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

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

The West Shore Firefighters Association dropped off a cheque on Nov. 28 for the Goldstream Food Bank. (Photo contributed by View Royal Firefighters Association)
West Shore firefighters give food bank a big boost

Four departments collaborate on initiative for Goldstream Food Bank

The Digital Divide–Community Technology Help Desk program looks to provide vulnerable Victoria residents with access to technology. (Black Press Media)
Technology lending library and help desk now available in Victoria

United Way Greater Victoria hopes the program will help close the digital divide

More than 46 per cent of Vancouver Island residents reported worsening health during COVID-19 in a province-wide survey released Dec. 4. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Islanders’ mental health takes heavy hit under COVID-19: survey results

COVID-19 SPEAK survey collected results from nearly 400,000 B.C. residents

The Capital Regional District and Island Health advised against swimming in or drinking water from Elk and Beaver Lake Regional Park after a toxic blue-green algae bloom was reported on Dec. 5. (Black Press Media file photo)
CRD warns of toxic algae bloom at Elk/Beaver Lake

Blue-green algae can be lethal to dogs, cause health issues for humans

A snow moon rises over Mt. Cheam in Chilliwack on Feb. 8, 2020. Friday, Dec. 11, 2020 is Mountain Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Dec. 6 to 12

Mountain Day, Dewey Decimal System Day and Lard Day are all coming up this week

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)
First Nations Leadership Council demands justice for victims of B.C. social worker

Union of BC Indian Chiefs calls actions of Robert Saunders ‘nothing short of complete depravity’

Demonstrators, organized by the Public Fishery Alliance, outside the downtown Vancouver offices of Fisheries and Oceans Canada July 6 demand the marking of all hatchery chinook to allow for a sustainable public fishery while wild stocks recover. (Public Fishery Alliance Facebook photo)
Angry B.C. anglers see petition tabled in House of Commons

Salmon fishers demand better access to the healthy stocks in the public fishery

(Hotel Zed/Flytographer)
B.C. hotel grants couple 18 years of free stays after making baby on Valentines Day

Hotel Zed has announced a Kelowna couple has received free Valentines Day stays for next 18 years

Farmers raise slogans during a protest on a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the diplomatic scolding Canada’s envoy to India received on Friday for his recent comments in support of protesting Indian farmers. Tens of thousands of farmers have descended upon the borders of New Delhi to protest new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup
Trudeau brushes off India’s criticism for standing with farmers in anti-Modi protests

The High Commission of India in Ottawa had no comment when contacted Friday

Montreal Alouettes’ Michael Sam is set to make his pro football debut as he warms up before the first half of a CFL game against the Ottawa Redblacks in Ottawa on Friday, Aug. 7, 2015. Sam became the first publicly gay player to be drafted in the NFL. He signed with the Montreal Alouettes after being released by St. Louis, but abruptly left after playing one game. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Study finds Canada a ‘laggard’ on homophobia in sports

Among females, 44 per cent of Canadians who’ve come out to teammates reported being victimized

Nurse Kath Olmstead prepares a shot as the world’s biggest study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway Monday, July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, N.Y. U.S. biotech firm Moderna says its vaccine is showing signs of producing lasting immunity to COVID-19, and that it will have as many as many as 125 million doses available by the end of March. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Hans Pennink
Canada orders more COVID vaccines, refines advice on first doses as cases reach 400K

Canada recorded its 300,000th case of COVID-19 on Nov. 16

Apartments are seen lit up in downtown Vancouver as people are encouraged to stay home during the global COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. British Columbia’s deputy provincial health officer says provincewide data show the most important area B.C. must tackle in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic is health inequity. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
Age, income among top factors affecting well-being during pandemic, B.C. survey shows

Among respondents earning $20,000 a year or less, more than 41 per cent reported concern about food insecurity

Information about the number of COVID-19 cases in Abbotsford and other municipalities poses a danger to the public, the Provincial Health Services Authority says. (Photo: Tyler Olsen/Abbotsford News)
More city-level COVID-19 data would jeopardize public health, B.C. provincial health agency says

Agency refuses to release weekly COVID-19 case counts, citing privacy and public health concerns

Most Read