IHIT Cpl. Frank Jang holds up a photo of Sean McKenzie, 27, who is facing a first-degree murder charge in connection to the death of Belgian tourist Amelie Sakkalis, 28, near Boston Bar on Aug. 22. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)

Supporters of B.C. man accused of murdering Belgian tourist pack courtoom

Family and friends of Sean McKenzie, 27, filled the gallery for brief court appearance in Chilliwack

It was an emotional scene in courtroom 204 at the Chilliwack Law Courts Wednesday as the man accused of the first-degree murder of 28-year-old Belgian tourist Amelie Sakkalis had his first court appearance.

More than a dozen friends and family members of the accused sat in the gallery, some clasping hands, some crying.

Sean McKenzie, 27, appeared in person dressed in standard pre-trial custody issued orange clothes.

When the diminutive McKenzie was brought in to the prisoner’s box, he sat down, closed his eyes, then looked out at members of the gallery, some of whom were wiping away tears. He stared intently towards at least one person and mouthed a few phrases.

The Oliver man was initially arrested at the crime scene where police found Amelie Christelle Sakkalis’ body in a rural area near Hwy. 1 at about 7:45 p.m. on Aug. 22.

• READ MORE: B.C. man facing first-degree murder charge in death of Belgian tourist

McKenzie was then let go after his initial arrest as police did not have sufficient evidence to detain him. He was the owner of a white van found on the scene.

“He was not known to police and he does not have a criminal record,” IHIT spokesperson Cpl. Frank Jang told reporters Monday.

“He travels extensively through the province… for work.”

Jang did not elaborate on what job McKenzie held, nor why Crown was pursuing first-degree murder charges.

His brief appearance in Chilliwack court Wednesday ended with him being remanded under section 515.11 of the criminal code, a statute that allows an accused to be held in custody for specific very serious offences.

After the appearance, the friends and family left the courthouse but declined to speak to the media.

McKenzie’s next court date is Oct. 19 at 9:30 a.m.

The victim in the homicide, a Belgian national, Sakkalis had been travelling through Canada for a couple of weeks before her death.

“Amelie’s family in Belgium has been notified of the developments in her case,” Jang said.

Homicide investigators believe Sakkalis was picked up by McKenzie somewhere between Penticton and where her body was found.

Jang said that police received a call that led them to Sakkalis’ body, but would not elaborate on who had made that call.

Sakkalis had been in Penticton long enough to be reported missing, police said.

“They had just recently met that day,” said Jang.

“If you saw [McKenzie] with Amelie Sakkalis that day, on Aug. 22, that’s important to us. Pick up the phone and call us.”

When asked if McKenzie could have other victims despite not having a criminal record, Jang said the police would not rule anything out. The focus, however, on this investigation and his request is for information from the public is regarding the day Sakkalis was murdered, Aug. 22.

• RELATED: First-degree murder suspect Ibrahim Ali to appear in Vancouver court

– with files from Katya Slepian


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Qualicum Beach approves Pheasant Glen zoning amendment

Majority of residents who spoke at public hearing endorsed proposed amendment bylaw

Centre withdraws from cell tower project in Qualicum Beach

TELUS plans to continue to look at plans to improve cellphone reception in the area

Qualicum Beach council voices support for Ballenas track upgrade

Town still not ready to provide dollar amount without further information

Resident discovers five discarded hog heads in a ditch in Coombs

WARNING: Graphic image may be upsetting to some readers

RDN budget includes unexpected $1.5 million for sewer pipe replacement

Pipe corrosion at Departure Bay discovered in December

VIDEO: Behind the scenes of turning newspapers into digital archives

Kelowna Capital News donated materials dating from 1980 to 2000

Landlord ordered to pay $11K after harassing B.C. mom to move days after giving birth

Germaine Valdez was pressured to move just a few days after giving birth by C-section to her child

Heart attacks strike B.C. husband and wife just over one year apart

Courtenay couple share personal stories to bring awareness to heart month

‘Nothing surprises us anymore:’ U.S. border officials find brain in package

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents found the brain packed in a glass mason jar in a Canada Post shipment

B.C., Ottawa sign sweeping 30-year deal for northern caribou habitat

West Moberly, Saulteau co-manage new protection on two million acres

Eyes on police after Trudeau orders blockades torn down, injunctions enforced

The RCMP in B.C. have sent a letter to the traditional leaders of the Wet’suwet’en Nation

B.C. massage therapist suspended following allegations of sexual misconduct

While suspended, Leonard Krekic is not entitled to practice as an RMT in B.C.

Cheapest in B.C.: Penticton gas prices dip below $1 per litre

Two stores in Penticton have gas below a dollar.

UPDATE: Lockdown lifted at Nanaimo high school following threats

Nearby elementary school was in hold-and-secure

Most Read