4 min

Webster killer to be released

Ryan Cran will finish his sentence in the community

HEARING IT FROM THE COMMUNITY. Ryan Cran 'should meet with members of our community as they explain the profound effect of Aaron's death on our community,' says Little Sister's co-owner Jim Deva. Credit: Dean Buscher photo

The only person convicted in adult court in the savage Nov 17, 2001 beating death of Aaron Webster will be released from prison within two weeks.

Ryan Cran was convicted of manslaughter in BC Supreme Court on Feb 8, 2005, and was sentenced to six years in jail for his role in Webster’s death.

That makes Cran eligible for statutory release on parole Feb 9, when he has served two-thirds of his sentence, the National Parole Board confirms.

On his release, however, Cran will have to report to a parole officer in New Westminster until his full sentence expires on Feb 7, 2011.

Cran, now 27, was one of three people convicted in the killing.

The attackers used a golf club, pool cues and baseball bats at Second Beach in Stanley Park to kill Webster near the entrance to the park’s gay cruising trails.

At Cran’s trial, witnesses —including two of his accomplices who can’t be named because they were under 18 when the incident took place —told BC Supreme Court Justice Mary Humphries the group had gone to the park to beat up “peeping toms and voyeurs.”

Instead, they found Webster, naked except for his shoes.

They pursued him through the park to his car, striking him with weapons while they ran.

Webster fell to the ground and the beating continued, the court was told at trial.

“What is so chilling about this case is that this group seems to have done this for some reprehensible and almost inconceivable concept of entertainment,” Humphries said as she sentenced Cran.

She called the attack random, cowardly and terrifying.

She did not, however, call it a hate crime.

“I am aware that the death of Aaron Webster has had a significant effect on the gay community,” she told the court, “however there was no evidence before the court of Mr Webster’s sexual orientation.”

Despite asking Crown counsel Greg Weber four times at sentencing if there was anything else he wanted to present, Humphries said she never heard any evidence to prove Webster’s killing was a hate crime. Nor did she hear any evidence suggesting Cran knowingly targeted a gay man. The Crown didn’t even mention that Webster was gay at trial, Humphries pointed out.

In contrast, Judge Valmond Romilly, in sentencing the first youth, called Webster’s manslaughter a hate crime. “I fail to see why this cannot be described as a gaybashing,” he ruled, rejecting the youth’s stated claim that his actions were not motivated by a hatred of gays.

It’s hard to believe, Romilly continued, that the youth could be “so naïve that [he] did not notice this area was frequented by gays.”

Romilly sentenced the youth, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter, to three years —two years in jail and one year of house arrest. That youth was released in December 2005.

A second youth, who also pleaded guilty, received the same sentence in April 2004. He, too, has since been released.

Humphries acquitted the fourth accused, Danny Rao, for lack of evidence.

Little Sister’s co-owner Jim Deva would like Cran to develop a better understanding of the gay community. “He should meet with members of our community as they explain the profound effect of Aaron’s death on our community,” he suggests.

“I don’t see that happening,” he adds.

The National Parole Board accepted submissions last year to be taken into account for conditions of Cran’s release.

Deva says he sent one in Nov 27.

But, he says, he heard nothing back from the board.

Now he’s angry.

“They seem to be ignoring our community,” he says. “I think our community should be at the parole hearing.”

Deva wants to know if Cran has taken any courses in prison to address what he alleges is Cran’s “extremely homophobic personality.”

Webster’s cousin, Denise Norman, also sent a submission to the parole board.

She too believes the community should have a say in what restrictions should be placed on Cran when he is released from prison in the Fraser Valley.

She wants him banned from Vancouver’s West End.

So does Deva.

Jack Herman of West Enders Against Violence goes one step further.

He says with the recent increase in reported bashings in the Davie Village, such a restriction on Cran would send a strong message that homophobic violence will not be condoned. “I certainly vote for that. That’s where he committed his crime.”

National Parole Board Pacific Region spokesperson Patrick Storey says all queries for information about convict release must be done through a registry request.

Xtra West has made that request and should receive details soon.

Norman says she’s been told by the board that Cran will face a number of restrictions while on parole.

According to Norman, Cran must get counselling to help him readjust to life outside prison, and also to come to grips with his actions and their effects on the surviving victims of Webster’s killing. And he cannot associate with people perceived to be currently involved in criminal activity.

Norman says she asked the board if this means he can hang out with those also convicted in the case. The answer, she says, was yes.

She says she was told they are not perceived to be involved in criminal activity any longer.

According to Norman, Cran will not be allowed in Vancouver without permission from his parole officer.

PrideSpeak facilitator Ryan Clayton wants to know who will keep tabs on Cran and his co-accused if they do get together and come into Vancouver.

“It’s not like they have radar on them,” Clayton says.

Norman suggests posters with Cran’s picture be put up and encourages anyone who sees Cran in the West End to call police.