The saga of a man with a ‘thick Midlands accent’

Broke and desperate to return to Vancouver Island in time to report to probation, Mark Hayward decided to swim...from Vancouver’s north shore.

Broke and desperate to return to Vancouver Island in time to report to probation, Mark Hayward decided to swim…from Vancouver’s north shore.

He didn’t get far though and embarked on Plan B, Hayward’s lawyer explained Wednesday in B.C. Supreme Court.

“It makes a strange story,” defence lawyer Tom Bishop told Justice Mary Humphries at the bail review hearing in Campbell River.

Emerging from the chilly sea, Hayward built a raft out of driftwood with various lashings and a paddle of sorts, perhaps a stick, and set out again to cover more than 20 kilometres of rough water.

Again, he didn’t get far after the cold and choppy waves drove him back to shore. That began an odyssey on foot to the B.C. Interior, but it’s hardly the start of Hayward’s story which Justice Humphries deemed, “A version of events ranging from eccentric to slightly crazy.”

Shot in the eye

Hayward, 40, is red-headed, slightly-built and typically wore a grey trench coat while homeless in Campbell River. He grew up in the U.K., said Bishop, and came to Canada about nine years ago, but it’s unknown what he ever did for work.

He also has a “thick midlands accent” which makes him difficult to understand, his lawyer noted.

In 2009, Hayward was involved in a relationship with a woman and living at her residence, along with her 18-year-old son, Gerald Stevenson. According to Bishop, the teen had been in some trouble and one day returned home with a pellet pistol.

It was replica of a 9mm handgun and looked like the real thing, said Bishop. Fearful the gun might get her son in real trouble with authorities, his mother told him to return it.

But Stevenson had already fired the gun and couldn’t return it. The gun became a contentious issue in the household when things came to a head on July 3, 2009.

There’s two versions of events, Bishop told the court. In the first, Stevenson alleges that Hayward pointed the gun at him and purposely fired a single shot into his eye.

The lodged pellet required surgery to remove and resulted in permanent damage to Stevenson’s eye.

Hayward’s version is he found the loaded pellet gun on the dining room table, confronted Stevenson and threw the gun to the ground. In the course of smashing the gun, it accidentally fired a pellet into the teen’s eye.

Hayward was arrested and charged with aggravated assault, using a firearm during an offence, pointing a firearm and careless use of a firearm. He has pled not guilty to the charges and was released on a $1,000 bail, which his father, who lives in England, provided.

As a result of the incident, Hayward’s relationship came to an abrupt halt and he was kicked out of the house. He was also ordered by the court to have no contact with Stevenson.

On the lam

With no home or job, Hayward spent his nights at the Salvation Army’s Evergreen Shelter and the days on the street.

During this time he faithfully reported to his bail supervisor and accepted hand-outs from the food bank.

On Nov. 4, 2009, Hayward made his regular Wednesday visit to the food bank and stood in a long line-up awaiting his turn. Unbeknownst to Hayward, said Bishop, Stevenson was standing ahead of him in the line-up.

When their paths eventually crossed, Hayward was surprised and then either asked Stevenson how he was doing or how his eye was healing.

Stevenson apparently replied, “You’re not supposed to be talking to me,” at which Hayward left the food bank. Nevertheless, the incident was reported to police and Hayward was charged with breach of a court order.

In July 2010, Hayward was in court for a preliminary hearing on the charges related to the pellet gun incident. After it was over, he decided to take a few days vacation in Vancouver.

Living off social assistance, Hayward didn’t have much cash and was left with $40-$50 by the time he arrived in the city. His intention, noted Bishop, was to eat and stay in a homeless shelter.

But with all the shelters apparently full, Hayward spent the rest of cash and had no money to take the ferry back to the Island. He also didn’t realize he couldn’t withdraw any money from his credit union account because there are no branches in the Lower Mainland. As well, he had left all his identification back in Campbell River, fearing it might become lost or stolen.

He apparently tried phoning his former girlfriend and father to have money “wired” to him, but both attempts failed. However, he never called his lawyer to say he might miss his appointment with the bail supervisor as well as a fast-approaching court date.

That’s when Hayward attempted a self-propelled crossing of the Strait of Georgia. When that failed, Hayward started hiking east to Chilliwack, thinking he might find a job on a farm.

Along the way, on the Trans Canada Highway, Hayward collected discarded beer and pop cans to earn money. As the story goes, he wound up walking to Hope, crossed the Coquihalla Highway on foot – and nearly froze – and hoofed it all the way to Merritt.

From there, he hitched a ride to Kamloops where he was eventually picked up by RCMP who found him resting or sleeping by the side of the Trans Canada.

Due to his accent, police thought Hayward might be in the country illegally. Hayward also provided officers with a false name, Bruce Richard Richmond.

When Mounties contacted Canadian Immigration Services, they had no record of a man named Richmond. Eventually, Hayward provided his real name and was arrested on a warrant for missing his court date and also charged with obstruction for giving a fake name.

It had been nearly six weeks since he left Campbell River.

Back in jail

After being returned to the Island by authorities, Hayward had a bail hearing in supreme court and was ordered detained.

He was back in provincial court on Oct. 28, to face trial on charges of breach of a court order (by coming in contact with Stevenson), failing to report to his bail supervisor and failing to attend court on Aug. 23.

According to Bishop, Judge Allan Gould listened to Hayward’s story with some amusement and acquitted him on all three charges. Hayward did plead guilty to the Kamloops obstruction charge, his only criminal conviction in Canada.

Hayward, however, still remained in custody due to the ruling of the higher court.

And that’s what brought Bishop back to supreme court on Wednesday for the bail review. Hayward was not in attendance, nor did he appear by video from jail in Victoria.

In light of the acquittal, Bishop said his client’s circumstances had changed and asked for his release on the original $1,000 bail, still in trust with the court registry.

However, Crown prosecutor John Boccabella opposed his release. He said Hayward’s circumstance had not changed and he was back in jail, largely due to the obstruction conviction and the fact that his “on the lam” journey took him east, rather than west and back to the Island.

“Mr. Hayward did something foolish and remarkable,” Boccabella noted and later indicated that it’s hard to know how much of Hayward’s story is true.

The Crown contended that Hayward should remain behind bars in order to guarantee his attendance on Feb. 7, for the trial relating to the pellet gun incident.

Justice Humphries agreed, noting the decision, “rests on the obstruction (conviction)” and the fact there’s no way of knowing where Hayward will reside in Campbell River. However, even the judge found his story intriguing.

“It’s is almost charming in its absurdity,” she said.