5 min

New details emerge in Taavel murder

Suspect was inside bar prior to attack

Raymond Taavel was murdered April 17 in Halifax. Credit: Randall Perry
UPDATE, APR 19, 8:30PM – The person who was at Menz Bar on the night of the murder of Raymond Taavel, who wishes to only be known as Frank, tells Xtra that at roughly 2:30 am the morning Taavel was murdered, he and a friend of his, as well as Taavel and an as-of-yet unknown fourth person, left Menz Bar. Frank tells Xtra that he was never introduced to this fourth person, and that the individual might be closeted.

Frank tells Xtra that the accused, Andre Noel Denny, was outside the establishment when they left, and that he was spouting homophobic statements, calling them faggots. Frank also says that he and his friend left after Taavel and the fourth unknown person told them they would be okay as they waited for a cab. Frank says that neither he, nor his friend, were present when the attack against Taavel and the unknown person happened.

Xtra asked Halifax Regional Police spokesperson Brian Palmeter if the aforementioned unknown fourth person is the same one who was attacked along with Taavel.

“With regards into the investigation into the murder of Mr Taavel, we have identified everybody that was in the bar prior to the altercation outside and we have spoken to all those individuals,” he says. “We have identified the other man who was involved in the initial disturbance outside on the street, and we have spoken with him.”

Denny has been charged with second-degree murder and breach of probation in connection with Taavel’s death. He is undergoing a 30-day psychological evaluation to see if he is fit for trial. Denny is represented by lawyer Pavel Boubnob.

“When the matter comes back to court, the case may have been assigned to a specific prosecutor,” says Chris Hansen at the Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service.

People in the gay community are rallying to help pay homage to Taavel, and to provide financial assistance for his final costs. Kirk Furlotte, acting spokesperson for Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project, says Doug Melanson from Menz and Mollyz Bar is setting up a trust fund for Taavel’s family to help with expenses.

“We did discuss whether there would be anything more permanent, such as a scholarship, but the family is focusing on more immediate concerns,” says Furlotte.

A fundraiser is scheduled at the bar this Sunday, April 22. Local drag performers and musicians have signed on to perform that night. More and events are planned, and many of them listed on GayHalifax.  There is also a Facebook page to help with the fundraising.

UPDATE APRIL 12:38 EDT: A Halifax gay man, who wishes to be identified only as Frank, was at Menz Bar the evening that Halifax gay activist Raymond Taavel was killed.

Frank says he and a friend, as well as Taavel and another man, were the only patrons at the bar in the minutes before the attack.

“My friend and I put some coins on the jukebox, and we met up with two other people at the bar,” Frank says. “We had some drinks, did some dancing. Everything was relaxed.” 
Menz Bar owner Doug Melanson confirms Frank’s account.
“They were buying rounds, and everyone was having fun,” he says.
Frank says he will not divulge the name of his friend, as he wishes to protect the friend’s privacy. As for the other patron, Taavel’s companion, Frank says they were never introduced. There is some indication that Taavel’s companion is closeted.
According to Frank and Melanson, at 2:15am a man came into the bar and asked for a drink. Melanson says the bartender refused service because the bar was closed. He says the bartender “got a weird vibe” from the man and asked him to leave.
Ten minutes later, Frank and his friend, as well as Taavel and his drinking companion, left the bar, leaving the bartender to close and lock up. That’s when the four men encountered the same man once again.
“He was talking about really graphic ways of having sex with other men and calling people faggots,” Frank says. “He was really hostile and aggressive. I left to go to my friend’s house, while my friend waited with [Raymond and the other patron] in front of the bar to make sure he got a cab, and then he came and met me at his place. I don’t know what happened between then and the time Raymond passed away.”
According to Melanson, there was only a 10-minute span between the time the patrons left his bar and the time police arrived at the scene.

UPDATE APRIL 17 15:59 EDT: CBC News has an eyewitness account of the attack on Raymond Taavel. Andre Noel Denny, 32, was arrested in connection with Taavel’s death and is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday.

UPDATE APRIL 17 11:49AM EDT: CTV news reports that the man held in connection with Taavel’s murder was absent from the East Coast Forensic Hospital. CBC News reports further details. Halifax Regional Police issues presser. Shambhala SunSpace, Taavel’s employer, issues presser.

UPDATE APRIL 17 11:29AM EDT: A vigil for Raymond Taavel, the gay man murdered this morning in Halifax, is scheduled at the scene of the attack, at Menz Bar in Halifax, for tonight at 7pm local time. Follow it on Facebook. And at another Facebook page here.

“It’s incalculable, he was such a beautiful spirit,” says Halifax activist Hugo Dann. “Anyone who got involved in gay rights in Halifax knew Raymond. Raymond took his knocks, but he never stopped smiling and he never failed in kindness. That’s the loss that will stick with me because he was unfailingly kind . . . I think people will want to go out, to be together. I don’t think our community ever hides.”

“I think I have the same sense of shock as everyone else who is connected to the community,” says Kevin Kindred, of the Nova Scoatia Rainbow Action Project. “Raymond was well known on a personal level by many of us, and well respected by many people in the community.
“It’s hard to say what the impact will be,” he adds. “I think people will exercise caution when they go out. At the same time the community tends to respond to these things viscerally, and people will want to claim back their power and claim back their rights to feel safe on the streets.”

APRIL 9:30AM EDT – XTRA.CA STAFF: The Halifax Chronicle-Herald reports this morning that a well-known gay activist and former editor of Halifax gay paper Wayves was killed last night.

According to the Chronicle, police were called to an area near gay bar Menz & Mollyz in Halifax at about 2:30 this morning. There they found Raymond Taavel injured and bleeding. He died there. A man was seen fleeing the scene. Police arrested a 32-year-old man a short time later in connection with Taavel’s death.

Read Xtra blooger Simon Thibault’s first reaction.

Read a profile of Taavel at Gay Halifax.

And another story on his murder at Open File.

Another update, including video, from CTV.

In the May 2010 issue of Wayves, Taavel wrote about being the victim of a previous assault.
“As I chowed down on my pizza slice another guy who seemed to be accompanying the one I was chatting with suddenly, caustically, asked me if I’m gay,” Taavel wrote. “I gave a matter-of-fact ‘yes’ shrugging my shoulders as if to say ‘… and your point is?’ He retorted with, ‘Well you’re too gay for me’—or something to that effect—and before I knew it I was on the receiving end of a backhand to the head”
Visit Wayves here.