Update: Killer appeals conviction for Surrey trucker's 1998 murder

A man found guilty of murdering another during a botched break-in in Surrey nearly 16 years ago has appealed his conviction.

Gary Donald Johnston was sentenced to life in prison in 2011 for the second-degree murder of trucker Vic Fraser in March 1998.

During the trial, the court heard that Johnston was robbing resident Jeanie Fraser's home in the Bridgeview area when her brother, Vic (pictured at left), interrupted him. The two had met before and initially greeted one another kindly.

But Johnston panicked, taking knives from the kitchen and stabbing Vic in the neck several times. He then kicked the 41-year-old and threw a clay pot on his head before stealing his wallet and fleeing.

During sentencing, the trial judge said Johnston could have simply left the home that day, but instead committed a "remorseless, brutal, sustained and violent attack."

Johnston wasn't arrested for the Surrey murder until 2009, after he admitted the crime to an undercover police officer in a Mr. Big-style sting.

At a B.C. Court of Appeal hearing Monday morning in Vancouver, however, Johnston’s lawyer Brent Olthuis argued there were inconsistencies between what Johnston told the crime boss and an alleged confession he gave to his brother. The number of weapons used differed, for example, as did details about how he gained access to the house.

Mainly, Olthuis said, the trial judge erred in not giving more scrutiny to evidence from Johnston’s brother Michael Johnston, a cocaine addict who was in custody at the time that he gave a statement to police saying Gary told him he murdered Fraser.

Michael’s lack of memory at trial, said Olthuis, made it almost impossible for him to be properly cross-examined and the detailed account he gave to police years earlier raised the question whether it came from his brother’s confession or his own first-hand knowledge of the murder.

The Crown was expected to counter the arguments Monday afternoon.

Jeanie Fraser said though it was painful for her to relive the horror of her brother's death, she felt compelled to attend the appeal hearing.

"I have to go because this is my brother, who's not here to defend himself," she said.

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