Seven Okanagan men, including two full-patch Hells Angels, made their first appearance in a Vancouver courtroom Monday in the beating death of Kelowna’s Dain Phillips last June.
The men — Hells Angels members Robert Thomas and Norm Cocks — as well as Cocks’ dad Robert, brothers Daniel and Matthew McRae, Anson Schell, and Thomas Vaughan, were charged with second-degree murder two weeks after the fatal assault on Phillips last June 12.
They made their initial appearances in Kelowna provincial court, where five of the accused were released on bail.
But Crown prosecutors have decided to proceed by way of direct indictment, meaning the case goes straight to B.C. Supreme Court without a preliminary hearing at the provincial court level. And prosecutors have moved the case to Vancouver, where the accused appeared Monday in a new high-security courtroom built for an unrelated gang murder case.
There is a ban on publication on evidence and submissions in the case.
Justice Arne Silverman put the matter over until Dec. 19, with a tentative start date for the eight-month trial sometime in January, 2013.
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Thomas, 46, and Norm Cocks, 31, appeared wearing red prison garb from the North Fraser Pre-trial centre, where they remain in custody. The others – Dan and Matt McRae, 21 and 19, Schell, 19, Vaughan, 22 and Robert Cocks, 53 – arrived with relatives and supporters, each being directed to their seat behind bullet-proof plexiglas.
No one from the family of Phillips attended Monday.
The Vancouver Sun earlier reported that Phillips, a married father of three, tried to intervene peacefully in a dispute two of his sons were having with a pair of brothers with whom they had attended Rutland Secondary.
When Phillips drove to a meeting place on McCurdy Road in the early evening of June 12, he was attacked by a group of men who had arrived in two separate vehicles. He died later in hospital.
Insp. Pat Fogarty, of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, said after the arrests that Phillips was simply trying to do the right thing and resolve the problem when he was savagely attacked.
The elder Cocks is president of a Hells Angels puppet club called the Throttle Lockers, while the four youngest accused were described by police as associates of the notorious biker gang.
The case is believed to be the first in the 28-year-history of the Hells Angels in B.C. where a club member has been charged with murder.