Toronto Star

November 10, 1999

Hancox killers guilty of murder

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Tearful jury's verdict means lovers face at least 10 years

By Donovan Vincent
Toronto Star Staff Reporter

With seven jurors weeping as they handed down their verdict, two Toronto women were found guilty of second-degree murder last night in the stabbing death of Detective Constable William Hancox.

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VINCE TALOTTA/TORONTO STAR
CONVICTED: Elaine Rose Cece and Mary Barbara Taylor, above left, are guilty of second-degree murder in the slaying of Detective Constable William Hancox, top. His widow Kim, above, leaves court with supporters.

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``In my view this is the only reasonable (verdict) you could reach,'' Mr. Justice David Watt told the jurors after they convicted Elaine Rose Cece, 41, and her lover Mary Barbara Taylor, 31, of the Aug. 4, 1998, murder.

When the verdict was announced the two women, seated in the prisoner's box, slumped over and wiped their eyes.

At almost the same time, Hancox's widow Kim bent over weeping, her sister Dana, who was also teary-eyed, rubbing her back.

Six of the women jurors, and the jury foreman, a man, dabbed their eyes as they entered the courtroom with the verdict at about 8:40 last night, after about 12 hours of deliberations.

John McMahon, the crown prosecutor in the trial, told reporters afterward that Kim has been a ``pillar of strength'' through the entire ordeal.

The officer left a young daughter Sandra, whom he called Sweet Pea, and his wife gave birth to a son Quinn about three weeks after the slaying.

``She's too overwhelmed by emotion. It's been difficult for her, but she appreciates that justice has been done tonight, and that her husband died in the line of duty, protecting our community.''

Watt said that a second-degree murder conviction carries an automatic life sentence with no eligibility for parole before 10 years is served.

He asked the jurors for their individual recommendations on how many years the women should serve before being eligible for parole. Of those who gave recommendations, most said after 10 years, or 15.

Watt is to give his decision in court Dec. 15, when he will also hear submissions from the crown and defence lawyers.

At their arraignment last month, the two homeless drifters pleaded guilty to manslaughter, but that plea was rejected by McMahon, the crown.

He argued during the trial that the two women attacked Hancox - who was seated in his unmarked van doing undercover surveillance in the parking lot of a Scarborough plaza at Neilson and Ellesmere Rds. - as part of a ``planned ambush.''

The two women approached Hancox around 10 p.m. and invited him to ``go for a walk.''

He told them no, saying he was a happily married man with a second child on the way.

Moments later Cece stabbed him in the chest with a stolen 30-centimetre butcher knife after Taylor urged her by saying ``f--- it, use the knife,'' the trial heard.

She stabbed him in the chest using her right hand in a backward thrust.

Neither woman knew Hancox was a police officer.

They had wanted to steal a vehicle to get out of Toronto.

``As his honour said, this is the only verdict they could come to. Once the jury sees their criminal records . . . that will give them some assistance in ensuring them that they came to the right verdict tonight,'' McMahon told reporters outside court.

Because the two were not called to testify, the nine women and three men on the jury never heard that Cece and Taylor both have prior convictions for violent attacks involving knives.

Cece was convicted in 1997 for attacking her ex-girlfriend at knifepoint, holding her hostage and kidnapping her.

Taylor, a former prostitute, brandished a 20-centimetre knife in a bizarre Jan. 15, 1996, attack in which she went after a man for money.

The man had had sex with her then-husband, and she was seeking payment for the act.

Both Cece and Taylor were addicted to crack cocaine.

David O'Connor, Taylor's lawyer, said he planned to appeal.

Marshall Sack, Cece's lawyer, said it's up to his client to decide whether she wants to appeal.

O'Connor told reporters he didn't call his client to testify because of her lengthy criminal record.

``I don't think that would have impressed the jury at all,'' he said outside court.

Sack's co-counsel Aaron Harnett said he's confident that the fact Hancox was a police officer didn't bias or prejudice the jurors' deliberations.

Sack and O'Connor had argued that their clients were too drugged-out and suicidal to form the intent to kill Hancox or know that his injuries were likely to cause death.

Hancox's family, sisters Beth and Leslie, his widow, and his parents Anne and Bill darted out of the courthouse without giving any comments to the media last night.

The trial, which lasted about one month, was very emotional for the accused and the victim's family.

McMahon brought Hancox's widow to tears when he told jurors that the officer was a police officer to his dying breath.

He managed to pull the knife out, get out of his van, foil the attempted carjacking and radio his final words: ``I'm stabbed.''

There were many sordid details as well, especially of Taylor and her family.

Her mother Gwen Herreman, who court heard is addicted to prescription medication, testified against Taylor as did Taylor's brother Dan Herreman, who has a criminal record and is currently facing charges.

Court heard that Dan received a $1,000 reward from Crime Stoppers for telling police about his sister's involvement in the murder.

But probably the most damning testimony came from Gwen Herreman, who said that her daughter told her that Cece was egged on to stab Hancox with Taylor saying: ``F--- it, use the knife,'' and ``if you love me, you'll do it.''

McMahon said that these words indicated that both women intended to kill the police officer.

In a written statement, deputy police chief Mike Boyd said he was pleased with the jury's verdict, adding: ``Billy Hancox's memory will always be alive in our organization. . . .''

Andrew Clarke, director of uniform field services for the police service, said that, while last night was not a time to be happy, there is some satisfaction that the second-degree murder conviction was rendered on both women.

``It's time to move on. It brings a sense of closure for the family and the officers involved, and hopefully we don't have to go through this again soon.''

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