, knife in hand. The bus driver closed the doors just as Vince’s knife lunged at the door. After making eye contact with the terrified witnesses, Vince returned to his victim.
During this time, a truck driver Chris Alguire, seeing the bus pulled over and in trouble, slows his truck to ascertain the dilemma. Chris was swiftly informed of the dire situation, “Someone’s being stabbed to death on the bus!”. Chris rushed back to his truck and grabbed a metal pipe.
Chris entered the bus, armed with his pipe, with passenger Garnet Caton, wielding a hammer. An expressionless Vince glanced up at the men, still armed with his hunting knife, he was crouched over Tim’s body. As the two men stared in disbelief at the carnage before them, the scene only became more macabre, Vince took his knife and began carving through Tim’s neck.
Moments later, Vince held up Tim’s decapitated head to the two men as they watched in absolute horror. He then, still holding the head in one hand, the knife in the other, began slowly creeping closer to the men. Chris and Garnet backed up, exited the bus and barricaded the bus door. Vince came close to the door, then held up the severed head, almost as if he was showing off a trophy. Passenger, Garnet Caton described the moment to The Globe and Mail, “[The killer] just looked at us and dropped the head on the ground, totally calm… I got sick after I saw the head thing… Some people were puking, some people were crying, some people were shocked…”.
As Vince stared out expressionless, moments passed before he turned and returned to the now headless Tim McLean. You may think, what more could happen to this poor boy? But Vincent Li was not done defiling Tim’s corpse, not in the least.
[END OF PART I] (1/2)
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Wikipedia, Seven Years’ War, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_Years%27_War
Wikipedia, Treaty of Paris (1763), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Paris_(1763)
Wikipedia, Killing of Tim McLean, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Killing_of_Tim_McLean
The Star, Man pleads not guilty in bus beheading, https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2009/03/03/man_pleads_not_guilty_in_bus_beheading.html
Calgary Herald, Alleged beheader lost Wal-Mart job over conflict with fellow worker, https://web.archive.org/web/20080809095730/http://www.canada.com/calgaryherald/news/story.html?id=9d10f756-7815-4110-b1c3-611a34a4494b&p=1
Murderpedia, Vince Weiguang LI, https://murderpedia.org/male.L/l/li-vince-weiguang.htm
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All That’s Interesting, Vince Li Beheaded And Ate His Victim — And He’s A Totally Free Man, https://allthatsinteresting.com/vince-li
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CBC, ‘I am not free’: Witness of Greyhound bus killing objects to Vince Li’s absolute discharge, https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/will-baker-kayli-shaw-not-free-1.3979368
The Globe and Mail, ‘Please kill me,’ accused begs in court, https://web.archive.org/web/20080811012357/https://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20080806.BUS06/TPStory/National
The Canadian Press, Accused still hears voices, as much a victim as beheaded passenger: psychiatrist, https://web.archive.org/web/20090306220154/https://www.google.com/hostednews/canadianpress/article/ALeqM5g6yzZOswjctLEjNXiUzmeHDRbY2w
CBC, 10 years after Greyhound beheading, family of victim and bystanders still suffering, https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/greyhound-beheading-10th-anniversary-1.4760074
CBC, Greyhound killer believed man he beheaded was an alien, https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/greyhound-killer-believed-man-he-beheaded-was-an-alien-1.1131575
Aftermath of Murder, TIMOTHY MCLEAN KILLING (CAROL DE DELLEY INTERVIEW), https://www.aftermathofmurder.ca/timothy-mclean-killing-carol-
Dying Words, THE GUY ON THE GREYHOUND BUS, http://dyingwords.net/tag/vince-li/
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Los Angeles Daily News, Tape describes killer eating victim’s flesh, https://www.dailynews.com/2008/08/03/tape-describes-killer-eating-victims-flesh/
The Star, Ex-RCMP corporal commits suicide years after Manitoba bus beheading, https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2014/07/17/exmountie_commits_suicide_years_after_bus_beheading.htmlVideos
Youtube, Knowledgia, HISTORY OF CANADA | The Canadian Animated History in a Nutshell, https://youtu.be/ZUuMKh5pT3M
Youtube, The Fifth Estate, Bus 1170 : Vince Li and the Greyhound Bus Murder (2011) – the fifth estate, https://youtu.be/3gAeVysCIl8